Few American wild animals are more widely known or excite more popular interest than the raccoon. It is a short, heavily built animal; with a club-shaped tail, and with hind feet that rest flat on the ground, like those of a bear, and make tracks that have a curious resemblance to those of a very small child. Its front toes are long and well separated, thus permitting the use of the front feet with almost the facility of a monkey’s hands.
Raccoons occupy most of the wooded parts of North America from the southern border of Canada to Panama, with the exception of the higher mountain ranges. In the United States they are most plentiful in the Southeastern and Gulf States and on the Pacific coast. Under the varying climatic condition,-, of their great range a number of geographic races have developed, all of which have a close general resemblance in habits and appearance.
They everywhere seek the wooded shores of streams and lakes and the bordering lowland forests and are expert tree-climbers, commonly having their dens in hollow trees, often in cavities high above the ground. In such retreats they have annually from four to six young, which continue to frequent this retreat until well grown, thus accounting for the numbers often found in the same cavity. Although tree-frequenting animals, the greater part of their activities is confined to the ground, especially along the margins of water-courses. While almost wholly nocturnal in habits, they are occasionally encountered abroad during the day.
Their diet is extraordinarily varied, and includes fresh-water clams, crawfish, frogs, turtles, birds and their eggs, poultry, nuts, fruits, and green corn. When near water they have a curious and unique habit of washing their food before eating it. Their fondness fbr green corn leads them into frequent danger, for when bottomland cornfields tempt them away from their usual haunts raccoon hunting with dogs at night becomes an especially favored sport. Raccoons are extraordinarily intelligent animals. During captivity their restless intelligence is shown by the curiosity with which they carefully examine every strange object. They are particularly attracted by anything bright or shining.
They patrol the border of streams and lakes so persistently that where they are common they sometimes make well-trodden little trails, and many opened mussel shells or other signs of their feasts may be found on the tops of fallen logs or about stones projecting above the water. In the northern part of their range they hibernate during the coldest parts of the winter, but in the South are active throughout the year.
Raccoons began to figure in our frontier literature at an early date. “Coon-skin” caps, with the ringed tails hanging like plumes, made the favorite headgear of many pioneer hunters, and “coon skins” were a recognized article of barter at country stores. Now that the increasing occupation of the country is crowding out more and more of our wild life, it is a pleasure to note the persistence with which these characteristic and interesting animals continue to hold their own in so much of their original range.
Sea otter picture and information (Latax lutris) – lone star pet supply
Sea otters, distant relatives of land otters, are heavy-bodied animals, about 4 feet long, with broad webbed hind feet. When in the water they have a general resemblance to seals, whose mode of life is similar to theirs. Their fur is extremely dense and on the skins of adult males is almost black, closely sprinkled with long white-tipped hairs. The fur of prime skins has a silky luster, equaled in beauty by only the finest silver-tipped fox skins. For centuries sea-otter fur has been highly prized.
Otters are limited to the coasts of the North Pacific, where formerly they were incredibly abundant all the way from the shores and islands of Lower California to the Aleutians, and thence along the Asiatic coast to the Kuriles. Through excessive hunting, they are now extinct along most of this extended coastline.
In the days of the Russian occupation of Alaska the discovery of the abundance of sea otters led to intense activity in their pursuit. Otter-hunting expeditions were organized by the Russians along the storm-swept coast from Unalaska to Sitka, sailing vessels being used as convoys for hundreds of Aleut hunters in their skin-covered boats. The loss of life among the hunters under their brutal taskmasters was appalling and resulted in seriously and permanently reducing the native population of the Aleutian Islands. At the same time enormous numbers of sea-otter skins were taken. Afterward both English and American ships engaged in the pursuit of otters farther down the coast.
The first year after the discovery of the Pribilof Islands the records show that 5,000 sea otters were taken there. Many expeditions in other directions secured from one to several thousand skins. When sea otters were most abundant they were found all down the coast, even in San Francisco Bay, and one American trading vessel obtained 7,000 skins in a few weeks from the natives of the northern coast of Lower California.
The otters formerly frequented the shores of rocky islands and outlying reefs, but constant persecution has driven the few survivors to remain almost constantly at sea, where they seek resting places among kelp beds. They are now excessively shy and, aided by keen eyes and an acute sense of smell, are difficult to approach. When anything excites their curiosity they commonly raise the body upright, the head high above water, and gaze steadily at the object. If alarmed, they dive and reappear at a long distance.
Otter hunters report the animals very playful in pleasant weather, and sometimes floating on their backs and playing with pieces of kelp. The mother is devoted to her young and is said to play with it in the water for hours at a time. All efforts to rear the young in captivity have failed. The food of the sea otter is mainly of shellfish of various kinds, secured by them from the bottom of the sea.
Practically the only sea otters left among the hordes which once frequented the American shores of the North Pacific are now scattered along the Aleutian Islands.