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Prickly Porcupine

North American Porcupine

The prickly, untoward small mammal, the porcupine, is one of the anomalies found within the animal kingdom, mostly due to hairs modified into barbed quills. “Porcupine” means “quill pig” in Latin, though it is not a pig but rather a large rodent.  Two groups of porcupines are known: Old and New World porcupines. New World porcupines climb trees or are arboreal, Old World’s do not.  In North America, there is only a single species, dorsatum, in the genus Erithizon. Native to Canada, United States, and northern Mexico, sightings of live porcupines are relatively rare. South American porcupines have been divided into four genera: Echinoprocta, Sphiggurus, Coendou, Chaetomys with about 13 species.  There still remains some uncertainty within these latter groups by taxonomists.  The genus Coendou is unique as it is known as the prehensile tailed porcupine, meaning it can use its tail similar to monkeys.  

Porcupines are slow, lumbering, somewhat clumsey large rodents. In North America, evidence of their presence is often more likely seen in roadkills than observed alive in nature.

Porcupines prefer northern forests, range lands, and even deserts.  They are arboreal and adapted to graze in upper northern forests.  They are generalist, mostly nocturnal, herbivores, feeding on almost every kind of tree they encounter.  Porcupines are adapted to gnawing.  They have large protruding incisors and strong jaw muscles.  During wintertimes, porcupines feed on tree bark, sapwood and buds.  They will often feed on a single tree for days rather than moving from tree to tree often resulting in complete girdling and death of the tree.  So, control has often been exerted to preserve trees as their most efficient enemy, the fisher, has been depleted by trapping.  The agile fisher attacks the clumsy porcupine’s head and face, biting it until helpless, then feeding on the soft belly tissues.  Other enemies include cougars, martens, bear, wolf, coyotes, wolverines, great horned owls, and other carnivores.  Some learn fast and only attack once.  In the summers, porcupines feed mostly on ground growing shrubs and herbs.  Their intestines are extensive allowing herbaceous materials to more fully decompose and ferment by bacteria before absorption.  Porcupines are attracted to salt containing materials such as boat seats, outhouses, plywood.  My dad, who many years ago worked summers by plowing virgin Idaho sagebrush ground with a team of horses, often had problems with porcupines gnawing and damaging salt impregnated leather harnesses between uses. 

Porcupines defend themselves primarily with their spiney tails.  Their best defensive posture is climbing a tree and swinging their quill-filled tail.  There are reports that quills are not lethal to major predators, though some reports have reported that quills have been lethal to some attackers.  When porcupine barbed quills are lost, new ones grow back.  Porcupines have mediocre vision, but have excellent senses of hearing and smell and are reported to be intelligent and capable of learning rapidly.  They are not territorial and will often coexist with other porcupines in caves, hollow trees or other places of shelter.  Home ranges are normally between 30 to 40 acres.  Porcupines are solitary most of the year.  They may occupy the same territory for years and rarely move much during the winter, but may be more mobile and move more extensively in the summers, up to 300 acres.  Their lifespan is 6 to 11 years.

During mating season, there may be fierce competition among males for receptive females.  Males have been known to fight intense battles during which they bite and drive numerous quills into each other.  Sex ratios in porcupine populations have a higher proportions of females perhaps due to high male mortality rates.  During fall mating season, males mark their presence by urinating and searching for female urination sites, indicating that chemical communication plays a large role.
When receptive females are encountered, male urine distribution, vocal grunts, wrestling, chase resulting in eventual fertilization. 

Porcupines mate during the autumn or early winter, and usually birth only a single young after 205 to 217 days in April – June.  The mother furnishes milk to the precocious young during the summers and invest much energy in rearing offspring.
At birth, eyes are open, with functional quills and mobility, even eating vegetation on their own within a week of birth. Parasites of porcupines include fleas, lice, ticks, mites, roundworms, flatworms and tongue worms, though none apparently adversely affect the host.

Porcupine economic status includes damage to orchards, forest trees, crop damage, gnawed holes in auto tires, plastic tubing used collect maple sap, injury to domestic animals and possible transmission of diseases such as tularemia and tick fever. However, most reports suggest that porcupine damage is not sufficiently significant to warrant poisoning campaigns.

Forsyth, A.  1999.  Firefly Books, Ltd.  Buffalo, NY.  350 p.
Crump, D. J., Ed.  1981.  National Geographic Book of Mammals.  National Geographic Society, Washington, D. C.  Volume I. 304 p. 
Radford, K. H. and J. F. Eisenberg  1992. Mammals of the Neotropics.  University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL  3 vols.  
Woods, C. A.  1973.  Erethizon dorsatum.  Mammalian Species, No. 29, 6 p.

A  Prophecy  for our  Time——Now!

Ether 8:22.  And whatsoever nation shall uphold such secret combinations, to get power and gain, until they shall spread over the nation, behold, they shall be destroyed; for the Lord will not suffer that the blood of his saints, which shall be shed by them, shall always cry unto him from the ground for the vengeance upon them and yet he avenge them not.

  1. Wherefore, O ye Gentiles (us), it is wisdom in God that these things should be shown unto you, that thereby ye may repent of your sins, and suffer not that these murderous combinations shall get above you, which are built up to get power and gain—and the work, yea, even the work of destruction come upon you, yea, even the sword of the justice of the Eternal God shall fall upon you, to your overthrow and destruction if ye shall suffer these things to be.
  2. Wherefore, the Lord commandeth you, when ye shall see these things come among you that ye shall awake to a sense of your awful situation, because of this secret combination which shall be among you; or wo be unto it, because of the blood of them who have been slain; for they cry from the dust for vengeance upon it, and also upon those who built it up.
  3. For it cometh to pass that whoso buildeth it up seeketh to overthrow the freedom of all lands, nations, and countries; and it bringeth to pass the destruction of all people, for it is built up by the devil, who is the father of all lies; even that same liar who beguiled our first parents, yea, even that same liar who hath caused man to commit murder from the beginning; who hath hardened the hearts of men that they have murdered the prophets, and stoned them, and cast them out from the beginning.

The Kinkajou—Another Unique Member of the Raccoon Family



Have you ever visited a zoo and seen monkeys swinging back and forth hanging from their tails?  Not many mammals have this ability of “prehensile” tails—the ability to wrap tails around a branch for support of their bodies.  In fact, besides the kinkajou, only one other carnivore has this ability—the binturong of southeast Asia.

The kinkajou or “honey bear’ as some folks call them, is a member of the raccoon family, Procyonidae, as also are raccoons, ringtails and coatis. Overall, they are most similar in structure to ringtails, although they are genetically distinct.  Similarities with ringtails are thought to have come about by slow parallel changes of natural selection in similar habitat and environment. They belong to the genus Potos; Potos flavus is their scientific name.  They are the only species within the genus and there are eight subspecies.

The fur of the kinkajou is thick and woolly and the tail long and prehensile.  The rear half of feet soles are furred, digits are united by webbing for 1/3 of their length and their tongue is long and narrow.  Pelage (fur) varies mostly in shades of brown and gold over gray and there is often marked color variation even within close geographic family groups.  Weight is from 2.5 to 3.7 kg.

Kinkajous range from in Mexico, through Central America to Bolivia, east  of the Andes and in forests of southeastern Brazil.  They are normally found at altitudes from sea level to 2500 m.  Their  preferred altitude is from sea level to 2500 m. Preferred habitat vegetation are closed canopy tropical forests closed, including lowland rainforestmontane forestdry forestgallery forest and secondary forestlands.

Kinkajous are tropical non-hibernating omnivores eating both vegetation and animals.  They may be described as primarily frugivores (fruit-eating).  They particularly like figs and extract the inner pulp of fruits with their long tongues.  They are important seed dispersal agents in dispersing several fruit varieties as seeds are ingested with the fruit pulp and pass through their digestive tracts unharmed.

Kinkajous are strictly nocturnal and arboreal, rarely coming to the ground.  Kinkajous are not tolerant of heat and normally remain out of direct sunlight.  They most often sleep in obscure retreats in shaded tangles of leaves and in tree hollows during the daytime, so sightings are rare.  Kinkajous are considered solitary (loners) though sometimes may be seen in pairs.  However, they are may be found in feeding and sleeping groups of three or more.

Kinkajous employ a wide variety of vocalizations (sounds) from barks to shrill screams, whistles, grunts, hisses, chirps and clicking sounds.

Male kinkajous become sexually mature in 1.5 years, females in 2.25 years.  They breed throughout the year, giving birth to one or occasionally two small young after a gestation period of 98 to 120 days. They live from 20 to 40 years in captivity, less in nature.

A nocturnal animal, the kinkajou’s peak activity is usually between about 7:00 PM and midnight, and again an hour before dawn. During daylight hours, kinkajous sleep in tree hollows or in shaded tangles of leaves, avoiding direct sunlight.  They do not hibernate.

In El SalvadorGuatemala and Honduras pet kinkajous are commonly called micoleón, meaning “lion monkey”. Kinkajous are sometimes kept as exotic pets. They are playful, generally quiet, docile, and have little odor. However, they can occasionally be aggressive. Kinkajous dislike sudden movements, noise, and being awake during the day. An agitated kinkajou may emit a scream and attack, usually clawing its victim and sometimes biting deeply. In 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that pet kinkajous in the United States can be carriers of the roundworm Baylisascaris procyonis, which is capable of causing severe morbidity and even death in the owner, if infected (Wikipedia).


Eisenberg, J. F.  1989.  Mammals of the Neotropics.  Vol. 1, The Northern Neotropics.  The University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London.                                                                                                                                   Ford, L. S. and R. S. Hoffmann.  1988.  Potos flavus.  Mammalian Species, No. 321.  American Society of Mammalogists.                       Wikipedia

The Coatimundi (Coati)—Have You Sighted One Lately?


w2dcoatiYou or a family member are familiar with and have probably seen raccoons.  Raccoons are common and are often seen as road kills along streets and highways in North America.  The raccoon family is a carnivore and is called “Procyonidae” and consists of four genera of raccoon-like small mammals:  the raccoon, the ringtail, the kinkajou, and coatimundi (or “coati” for short).¹  You are much less likely to have seen these near cousins of the raccoon all of which (except the kinkajou) are found in parts of the U. S.

Raccoons (genus Procyon) are found north from Panama throughout Mexico and the U. S. into much of southern Canada.  Ringtails (genus Basssariscus) are found north from the Mexican state of Oaxaca into the U. S. states of Arkansas, Kansas, Wyoming, Utah Nevada, California, into Oregon.  The kinkajou (genus Potos) ranges north through southern Brazil into southern Mexico–the only genus in the family Procyonidae with a prehensile tail.  The coati belongs to the genus Nasua.  There are two species within this genus; Nasua nasua and N. nelsoniN. nasua is the common coati found in the southwestern U.S.¹

Another genus, Nasuella (Mountain Coati) is about half the size of the common coati and is found mostly in forested habitats from northern Colombia and Venezuela to Peru at elevations of over 2,000 m.  Little is known of Nasuella.²  Hall (1981) does not recognize this genus, also a member of Procyonidae.

Coatis are distributed from Argentina through Central American and Mexican woodlands northward and only somewhat recently extended their ranges into Southwestern U. S.—Texas– in about 1900.  Presently, they are most likely to be found in New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas in the U. S.

Coatis may grow to the size of a small dog. They are found in habitats ranging from dry deciduous forests to layered tropical evergreen forests and sleep in trees during the nighttime.  Home range may be as much as 2kms².

The coati is diurnal in activity–active during the daytime–although the raccoon and ringtail are both nocturnal.  The coati has a tough though sensitive snout which facilitates food gathering.  This latter characteristic had led some to call it the “hog-nosed coon.”

Some folks mistake the coati for a monkey, as it is rust-colored (pale brown to reddish) and has a dusty face mask with small brown eyes bordered by a mask varying from reddish to brown. Ears are short.  The tail is banded with alternate yellow and brown markings.  Tail length is about equal to length of the body (up to 27 inches) and is used primarily for balance though it cannot grasp limbs with it as do mammals with prehensile tails.

Coati female and young are social and gregarious; that is, they normally live in semi-permanent social groups of up to 30 individuals, mostly females and younger animals.  Outside of the breeding season, males are solitary and forage alone.  In about April of each year, males enter the groups, and two or more young are born in a tree nest after a 77 day gestation period in early summer.  Young are confined to their nests for 2 or 3 weeks following birth; they then follow their mother and other females with their young to hunt for food in trees or on the ground.

Coati’s are omnivorous; that is, they feed upon either animal or plant materials depending on availability.  On the ground, coatis, hunt for arthropods (insects, beetles, etc.), worms, small invertebrates in the forest floor litter with their sensitive snouts.  Berries, mice, lizards, and almost anything are also food items.³

Some folks deem coatis as satisfactory household pets.

¹Hall, E. R. 1981.  The mammals of North America.  Vol. II.  John Wiley and Sons, New York.

²Eisenberg, J. F.  1989.  Mammals of the Neotropics.  Vol. I.  The University of Chicago Press.  Chicago and London.

³Grosvenor, G.M, ed.  1979.  Wild animals of North America.  National Geographic Society,  Washington, D. C.

Note:  The Olsen family sighted a coati near Tucson, AZ, and brought it to the author’s attention.

The Armadillo,  One the World’s Strangest Creatures

One of the strangest animals on this earth is the armadillo.  It is the only living mammal with thin bony shells covering its upper body.  Sparse hairs protrude from between the bony plates on the upper (or dorsal side) and on the underneath or ventral side.  Armadillos are native to South America where there are presently 20 separate species.  In the U. S., only the nine-banded armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus) is present in some southernmost states where its distribution varies depending on climate issues.  Armadillos are semi-fossorial, that is, they dig burrows in the soil–where they sleep.  People who have sampled the armadillos’ flesh say it is similar to chicken or pork in flavor.  South American gauchos treat armadillos as” traveling lunch boxes”—to be thrown into campfires and roasted. *

In the nine-banded armadillo, four young are born in March or April. They soon begin walking and accompanying their mother searching for food nocturnally.  They have a keen sense of smell.  Food items include mostly insects, some invertebrates, even amphibians and/or reptiles, other vertebrates.  Some vegetation including seeds are also eaten.  Man appears to be the only serious predator.  Home ranges are usually less than 50 acres, some significantly less and overlap with other armadillos, with no territoriality.   An armadillo may have 4 to 8 burrow systems some of which may be shared with other vertebrates.  Known parasites include fleas, T. cruzi and helminths,  Armadillos have the ability to swim or even walk under water and are responsible for some crop damage. **

In a recent article in the Journal of Mammalogy, a study was conducted in the plains (pampas) of Argentina.  The study looked at how the nature of agricultural plots of rangeland and soybean cultivation affected the activities of 2 species of armadillos, Chaetophractus villosus and Dasypus hybridus.

The study found that the type of plot, except summer-spring, determined variation in D. hybridus activity.  C. villosus utilized agricultural lands with a longer history of non-cultivation.  On the other hand, D. hybridus was more active in agricultural lands with less human usage, especially in the fall.

Overall, C. villosus and D. hybridus were found to be more sensitive to structural characteristics of the land (stubble characteristics-vegetation structure and soil features) rather than whether the land was being used as crop fields or rangeland.

The attached armadillo photo by Dario Podesta is Chaetophractus villosus also commonly known as the large hairy armadillo.

*Wetzel, R. M. 1979.  Wild animal of North America.  National Geographic Society, Washington, D.C.

**McBee, K. and R. J. Baker.  1982.  Dasypus novemcinctus.  Mammalian Species 162.

***Abba, A.M., E. Zufiaurre, M. Codesido, and D. N. Bilenca.  2016.  Habitat use by armadillos in agroecosystems.  Journal of Mammalogy 97(5): 1265-1271.

Will We Be Wise And Take A “Preparation Lesson” From Wildlife?


Pica_Eyewire_479x238.ashxAll forms of wildlife have strategies to survive adverse cold winter weather. Bears, ground squirrels, prairie dogs, and groundhogs, to name a few, store up fat in their bodies before winter sets in, then sleep through the winter while the stored fat sustains them. Other wildlife stores seeds and plants as food source use during cold and wintry weather, such as chipmunks and pikas (foto above).   Do we as humans learn from our animal associates? How many of us are prepared for the uncertain future?   True, wildlife prepares for a known winter time conditions that happens every year at about the same time, whereas we generally have little knowledge of when it will be necessary to live strictly on our own. Tornadoes, floods, earthquakes, volcanic actions, deadly diseases, enemy actions, accidental release of toxins in the air or other catastrophes occur most of the time with little or no warning to prepare. When the emergency arrives, the day of preparation is past.

We are living in a day of abundance and leisure on a scale the world has never before seen. By and large, most of us have the means to dine out several times a week or month; or, to prepare our own food in our own home with our electric appliances. Few of us have ever been in a water shortage when we did not have plenty to drink and take luxurious hot showers for many minutes.   If we are short on a food item, we merely run to the nearby convenience or grocery store—which most of us do several times a week. Much of grocery food is delivered generally on a “just-in-time” basis, meaning that there is a direct and rapid route of delivery from time and place of growth/production to the store—little time is spent in the warehouse awaiting orders. Therefore, a disruption in the transportation or production supply chain can interrupt the supply resulting in empty grocery stores within just a few hours. I personally saw such a case in Oklahoma where we lived several years ago. A severe ice storm shut down transportation. Within a few short hours, shelf after shelf in the grocery stores was emptied.

Now, if some kind of catastrophic event occurs “out of the blue,” have we been wise and prudent enough to prepare for ourselves and our families? There are many forms and ways to prepare for the unforeseen. However, perhaps the most important immediate goal is to 1) have a safe supply of water (without which a human can survive less than five day); 2) food, which takes second place (humans can survive weeks before finally starving to death–a most painful way to die, especially having to watch other loved ones suffer and pass away from lack of water and food).

Folks, open your eyes and wake up! None of us want to see our children starve to death in front of us. Our family is our Number # 1 responsibility. Are we not wise enough to see what is happening around us? Our unstable national and international political/economic/financial conditions beg us to pay closer attention to what is going on around us. How much warning do you think we’ll get when conditions go “south?”

My suggestion is to sequester at least one month’s supply of food and water to prepare for the inevitable and unknown future crises which shall surely come!

Vulvpes vulpesBe Prepared!

The Ringtail, An Unfamiliar North American Mammal

W2DRingtail1There it was—a raccoon-like animal with a long black and whitetail banded tail. It moved effortlessly, making its way through the rocks and crevices of its habitat, occasionally stopping and sensing the air for potential enemies or prey. Its face was masked-like, somewhat like its raccoon near relative. The ringtail, as it is known, was very noticeable to the observer when it moved with its tail carried out straight, barely clearing the ground surface; motionless, it blended almost unseen into the natural setting of its rugged habitat, camaflaged against the dark and light rocks and vegetation. The long tail, as long again as nose to hind limbs, almost seemed like excess baggage pulling along from behind. To me, the mystery of the ringtail is—how its long gaudy black and white tail—so obvious when moving—can fit into natural surroundings almost invisibly when stationery.

Scientists know them as Bassariscus astutus; most others call them Ringtails.  Somewhat similar to the American marten, ringtails have 7 -8 distinctively annulated black and white alternating rings forming their tails. The tail is about the same length as entire head to body length. The ringed tail is key to immediate identification.* There are two living species, although B. astutus is the predominant form in North America with 6 subspecies. It belongs to the family Procyonidae and is a sister genus to the raccoon, genus Procyon. The ringtail ranges from southern Mexico as far north mainly to California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado and Kansas. The head has patches of white or light pelage, the eyes are large and ringed with black or dark brown fur altogether forming a rather striking “mask.”

Unique features of ringtail physiology is the ability of modified kidneys to concentrate urine, among the highest known in the order Carnivora. This allows the animal to maintain water balance for days even in the absence of open water, upon which it ultimately depends. They have no caecum, the first portion of the small intestine. Ringtails have paired glands near the anus which secrete a pungent, cream-colored secretion reminiscent of sister Procyonid odiferous secretions.

A seasonal molt begins in late summer and is completed by late fall. Breeding season is from February through May. The gestation period is from 51 to 54 days after which 1 to 4 young are born. Newborn young are blind until 21 to 34 days and weaned at 10 weeks and transition to solid food at 30 to 40 days. Excrement of young is consumed by the female until they transition to take solid food. During this transition time, young are known to lick saliva from inside mother’s mouth, perhaps serving to provide additional fluids. Play may occur at 45 days which consists of batting one another with forepaws, then pouncing on each other. They walk well and are fully furred at 6 weeks and climb at 8 weeks. Young begin to forage with their mothers at 60 to 100 days. Sexual maturity occurs at the end of the second year. In captivity, longevity may average 12 to 14 years. Vocalization is a spitting, explosive bark at about 10 weeks, evolving from earlier infant metallic squeaks.

Ringtails occur in a variety of habitats, from broken semiarid country to mountain pine forests to desert and dry tropical areas. Dens are most often in boulder piles, rock crevices, hollow trees, brush piles, under roots, within burrows dug by other animals and even in rural buildings. They often move from den to den after 1 to 3 days. Females with new litters moved their young from den to den after just 10 days after giving birth.

Ringtails are omnivorous, though prefer animal matter. Preferred foods include arthropods/insects, mammals and fruits. Diverse food kinds have been documented including rabbits, squirrels, carrion, various kinds of plants, birds, lizards, snakes, frogs and fish. They often seek food in rural and urban areas and are harvested as a fur bearer. In the 1980s in Texas alone, harvest was estimated at 75,000 to 100,000 ringtails annually. Many states legally protect the ringtail, though many animals fall victim to traps set for other furbearers.

Ringtails are nocturnal, that is, they are active mostly during the night and at dusk. Major predators or enemies include the great horned owl, coyotes, raccoons and bobcats. Some carcasses of predator-killed ringtails were found that were not fed upon, probably due to strong flavor of the flesh. Diseases such as feline and canine panleucopenia, rabies and parasites may be prominent in controlling their population numbers. Fleas and lice are known ectoparasites while cestodes and nematodes are known internal parasites.

*Poglayen-Neuwall, Ivo and Dale E. Toweill. 1988.  Bassariscus astutus. Mammalian Species, No. 327.

The “Fisher”– Obscure, Reclusive North American Mammal You Have Never Seen

Fisher CatIII First of all, what are Fishers? Most people have never heard of them. Fishers (Martes pennanti) are a small carnivorous mammal found native to North American forests of northern U.S. and Canada.* Biologists generally agree that all North American fishers belong to the same species; they are considered monotypic–there are no subspecies. They belong to the Mustelidae, the weasel family and are most closely related to the American marten, only larger–similar in size to domestic cats. They may reach 15 pounds in weight with length of nearly 4 feet. Fishers dwell in forests of Canada and the northern United States. Although it is sometimes called a “cat,” it is not closely related to felines although both are classified as carnivores.

Male fishers are much larger than females, although similar in appearance. Bodies are set low to the ground. They have distinctive scent glands. Fishers are able to turn their hind feet almost 180 degrees, which allows them to descend trees head first. Their fur changes with the seasons. When winter approaches their brown to black fur becomes dense and glossy. Belly hair is usually brown with occasional patches of cream colored hair. During late summer molting cycle, fur becomes more variable and often becomes lighter, even mottled.

Fishers prefer to hunt prey in a full forest with canopy (overstory) and usually avoid humans. They are solitary hunters and are omnivores. They seek food around fallen trees eating berries/fruits, mushrooms and insects, in addition to small mammals and birds, especially snowshoe hares and porcupines. They are the only known predators of porcupines, which they attack by biting the porcupine’s head multiple times, killing them in 20 to 30 minutes. There is evidence of carrion feeding—on dead carcasses of moose and deer. Even larger animals such as wild turkey, bobcat and lynx are sometimes known to have been preyed upon. Fishers have few enemies aside from humans.

Fishers usually den in hollow trees. Three or four blind and helpless (altricial) “kits” are born in the spring, covered with very fine hair. Their eyes open at about 7 weeks and they begin to climb at 8 weeks during which time they are dependent upon mother’s milk, soon changing to a more solid diet. Adult females care for their young for about 5 months when they are pushed out of the den to become self sufficient on their own.

The female parent goes into estrus soon after giving birth and leaves the den to find a mate. The fisher reproductive cycle lasts about a year. Fishers have delayed implantation, that is, the resulting fertilized egg becomes a blastocyst (pre-embryo) and doesn’t implant on the uterine wall of the female until the following spring. Males reach reproductive maturity at one or two years of age while females are reproductively active at one year, giving birth to their first litters at age two.

Fishers were trapped for their fur in the 18th and 19th centuries. Their pelts were in such high demand that intensive trapping resulted in their being exterminated from some of their U. S. habitat in the early 1900s. In the 1920s, when pelt prices were high, fur farmers attempted to raise fishers domestically. However, delayed implantation typical of fishers, made breeding quite difficult and most fur farming ceased when pelts dropped in value in the 1940’s.

Fishers are most active in early morning and late afternoon hours (crepuscular) year around, although they have been observed to be active during the day and nighttime also.  They are loners, only associating with others for mating purposes. The size of a fishers hunting range is from 3 square miles in summers to 5 square miles in the winters, though it may be much larger if habitat food is scarce. Male and female territories are overlapping.

Internal parasites are cestodes and nematodes. In captivity (zoos), fishers have lived more than 10 years. Fishers may vocalize with a low chuckle (excitement), a hiss and a growl, the latter two associated with aggression.

A recent newspaper article** discussed the possibility of Northern Rockies Fishers (Martes pennanti) being designated as an Endangered Species. Due to trapping, poisoning and habitat loss, a year long study will be undertaken by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  In the past, fishers have occupied northern Rocky Mountain ranges in Washington, Utah, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, though at present they are thought to be found only along the Idaho-Montana border. Only Montana presently allows trappers to harvest fishers—up to 7 annually.

*Powell, Roger A. 1981. Martes pennanti.   Mammalian Species, No. 156. American Society of Mammalogists publication.

**Matthew Brown, Associated Press, 13 Jan 2016. Feds consider protections for cat-like predator. Deseret News, Salt Lake City, UT

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Century Old Camping and Outdoor Tips from Francis H. Buzzacott*

 img271“Travel light—but right—there’s a deal of difference in these words—just as much as between roughing it and smoothing it” [Quoting from the author’s experience 40 years of experience as a trapper, hunter and guide]*

In this 103 year old book, Buzzacott begins by saying, “Don’t burden yourself with a host of the other things unless you wish for trouble taking care of them.”  He continues, “We believe in every step of progression as will be evident; want to supply you with every comfort that you may actually need, but those pneumatic beds and fixings; those telescopic kettles, cups and ‘what nots’ banish from your mind and “ye have coin to spare and the wagon to hire” Let it go to the Ration Chest, Tent Outfit, Camp Furniture, Armory or Rod for with such as these nature supplies you with other things much better and ‘twere wiser so.” [Ed. Note: Remember, the only vehicles of generally available mechanized travel at the time of this writing were the railroad and steamboat.]

Fires. Utilize only the flame at one end for boiling and stewing. The hot ashes or live coals only should be used for frying, broiling, baking, roasting, etc., mainly not just to save wood, but to lessen danger of burning, spilling, etc. This advice results in very little smoke. Amateurs cook over a big, roaring, smoky campfire, large and hot enough to roast an ox. To start, let you wood smoke and the fire burn before you commence cooking; when ready, the live coals will give you even more heat than you require for a small party. Keep wood dry by stacking; should rain fall, your wood will remain fairly dry and your camp neat, besides.

A Hot Sweat Bath. Take hot stones with a little water sprinkled on them, cover yourself (and them) with a blanket.

A Good Camp Lamp can be made with clear tallow fat (fat of animals) melted down and put in an old tin can. Improvised wicks can be made from unraveled cotton or tent canvas, put one end in can and the other end on edge of can and wire.

A Good Camp Spoon can be made from a shell and split stick. A fork can easily be whittled. A Good knife can be made from a piece of tin cut from an old can and inserted into a split stick, lashed tight with a wire. A Good dinner plate or cooking utensil can be made from a piece of green thick barky tree, using the smooth part of it for food. A Good fire shovel can be made from a piece of tin (can) and a split stick. It is also an excellent broiler.

To correctly ascertain the points of a compass, face the sun in the morning; spread out your arms straight from the body—in front of you is the east, behind you is west, to your right hand the south and north before the left hand. If the sun doesn’t shine, note the tops of pine trees, they invariably dip to the north.

If Soaking Wet with no dry clothes handy, take off wet garments and wring them out as dry as possible—put on again—you are less liable to take cold and it will be much warmer, besides.

Don’t sleep with the Moon Shining on your Face, you can get a moonstruck, and it’s almost as bad as a sunstroke.

Don’t Sit or Lay on the Bare Ground. In the military, statistics have proven the ½ of the sicknesses incident to camp and field life is due to neglect of this important caution. By all means avoid sitting or sleeping on the ground, is a golden rule in camp, even though it feels dry!

For Washing Flannels and Woolens—Don’t wring out. Hang them up dripping wet and they won’t wrinkle up or shrink.

If thirsty and Can’t Find water—Place a pebble or button in the mouth and keep it there; it will surprise you with the result, and relieves that dryness entirely—try it!

Don’t Have Loaded firearms in tent; a simple fall of rifle or gun may have serious results—make this a rule!

Distress signal is three shots fired in succession, another shot a minute or so afterwards.  Conserve ammunition.

To Make a Fire Without Matches. Take a dry handkerchief or cotton lining of your coat, scrape out a very fine lint, as few handfuls. Using the crystal of your watch, compass, spectacle, a sun glass can be made that will ignite the lint, which can be blown into a fire.

Limit of Man’s Pack.—Don’t forget 40 pounds is the limit of a man’s pack, more is making a pack mule of him.

Prevent Sickness. Keep the bowels open, head cool, feet dry and the will be little, if any, sickness in camp.

Lost from Camp. “When you find you have lost your way, don’t lose your head—keep cool; try and not let your brains get into your feet. By this we mean don’t run around and make things worse and play yourself out. First: Sit down and think; cool off, then climb a tree, or hill, and endeavor to locate some familiar object you passed, so as to retrace your steps. If it gets dark, build a rousing camp fire. Ten to one you will be missed from camp and your comrades will soon be searching for you, and your fire will be seen by them. (If you have been wise, read your Manual and see cooking, etc., without utensils, fire without matches, camp shelter, and the human compass, etc.). Give distress signals, but don’t waste all your ammunition thus. It’s ten to one that morning and a clear head, after a comfortable night (if you make it so), will reveal to you the fact that your camp is much closer to you than you imagined.”

“I have seen good men lost within a rifle shot of camp. A cool head can accomplish much—a rattled one, nothing.”

“To locate position—note the limbs and bark of trees—the north side of trees can be noted by the thickness and general roughness. Moss most generally is to be found near the roots on the north side. Note also—limbs or longer branches, which generally are to be found longer on the south side of trees, while the branches exposed to the north most generally are knotty, twisted and drooped. In the forest the tops of the pine trees dip or trend to the north; also, if you find water, follow it; it generally leads somewhere—where civilization exists. The tendency of people lost, is to travel in a circle uselessly; by all means, keep cool and deliberate, blaze your way, by leaving marks on trees to indicate direction you have taken; read up on this Manual, which should be always kept in your pocket when in camp or out; it’s made the right size to carry there. A cool head and a stout heart, and lost in camp is really a comedy—not the tragedy—some people make it. This is the time a compass is invaluable.”

*Francis H. Buzzacott. 1905. Revised edition 1913.   American and Canadian Sportman’s Encyclopedia of Valuable Instruction.  M. A. Donohoe & Co.

Century-Old Advice on Bears and Fishing

img267Francis H. Buzzacott — Trapper, Hunter and Guide  From his 1913 book, American and Canadian Sportsman’s Encyclopedia of Valuable Instruction ($1).

Extracts of some of this century old, very interesting information follow* (some of which has been supplanted by more recent modern research).

Notes on Hunting Bears: The easiest and best way to hunt bears is with hounds. Bears are mostly omnivorous (eating both plant products and animal flesh), living mostly on vegetable foods, nuts, berries or animal flesh, with especial fondness for honey. In hunting bears, some rules are: 1st, commence firing at long range. 2nd, never turn you back or run from him, stand your ground, but run—never! 3rd, If you have a companion, spread out so as to detract the bear alternatively. 4th, Preserve you position.   Do not aim for the head as bears have massive skulls with formidable bones. Never tackle a male and female with cubs, walk around them, even if you have to walk all day. If a mama bear with cubs charges you, aim for one of the cubs. A cry of pain from a cub will deter an attacking mother bear as she charges.

The Successful Fisherman “is the one who familiarizes with the ways of fish, he who studies out and observes the peculiar traits, habits and haunts of the various fish he sets out to capture, who aquaints himself with the facts as to their sense of sight, scent and hearing, their mode of existence, foods, likes, seasons, etc., thus qualifying himself to better under stand them, so as to take advantage of their ignorance, avid their read perception of things, and fool their cunning.”

Fish sight is unusually acute and they are possessed of the faculties of both hearing and feeling sound. They breathe the air that is dissolved in water. When water is depleted of air, fish will suffocate. Fishes eyes are peculiarly placed enabling them to see plainly anything that is above or about them for an unusually long distance. However, they have difficulty seeing on a level of directly under them. Their sense of smell and hearing are well developed. It is certain that fish possess faculties which enable them to perceive and distinguish odors, while various scents either attract or repel them. In most cases fish, like snakes, see motion only. Their sense of taste is poor and they rely mostly on sight and smell in choosing their foods. Most fish are carnivorous (flesh eating) and they are mostly extremely voracious—either eat or be eaten–applies to them with unusual force. Prey in most cases is swallowed whole, and parental fish sometimes devour their own offspring.

Having few nerves, fish probably do not experience but little pain. Fresh water fish can go for extended periods of time with little or no food; salt water fish have much less survival without food.  In all fish, teeth are shed and renewed at intervals during the entire course of their life when they do not seem to need or care for food—same in spawning. In wintertime, due to inaction, certain species cease to feed entirely, lying almost inactive in deeper water. Big fish usually prefer solitude and inhabit the deepest, choicest portions of the waters they dwell in, usually the deeper, cooler spots, especially those where winds and currents carry of drive floating or other foods about them. When feeding they are alert to any sight or sound about them and invariably hide behind projecting rocks, banks, stumps or weeds or in shadier waters where they can observe and be hid from their prey, thus able to locate, dart out and seize all those of food that come within their reach, even other fish approaching their own size.

It is a good rule, usually, to go either in early morn of later in the afternoon before dark.  The cloudier the weather the better are chances for success, especially be it before a storm or rain. Fish are often very fickle. Today they may bite almost anything offered, yet few are to be seen. Yesterday, plenty were in evidence, yet for some reason, they absolutely refused to bite. Here, they may go for any fly, an hour hence, none or very specific kinds of fly brings a bite. Fish have acute senses of smell, which with their sharp sense of sight allows them to be very selective and choosy in feeding. Truly, it can be said, “that the way of fish no man knoweth.”

 Wrinkles and Kinks for Fishermen, Anglers, Etc. Keep Angle Worms not in a tin can, but in a small porous earthen jar (flower pot). Fill it with green moss. Wet. Feed with the white of a hard boiled egg, placed therein, or a teaspoonful of cream or bruised celery—they will assume a pink color, live long and be attractive. Don’t drown them inmud. Cover hole in bottom or pot. Live maggots are a splendid bait, taken from meat that is fly blown. If kept in a small box, with corn meal, there is no more objection to handling them than to any worm or other slimy bait. Try it once and be convinced.

Early spring—use very small Midge flies for trout

Don’t use too Big Flies or Hooks—better small than too large

Fish Scent or Lure—A little assafoetida, oil of anise or swee sicily; a drop pinched on your bait will attract fish to it.

The difficult places to fish are just where the fish are.

Old fish like new flies. Young fish take old ones.

Fish Wardens—When you catch thieves cut off all their pants buttons. They can’t run well and hold up their pants at the same time.

Kill every Water Snake—you find. They eat millions of fish eggs every year.

Frogging at Night—Take a very bright light, locate your frog, and turn the light on him squarely. It dazzles him and you can pick him up like a potato. Don’t think he’ll jump away; the light confuses him and he forgets himself.

In Casting for Bass—Choose the edge of lily pads, weeks, rushes, etc. Pickerel, also.

Fish Scratches or Wounds—Use common salt and vinegar, or such them sell and put a chew of tobacco around it and bind it on.

Never Let Your Shadow—Be observed by fish you are after. Get behind a tree, bank, or cut a few branches so as to hide yourself behind them, or lay in the high grass and crawl t the most likely spots, especially in trout fishing.

Keep Your Spoons Bright—Revolving spoons can be scoured with tobacco ashes or wood ashes, polish them with a dry rag and elbow grease.

Keep the Sun—In front or at the side of you when fishing.

A Nest of Very Small Mice—Make excellent trout or bass bait.

Open the Stomach–Of your first fish and see what they are feeding on, then follow up on this “tip.”

Don’t Blame the Fish—For not biting, or taking the fly. Perhaps you’re to blame. Think over conditions and inspect your bait and tackle

To Find Worms—Choose a manure pile or after a heavy rain, when they crawl to the surface of the ground.

Black Bass Go in pairs all summer. If you catch one, look out for its mate.

In Fishing for Black Bass—It is next to useless to cast on perfectly smooth water.

Use Small Spoons—When trolling for bass                                                           

*Buzzacott, F. H. 1913. American and Canadian Sportsman’s Encyclopedia of Valuable Instruction. M. A. Donohue & Co. 512 p.