Skip to content

Kansas School Naturalist


KSN - Vol 21, No 1 - Mammal Silhouettes No. 2Volume 21, Number 1 - October 1974

Mammal Silhouettes No. 2

by Robert J. Boles

 

ABOUT THIS ISSUE

Published by Emporia Kansas State College

Prepared and issued by The Department of Biology, with the cooperation of the Division of Education

Editor: Robert J. Boles

Editorial Committee: James S. Wilson, Gilbert A. Leisman, Jo Lynne Dick, Robert F. Clarke

Online format by: Terri Weast

The Kansas School Naturalistis sent upon request, free of charge, to Kansas teachers, school board members and administrators, librarians, conservationists, youth leaders, and other adults interested in nature education. Back numbers are sent free as long as supply lasts, except Vol.5, No.3, Poisonous Snakes of Kansas. Copies of this issue may be obtained for 25 cents each postpaid. Send orders to The Kansas School Naturalist, Department of Biology, Emporia Kansas State College, Emporia, Kansas, 66801.

The Kansas School Naturalist is published in October, December, February, and April of each year by the Kansas State Teachers College, 1200 Commercial Street, Emporia, Kansas, 66801. Second-class postage paid at Emporia, Kansas.

"Statement required by the Act of October, 1962: Section 4369, Title 39, United States Code, showing Ownership, Management and Circulation." The Kansas School Naturalist is published in October, December, February, and April. Editorial Office and Publication Office at 1200 Commercial Street, Emporia, Kansas, 66801. The Naturalist is edited and published by the Kansas State Teachers College, Emporia, Kansas. Editor, Robert J. Boles, Department of Biology.


Mrs. Lucille Papes and the following members of Dr. Spencer's Wildlife Management class helped in the collection of material used in this isse of The Kansas School Naturalist: Randy Huston. Charles Horner, Randy Clark, Larry Washburn, Debra Gorden, Ernie Reusser, Schwann Tunkikorn, Aik Vathana, Danny McDonald, and Tom Sheeley.

Sketches by Robert J. Boles.


Mammal Silhouettes No. 2

by Robert J. Boles

This is the second of a series depicting mammals whose forms are so distinctive that they can usually be recognized by just seeing their silhouettes. The first (Vol. 19, No.1) included some of the larger mammals, primarily the hoofed plant-eating forms.

This issue contains the silhouettes of some of the well-known carnivores. or meat-eaters. Information about the life histories, distribution, dangers or vallues to man, and their present status (e.g., endangered or not) has been included.

WOLF
(Cover picture)

Few animals have been feared and persecuted as has the wolf. Indeed, he has long been an enemy of man. Many years ago, when large packs roamed over Europe, they no doubt included unfortunate travelers, along with unarmed peasants in their fields, as a part of their diet. To be fair, we must also recognize that the wolf is responsible for one of our most cherished pets, as it is generally believed that it was from this animal that the domestic dog was derived. Wolves, raised from puppies in captivity, have been found to be intelligent, loyal, and affectionate.

Once found through much of the world, the wolf has been largely exterminated from large parts of the continental United States, though they may still be found in Alaska and Canada.

Wolves are large animals, with weights often exceeding 100 pounds, and have been reported to reach 175 pounds or more. It takes large amounts of meat to feed these voracious and active predators-a fact that brings them into direct conflict with man. A farmer or rancher cannot be blamed for demanding protection when he loses valuable stock.

Wolves travel in packs, typically about four, though the early pioneers reported rare cases of large packs of 30 or more individuals.

The extermination of the wolf in areas of civilization has been both necessary and inevitable. Hopefully. however, there is still a place for him in the northern wilderness, and this and future generations may still have the opportunity to thrill to the wild and exciting howl of this magnificent animal.

coyoteCOYOTE

The coyote, about the size of a collie dog, is the largest living meat-eater in Kansas. Some sheep ranchers dislike the coyote because of the sheep it may occasionally kill, but the majority of the cattlemen and farmers like the coyote because it is one of the chief natural enemies of jackrabbits, cottontail rabbits, ground squirrels, and other grain- and grass-feeding animals.

The coyote lives only in the western hemisphere, largely in North America. It has adapted itself to live in deserts, woodlands, plains and mountains.

Four to seven pups are born per litter in a den dug in the side of a bank or under a tree or log. Often their home is the abandoned den of a badger, fox or skunk. The pups leave the den in 3-4 weeks, and, when they are about 10 weeks old, they join their parents on hunting trips.

The coyote lives a life of constant danger. It is hunted, trapped, and poisoned by man in an effort to control its numbers, but because the coyote is so clever and adaptable he will probably never vanish from the range. An old Indian legend has it that the coyote will be the last animal on earth.

hyaenaHYAENA

Though they look like large ungainly dogs, hyaenas belong to an entirely different group of mammals. They are found in India, the Near East, and Africa.

The striped hyaena of India is a cowardly carrion-feeder and loathed everywhere because it digs up human burials. It has been reported to have carried off small children. They live in holes, caves, and even in tombs. If taken young, the stripeu nyaena is reported to make a very amiable and loving pet.

Unlike many animals that show sexual dimorphism, or distinct differences between males and females (e.g., color, size, etc.), it is almost impossible to determine the sex of this animal without dissection.

The spotted hyaena of Africa is a terrifyingly powerful brute, with jaws and teeth that put even the largest of cats to shame. It can chew up the heaviest of bones, even those of a hippo or elephant. Though considered by many to be a cowardly animal, the spotted hyaena may actually attack a lone man, anything injured, or carry off children. Sometimes they travel in rather large packs. Recent studies have shown that hyaenas may actually make many of the kills once attributed to lions. They are noisy creatures, however, and give out the most blood-curdling howls, growls. and barks, ending in an insane laugh.

Hyaenas should probably be considered as beneficial, as they help to maintain a cleaner environment by feeding primarily upon the bodies of animals that have died from various causes.

red foxRED FOX

The Common or Red Fox is found all over North America south to Mexico. It is but one of about a dozen species of foxes found throughout the world. It is a burrowing animal, and, though sly and cunning, not nearly as smart as tradition would lead us to believe. A great amount has been written about the fox throughout the ages, but most of this verbiage is purely fictitious. Though it will kill all kinds of game, it does a great deal more good than harm by helping control rodent pests that might destroy our crops.

The Red Fox may be recognized by its bushy tail and bright reddish-yellow fur. It is not a large animal, weighing between ten and fifteen pounds, and reaching a length of twenty-two to twenty-five inches.

The pelt of this animal is highly prized by those who wear furs. In spite of heavy hunting and trapping pressure, however, the red fox has been clever enough to survive over much of its original range.

dogDOG

Dogs come in many different sizes. colors. and shapes. All. however. can probably trace their ancestry back to the wolf. probably the first animal that man domesticated. There is evidence that dog-like animals lived with or near man over 10,000 years ago. There are now well over 100 different breeds, ranging from the 250-pound st. Bernard and the Irish wolfhound that may be over 40 inches tall, to the tiny Chihuahua, whose six-inch tall body may easily be held in one hand. Even the most pampered lap-dog is at heart a wolf and, given a chance. will revert to type. One naturalist reported that he saw. in a deer-killing pack of semi-wild dogs in Mexico, a preposterous little Chihuahua: At heart he was still a wolf-a pretty tiny wolf, to be sure, but still a wolf.

Dogs are unspecialized mammals, and have adapted to conditions all over the world. They serve many useful purposes for man. Some herd man's sheep, others are valuable as hunting dogs, while others pull heavy loads, especially in the severe cold of the icy North. Police regard them as valuable companions in their fight against crime, and they are invaluable as seeing-eye dogs. devoting their lives to leading and protecting their masters.

Though dogs may learn many "tricks," and are near the top as to their intelligence when compared to other domesticated animals, they rate lower than many wild animals. The normal life span for a dog is nine to fifteen years, though some may live to be twenty.

African lion

AFRICAN LION

Lions are large members of the cat family, Once rather common in Africa and some parts of Asia, their numbers have been greatly reduced due to heavy hunting pressure, Today lions may still be seen in east and east-central Africa, but probably less than 200 still live in the wild in Asia.

Lions have yellowish-gray pelts, with a black tuft on the tip of the tail. Males, by the time they are five years old, usually have a mane of specialized long hairs on their heads, shoulders, chests, and elbows, Male lions. which are larger than the females, may be up to nine feet in length and have been reported to reach a weight of over 400 pounds.

Social animals, lions hunt. travel. and live in groups called prides, A pride is usually composed of an adult male. several females. and their young, Prides of as many as 30 animals were reported by early travelers in Africa, Lions are carnivorous. preying upon a variety of hoofed animals. such as zebra, wildebeest, and gazelles, They will eat carrion when other food is not available, and sometimes drive hyaenas from their kill, instead of making the kill themselves, When larger prey is scarce, they will turn to smaller animals. such as rats and mice, The lioness, rather than the larger male. does most of the hunting and killing prey. A small pride of lions has been observed to make a kill, such as a zebra, about once a week.

Lions may breed at any time of the year, and have a gestation period of about 68 days, The mother gives birth to from one to six cubs, As lions do not have permanent dens, the mother must move her cubs from place to place by carrying them in her mouth, one at a time, Mortality of the cubs is high in the wild, but lions reproduce readily in zoos, with most of the young surviving.

tigerTIGER

Tigers have black stripes on a fawn-colored background, though there may be variations, all the way from nearly black to albinos. Most tigers grow to be about the size of the lion, but in some races, such as the giant Siberian tiger, they may be much larger, measuring as much as 13 feet in length and weighing as much as 650 pounds. Unlike the lion, the tiger has no mane, but instead has a long ruff of fur around its face. Tigers and lions will interbreed, producing "ligers" or "tiglons," according to which is the father. Tigers were probably originally an Arctic animal. and still appear to suffer from the heat in the warmer parts of their range. Limited numbers of this great animal can still be found in the cooler parts of China and Siberia, as well as in the humid jungles of India and Burma.

In spite of their great size and strength, tigers are usually timid animals, and try to avoid contact with man. However. they can be dangerous, especially old tigresses or wounded individuals. A tiger leaps and hugs its victim. and then bites it through the throat. Their diet normally consists mainly of meat. which may be either fresh or rotten. A larger tiger may eat 200 pounds of meat at a session. In rare cases a tiger may become a man-eater. One tiger is known to have killed 213 humans. Their greatest enemies are packs of feral dogs and the wild Dholes (sic), which worry them to death. Elephants have been known to beat them to a pulp and kneel on them, and an attack on a water buffalo may result in the goring of the attacker.

bobcat

BOBCAT

The bobcat, sometimes aptly called the wildcat, is a small fearless hunter. It is an important check on mice and other rodents, as well as on the rabbit population. A hungry adult may occasionally kill a small sheep or calf and, justly or unjustly, has been accused of killing deer. A fully mature bobcat may weigh up to 25 pounds (a 40-pounder was reported from Wyoming), and be close to three feet in length.

It is a very adaptable animal, much more than its cousin. the lynx. The bobcat lives comfortably most anywhere in North America where there is sufficient forest and bushland to provide it with cover. Its home is usually an underground den or a hollow tree.

Bobcats may have a "home range" of from five to 50 miles in diameter. They hunt by stealth, being built for short bursts of speed and not for long runs. Most of the prey is caught by stalking, with the bobcat relying on its highly developed sense of sight and hearing, rather than smell. Because of its habits, this wary animal is seldom seen, and is not as rare as one might think.

In the late spring two to four young are born, staying with their mother until fall. Bobcats are solitary animals. Except for the mother-young relationships, they do not get along well with each other. This animal is apparently becoming more numerous in Kansas.

mountain lion

MOUNTAIN LION

The mountain lion, also called a cougar, puma, panther, or catamount, is, next to the jaguar, the largest American cat. A large adult may be up to nine-and-a-half feet long, thirty inches high at the shoulder, and weigh up to 250 pounds, though most individuals are somewhat smaller. The female is not as large as the male, The body color is uniform, but may vary from tawny to gray, The face is usually marked with dark around the eyes and upper muzzle. Once found all across North America, the mountain lion is now restricted to the western third of the country. A few are left in southern Florida, It is probably extinct in the East and the rest of the Southern States. There are occasional unverified reports of people seeing one of the large cats or its tracks in Kansas, They prefer open country to dense forests, and are most common in the drier mountain areas, They are reported to be the most difficult of the large mammals to see.

The mountain lion's principal prey is the deer. Some biologists believe that their presence is necessary for a healthy deer herd, as they help to eliminate the sick, diseased, and older members of the herd.

The female gives birth to two or three tiny, spotted cubs, When captured as young kittens, mountain lions make playful and interesting pets. However, as they become older they become unpredictable and untrustworthy.

When their natural foods are scarce, they may turn to man's domestic animals, Because sheepmen and cattlemen blame many of their losses upon the mountain lion, it has been not only hunted relentlessly, but has also had a high bounty placed on its head in many places. Taxpayers might speak out a little more in favor of the mountain lion if they only realized that the control program costs considerably more than the actual losses from this animal.

black bear

BLACK BEAR

Black bears are the smallest of the American bears, They are not always black, and in some areas the "blacks" are mostly brown, Even "cinnamon" bears (which are really blondes) are not too uncommon. Standing fifty to sixty-five inches tall at the shoulder and rarely weighing over two hundred pounds, black bears. are certainly less frightening than other bears. They are shy and timid, and much less dangerous than their cousins, the larger brown bears of the Far North. Black bears may still be found throughout much of the wilderness areas of North America.

Except during the mating season or family groups, the beasts tend to be solitary, and have a well-defined area in which they hunt. A black bear will mark its territory by biting and/or clawing at trees. They are omnivorous, eating things as small mammals, berries, pine cones, roots, and grasses. They especially like honey, and, in spite of the stings of hundreds of angry bees, do not hesitate to raid a wild hive when they can find it. Unlike the grizzly, they have short, curved claws which permit them to climb trees with agility.

Black bears are hunted for sport, their furs, and food. Early pioneers considered bear meat a delicacy. Stories of the damage these animals do is usually greatly exaggerated, especially by those who raise sheep and cattle.

New-born cubs are about the size of large rats, blind, and almost naked. In the winter they go into semi-hibernation, and may arouse into action should anyone inadvertently stumble into their winter home. Man is the principal enemy of the black bear.

grizzly bear

GRIZZLY BEAR

The grizzly bear is the next to the largest living land carnivore, It is closely related to the coyote, bobcat, raccoon, and wolf. Individuals may range from six to nine feet in length, and have been reported to reach a weight of up to 1500 pounds, The grizzly bear may be distinguished from the black bear by its "dished in" face and the hump on its shoulders, The front claws are very long, and make dangerous and formidable weapons.

The common name for this bear comes from the color of its fur, which is yellowish-brown to dark brown to almost black. The hair is usually tipped with white, Hence, the hair looks frosted, or "grizzly."

The grizzly bear originally ranged over the Black Hills and Badlands of South Dakota, twothirds of Kansas, to the Pacific Coast. Because of the relentless hunting of this great beast, not only for sport and its fur, but to protect livestock from its depredations, the grizzly bear has been exterminated over most of its former range, and is now restricted to Alaska, Canada, and, in the continental United States, to Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks.

These animals are omnivorous, eating both vegetable matter and meat. Its primary foods are berries, fruit, seeds, bark, fish, rodents, and carrion.

The grizzly bear is dangerous to man only when provoked, startled, in the mating season, when wounded, or when the mother is protecting her cubs. Though attacks on man are rare, when they do occur they are very vicious. The violence of the attack of an angry grizzly bear has been the center of many hair-raising legends and tales of the Indians and early pioneers.

polar bear

POLAR BEAR

Polar bears inhabit the Arctic region and the islands and pack ice of the Arctic Ocean. They are large, elongated bears, with long necks, small slender heads, and small ears. Their fur is very dense and unformly yellowish white. They even have fur "overshoes" that protect the soles of their feet. They stand four-and-a-half feet tall, and may be up to nine-and-a-half feet in length. One of the heaviest of the bears. they may weigh as much as 700 to 1000 pounds. and have been reported to weigh as much as 1700 pounds in extreme cases. Females are about one-fourth smaller than males. Polar bears are quite different from brown bears, and do not even belong to the same genus.

Their principal food consists of seals, though they will eat most any thing, including seaweed and plant matter in the summer when they may roan inland for short distances. They may be extremely dangerous animals when provoked, either in or out of water, though they usually prefer to avoid man when possible. Strong and graceful swimmers, they may swim for miles at a time. About the only thing they really need to fear is man.

In January two cubs are born in a den dug in the snow. Only the warmth of the mother's body and fur keeps them from freezing at birth. Because the animals are a source of food and clothing for the Eskimo. and the pelts are valued as trophies by hunters and so-called "sportsmen," the polar bear has been subjected to heavy hunting pressure. Never present in great numbers in their harsh northern environment, they have now been placed on the endangered species list. As polar bears may be on the American side one week, and on the Siberian coast the next, international protection measures must be established to protect this vanishing species.

raccoon

RACCOON

The raccoon is a common animal throughout the United States except for some areas of the Rocky Mountains. It is easily recognized by the black "mask" over its eyes and by the alternating yellow-white and black rings around the tail. Adults range in size from about twelve pounds to individuals that may exceed thirty-five pounds. The raccoon usually makes its home in a hollow tree near a stream. Being omnivorous, it may eat fruits, nuts, grains, insects, crayfish, bird eggs, and almost anything else that is available. Sometimes it may damage roasting-ear corn and raid poultry houses.

Raccoons are hunted and trapped for their fur, which is used to trim collars, make muffs, and other items of clothing. The hides were worth an average of ten dollars back in the early 1930·s. They then fell in value until it was unprofitable to sell them. Only in the last few years has the price risen to ten dollars or more per pelt. Raccoon hunting is a popular sport in some areas. Hounds that track by scent are turned loose in areas where 'coons may be found, where they trail their quarry until it runs up a tree. Such a sport takes place at night, as the mammal is noctournal (sic).

When captured young, they tame easily and make intelligent and interesting pets. However, as they get older they tend to get into mischief, and have to be chained up or returned to the wild after a period of time.

badgerBADGER

Badgers are very flat. broad, powerful mammals, yellowish-gray in color, with an identifying white stripe from the nose to the back of the head. The front legs are thick and strong, with very long claws. When full grown, badgers may weigh over twenty pounds and be up to three feet in length.

They are highly adaptable animals, and may be found in parts of the United States and Mexico. They normally live in dry open country where the soil makes burrowing easy. Their feats of evacuation are almost incredible. Their resting and nursing quarters may be thirty feet below the surface of the ground. They readily dig up prairie dogs (once their principal food) and ground squirrels. They will also eat rabbits, rats, insects, and berries. They have been reported to eat considerable amounts of vegetable matter when meat is not available.

Their skins are exceedingly thick and tough, and appears to be about a size-and-a-half too big for their bodies. The ability to "turn in their skin," plus their powerful teeth and claws and the fact that they are fearless when cornered, makes them, pound-for-pound, about as tough a customer as may be encountered anywhere. Related to the skunks, they give off a powerful odor from their scent glands that also helps in warding off enemies.

They have a strange habit of going into some form of profound sleep or coma, so that they appear dead and somewhat rigid. Should someone make the mistake of handling them when in this state, they may find that the animal comes out of it quickly, fighting and snapping viciously.

wolverineWOLVERINE

To the Indians of the North the wolverine is known as the carcajou and to the fur-trapper he was the 'glutton' and the skunk-bear because it robbed and destroyed their food caches, usually spreading a disagreeable scent over what they could not eat. It is the largest member of the weasel family, reaching up to 40" in length and a weight of 40 pounds. It is related to the skunk and the badger. Outwardly resembling a small bear, they are considered to be one of the strongest animals alive for their size. The legs, lower surface and tip of the tail are dark brown. The back is a little lighter, while the sides are usually almost fawn-colored. They ask for and give no quarter, and have been known to have forced adult bears to give ground over the ownership of a carcass. Forever hungry, their search for food can lead them many miles from their dens. They are strict carnivores, and their habitat of northern coniferous forests and treeless tundra does not offer much upon which to live. Consequently, they are solitary animals, and have learned to rob traps, steal bait, and destroy food stores to keep from starving. When cornered or threatened they may become extremely dangerous, though they will try to avoid contact with man if at all possible. Discounting the pressures put on them by man, they have no natural predators. The coarsely-haired pelt is normally of no great value. However, it is prized above all others for trimming parka hoods because it is one of the few furs that will resist frosting in a very cold climate.

skunkSKUNK

There are four species of skunks in the United States, the hog-nosed, striped, hooded, and spotted, The best-known, and also the largest, is the striped skunk, It is black with a white "V" down its back. An adult may weigh from six pounds to as much as 14 pounds. It, like the other skunks, is a nocturnal animal, and does its foraging for food at night. They are omnivorous, and feed upon mice, eggs, insects, grubs, berries, and carrion.

The skunk is a shy animal which will not cause people any harm unless it is provoked. When it does feel threatened, however, it can either bit or use its foul-smelling liquid spray to ward off its enemies.

Skunks live in small underground dens, under old buildings, beneath boulders, or in old wood piles. The female usually brings forth four to ten young in April. Juveniles grow to almost adult size by late summer.

A word of warning - skunks are one of the most common carriers of rabies or "hydrophobia." Any skunk that does not show the usual fear of man should be avoided, and dogs and other domestic animals kept away. If you are ever bitten by a skunk, report it to a doctor immediately. Capture or kill the skunk for examination if at all possible. Call your County Health Officer or Doctor for instructions concerning the examination of the possible rabies carrier.

weaselWEASEL

During the summer months the weasel is brownish in color, with lighter colored feet and undersides. Though courageous and bloodthirsty, and sometimes guilty of killing more than they can eat, they are rather small. elongated mammals, They prey upon mice, rats, shews. moles, and larger animals such as squirrels, rabbits. and poultry. They have been reported to have killed animals over 100 times their size.

The short-tailed weasel is common in the North. It may reach a length of ten inches. In the winter its pelage turns to white. The more common long-tailed weasel reaches lengths up to 16 inches. The smallest of our weasels. the least weasel, is also the smallest of the carnivores, seldom reaching a length of over six inches when fully grown. In their white winter coats weasels are referred to as ermine, and are relentlessly sought for their valuable pelts.

Weasels are chiefly nocturnal, but may sometimes be active during the day. They have been reported to be the "quickest" mammal alive. Sometimes they may hunt in small packs, darting about like vast insects, never still, examining every nook and cranny, and ganging up for the kill.

The female gives birth to from four to eight young, which have been described as "looking like tiny cocktail sausages." In five to seven weeks the young are able to take care of themselves.


The Kansas School Naturalist Department of Biology 
  College of Liberal Arts & Sciences 
Send questions / comments to
Kansas School Naturalist.
 Emporia State University