Spring Snow Surprise!

Spring Snow Surprise!

The spring birds are arriving daily here in the hilltowns of Massachusetts in April and this morning they awoke to a snowcapped roof – Brrrrrrr!

I’m so very glad they have a cozy spot to settle into for this momentary silly weather pattern sent by Mother Nature! 

For more New England BIRD adventures visit P.L.A.Y. Birds to read stories and engage in curious and creative activities designed for the whole family.

The bird story book begins HERE.

Mother Nature surprised us all with a stack of spring snow on the already blooming tulips in our flower garden.

Thankfully our seedlings weathered the storm indoors in both our home and in the community greenhouse so we are still on track for cucumbers and other delights in our veggie garden.

More P.L.A.Y. family gardening inspiration HERE.

Animal BOOK LOOK – Chapter 31 – Raccoon

Chapter 31


Mother Nature was just about to start the next learning session when a slight noise came from up the path drawing all eyes in that direction. There, shuffling down the Lone Little Path, was an interesting looking fellow. No one needed more than one glance at that sharp, black and white face to recognize him.

“Bobby Coon!” shouted Peter Rabbit. “Are you coming to join our sessions?”

Bobby shuffled along a little nearer, then sat up and blinked at them sleepily. No one needed to be told that Bobby had been out all night. He rubbed his eyes and yawned. “Hello, everybody,” he said. “I wish I felt as bright and lively as all of you look. I’d like to join you too, however I’m afraid if I did I would go to sleep right in the middle of the session. I ought to have been home an hour ago. So I guess I’ll have to be excused.”

Mother Nature nodded her head, “If you think you can’t keep awake, just go over and sit down there by Prickly Porky; he’ll
keep you awake.

“I–I think I can keep awake,” stammered Bobby and opened his eyes very wide as if he were trying to stretch his eyelids so as to make them stay open.

“I’ll help you by asking you a few questions,” replied Mother Nature. “Who is it that people sometimes call you the little cousin of?”

Bobby grinned. “Buster Bear,” he said.

“That’s right,” replied Mother Nature.

Raccoon – Illustration by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

“Of course, being a Raccoon, you are not a Bear, however you are related to the Bear family. I want you all to notice Bobby’s footprints over yonder. You will see that the print of his hind foot shows the whole foot, heels and toes, and is a lot like Buster Bear’s footprint on a small scale. Bobby shuffles along in much the same way that Buster walks. No one ever mistakes Bobby Coon for any one else. There is no danger that any one ever will as long as he carries that big, bushy tail with its broad black and gray rings. And there is no other face like Bobby’s with its black cheeks. You will notice that Bobby is rather small around the shoulders, and he is big and heavy around the hips. Despite the fact that his legs are not very long Bobby is a very good runner. However, he doesn’t do any running unless he has to. Bobby, where were you overnight?”

“I was over at the Laughing Brook,” he said. “I caught three of the sweetest tasting little fish in a little pool in the Laughing Brook, and I got some of the tenderest Clams I’ve ever eaten,” replied Bobby, smacking his lips. “I raked them out of the mud and opened them. Down at the Smiling Pool I had a lot of fun catching young Frogs. I certainly do like Frogs. It is great sport to catch them, and they are fine eating.”

“I suppose you have had an eye on the beech trees and the wild grape-vines too,” said Mother Nature.

Bobby’s face brightened. “Indeed I have,” he said. “There will be an abundance of beechnuts and grapes this fall. My, they sure will taste good!”

Mother Nature laughed. “There is small danger that you will go hungry,” she said. “When you can’t find enough to eat times must be very hard indeed. For the benefit of the others you might add that in addition to the things mentioned you also eat other fruits, including berries, insects of various kinds, birds when you can catch them, Mice, Turtles, in fact almost anything that can be eaten. You are not at all fussy about the kinds of food you eat. You also have one habit in regard to your food which is unique. Do you know what it is?”

Bobby shook his head. “No,” he said, “not unless you mean the habit I have of washing my food. If there is any water near, I always like to take what I am going to eat over to it and wash it; somehow it tastes better.”

“Just so,” replied Mother Nature. “More than once I’ve seen you in the moonlight beside the Laughing Brook washing your food, and it has always made me smile. Now, did you raise a family this year, Bobby?”

“Mrs. Coon did. We had four of the finest youngsters you have ever seen over in a certain big hollow tree. They are getting big and lively now, and go out with their mother every night. I hope they grow big and strong then I’ll enjoy my winter sleep better, and I know Mrs. Coon will too.”

At this Johnny Chuck pricked up his ears. “Do you sleep all winter, Bobby?” he asked eagerly.

“Not all winter, although a good part of it,” replied Bobby. “I don’t turn in until the weather gets pretty cold, and it is hard to find anything to eat. After the first snow I’m usually ready to sleep. Then I curl up in a warm bed of leaves in a certain big hollow tree, and don’t care how cold or stormy the weather is. Sometimes I wake up once or twice, when the weather is mild, and take a little walk around for exercise. I don’t go far and soon return to sleep.”

“What do you do when Bowser the Hound gets after you?” asked Peter Rabbit.

“Run till I get out of breath,” replied Bobby. “And if by that time I haven’t been able to fool him so that he loses my trail, I take to a tree. Thank goodness, he can’t climb a tree. Sometimes I climb from the top of one tree into the top of another, and sometimes into a third and then a fourth, when they are near enough together.”

“Thank you, Bobby, now you can trot along home for a good sleep. Tomorrow we will see what we can find out about Buster Bear.”

Using these prompts inspired from today’s chapter draw, write, color, paint, cut & paste, or creatively capture your ideas and story adventures in your P.L.A.Y. nature journal!

  1. Raccoons have amazing markings on their tail and face. What other animals have distinct markings that set them apart and make them easy to recognize?
  2. Visit this LINK for a photo and more information on raccoons from Mass Audubon Society.
  3. *Why do raccoons like to live near the water? Of what use is their large bushy tail? How do raccoons arrange themselves in a tree for a nap? At what time of year are raccoons the fattest? Do they move slow or fast?

Prompts with a * are inspired by or found in the Handbook of Nature Study written by Anna Botsford Comstock, a professor at Cornell University, focusing on flora & fauna in the Northeast in 1911.

If you find the work and vision of P.L.A.Y. supports you and your family on the life learning path, please pass it forward to friends and neighbors as a Simple Gift that keeps on giving.

P.L.A.Y. has created more updated animal, bird, beaver, deer, and toad story adventures from the Thornton Burgess archives for you and your family.


These tales are woven with fun facts and fiction featuring local four-legged and feathered friends in the fields and forests of New England.

Animal BOOK LOOK – Chapter 29 – Bobcat

Chapter 29


Jumper the Hare arrived at school a little late and quite out of breath from hurrying. His big soft eyes were shining with excitement. “You look as though you had had an adventure, Jumper,” said Mother Nature.

“I have,” replied Jumper. “It is a wonder I am here at all; I almost became Yowler the Bobcat’s breakfast and it makes me shiver just to think of it. I guess if I hadn’t been thinking about him, he would have caught me.”

“Would you tell us all about it?,” requested Mother Nature.

“Well seeing Black Shadow the Cat over here yesterday, and knowing that today’s lesson was to be about Yowler, I couldn’t get cats out of my mind all day yesterday,” began Jumper. “Black Shadow is too small to worry me, however I must confess that if there is any one I fear, it is Yowler the Bobcat. Just thinking about him makes me nervous. The more I tried not to think about him, the more I did think about him, and the more I thought about him, the more nervous I got. Then just before dark, on the bank of the Laughing Brook, I found some tracks in the mud. Those tracks were almost round, and that fact was enough to tell me who had made them. They were Yowler’s footprints, and they hadn’t been there for very long.”

“Of course, seeing those footprints made me more nervous than ever, and every time I saw a leaf move I jumped on the inside. My heart felt as if it were up in my throat most of the time. I had a feeling that Yowler wasn’t far away. He goes sneaking about, without making a sound, or else he lies in wait, ready to spring without warning on the first one who happens along. A fellow never knows where to watch out for Yowler.”

“I spent nearly all night sitting under a little hemlock tree with branches very close to the ground. I sat there because I didn’t dare do anything else. As long as I stayed there I felt reasonably safe, because Yowler would have to find me, and to do that he would have to cross an open place where I could see him. I knew that if I went roaming about I might walk right into his clutches.”

“It was lucky I had sense enough to stay put. You know the moon was very bright last night. It made that open place in front of where I was hiding almost as light as day. Once I closed my eyes for just a minute. When I opened them, there was Yowler sneaking across that open place. Where he had come from, I don’t know. He hadn’t made a sound. Not a leaf rustled under his big feet. Right in the middle of that open place, where the moonlight was brightest, he stopped to listen, and I simply held my breath.”

“Can you tell us what he looked like?” prompted Mother Nature.

Bobcat – Illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

“He looked just like what he is–a big Cat with a short tail,” replied Jumper. “Just to look at him any one would know he was a cousin to Black Shadow. He had a round head, rather long legs, and was about twice as big as Black Shadow. His feet looked big, even for him. On the tips of his ears were a few long black hairs. His coat was yellowish to reddish-brown, with dark spots on it. His chin and throat were white, and underneath he was white spotted with black. There were spots all down his legs. His tail was whitish on the under side and had black stripes on the upper side, and all the time he kept twitching it just the way Black Shadow twitches her tail when she is out hunting. All of a sudden he opened his mouth and gave such a yowl that it is a wonder I didn’t jump out of my skin. It frightened me so that I couldn’t have moved if I had wanted to, which was a lucky thing for me. The instant he yowled he cocked his head on one side and listened. That yowl must have wakened somebody and caused them to move, for Yowler turned suddenly and crept swiftly and without a sound out of sight. A minute later I heard a jump, and then I heard a fluttering. I think he caught one of the Grouse family.”

“Yowling that way is one of Yowler’s tricks and how he got his name,” explained Mother Nature. “He does it for the same reason Hooty the Owl hoots. He hopes that it will startle some sleeper so that they will move. If they do, his keen ears are sure to hear it. Was that all of your adventure, Jumper?”

“No,” replied Jumper. “I remained right where I was for the rest of the night. Just as daylight was beginning to steal through the Green Forest, I decided that it was safe to leave my hiding place and come over here. Half-way here I stopped for a few minutes in a thick clump of ferns. I was just about to start on again when I caught sight of something moving just back of an old stump. It was Yowler’s tail. Had he kept it still I wouldn’t have seen him at all; however he was twitching it back and forth again. He was crouched down close to the ground with all four feet drawn close together under him. There he crouched, and there I sat for the longest time. I didn’t move, and he didn’t move, save that foolish looking tail of his. I had begun to think that I would have to stay in that clump of ferns all day when suddenly Yowler sprang like a flash. There was a little squeak, and then I saw Yowler trot away with a Mouse in his mouth. I guess he must have seen that Mouse go in a hole and knew that if he waited long enough it would come out again. As soon as Yowler disappeared I hurried over here.”

“That was a splendid account of Yowler and his way of hunting,” said Mother Nature. “He does most of his hunting in just that way, sneaking about on the chance of surprising a Rabbit, Bird or Mouse, or else patiently watching and waiting beside a hole in which he knows some one has taken refuge. He hunts in the Green Forest exactly as Black Shadow, Farmer Brown’s Cat, hunts Mice in the barn or Birds in the Old Orchard. In the spring Yowler eats many eggs and young birds, both those found in nests on the ground and also those in nests in trees, for he is a splendid climber.”

“Yowler is found in nearly all of the swampy, brushy and wooded parts of the whole country, excepting in the great forests of the Far North, where his cousin Tufty the Lynx lives. Yowler is himself a Lynx, the Bay Lynx. In some places he is called simply Wild Cat. In others he is called the Catamount. He is not so fond of the thick forests as he is of swamps, brush-grown hillsides, old pastures and places where there are great masses of briars. Rocky ledges where there are caves in which to hide and plenty of brush also suit him. He prefers to hunt at night, and once in awhile he is seen in broad daylight. Mrs. Bobcat’s kittens are born in a cave or in a hollow tree. Despite the fact that he is an expert climber, Yowler spends most of his time on the ground and is primarily a predator of Rabbits, Mice, Squirrels and ground Birds.”

Using these prompts inspired from today’s chapter draw, write, color, paint, cut & paste, or creatively capture your ideas and story adventures in your P.L.A.Y. nature journal!

  1. What sounds does a barn cat or house cat make? Which of these sounds do Bobcat’s make too?
  2. What animals can you name that make sounds to startle their prey? What animals can you name that stay silent and still to catch their prey?
  3. Visit this LINK to see a bobcat and more information provided by Mass Audubon Society.

If you find the work and vision of P.L.A.Y. supports you and your family on the life learning path, please pass it forward to friends and neighbors as a Simple Gift that keeps on giving.

P.L.A.Y. has created more updated animal, bird, beaver, deer, and toad story adventures from the Thornton Burgess archives for you and your family.


These tales are woven with fun facts and fiction featuring local four-legged and feathered friends in the fields and forests of New England.

Animal BOOK LOOK – Chapter 28 – Coyote and Wolf

Chapter 28

Coyote and Wolf

“Of course, you all know to what branch of the Dog family Old Man Coyote belongs,” said Mother Nature as she looked expectantly at the circle of little four-legged folks gathered around her. No one answered. “Well, well, well!” exclaimed Mother Nature, “I am surprised. I supposed that all of you knew that Old Man Coyote is a member of the Wolf branch of the family.”

“Do you mean that he is really a true Wolf?” exclaimed Striped Chipmunk.

“Yes” replied Mother Nature. “Old Man Coyote varies in size from not so very much bigger than Reddy Fox to almost the size of his big cousin, Howler the Timber Wolf. Also he varies in color from a general brownish-gray to a yellowish-brown, being whitish underneath. His face is rather longer than that of Reddy Fox. He has a brushy tail, although it is not as thick as Reddy’s.”

Coyote – Illustration by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

“In his habits, Old Man Coyote is much like Reddy, except he is larger and stronger and he is able to hunt larger animal including Pigs, Lambs, and newly born Calves. He is one of the swiftest of all runners.”

“Old Man Coyote is a good parent and provider for his family. He and Mrs. Coyote have a large family every year, sometimes as many as ten babies. Their home is in the ground and is very similar to that of Reddy Fox. They eat almost everything eatable, including such animals and birds as they can catch, Frogs, Toads, Snakes and insects, and even some fruits. Mr. and Mrs. Coyote often hunt together. Sometimes, when the children are full-grown, they all hunt together. When they do this they can prey on an animal the size of Lightfoot the Deer.”

“Old Man Coyote has one of the strangest voices to be heard anywhere, and he delights to use it, especially at night. It is like many voices shouting together, and one who hears it for the first time cannot believe that all that sound comes from one throat.”

“His big cousin, Howler the Gray Wolf, sometimes called Timber Wolf– is found now only in the forests of the North and the mountains of the Great West. Once he roamed over the greater part of this whole great country. Howler is as keen-witted as, and perhaps keener-witted than, Reddy Fox or Old Man Coyote, and added to this he has great strength. He is one of the most feared of all the people of the Green Forest. In summer when food is plentiful, Howler and Mrs. Wolf devote themselves to the bringing up of their family. When winter comes, Howler and his friends get together and hunt in packs. With their wonderful noses they can follow Deer and run them down as well as Sheep and young Cattle. The harder the winter the bolder they become. In the Far North they grow especially large, and because of the scarcity of food there in winter, they become exceedingly fierce. They can go an amazingly long time without food and still retain their strength.”

Wolf – Illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

“Howler and Mrs. Wolf mate for life, and each is at all times loyal to the other. They are the best of parents, and the little Wolves are carefully trained in all that a Wolf should know.”

“When Wolves hunt in packs they have a leader, usually the strongest or the smartest among them.”

“The color of Howler’s coat usually is brownish-gray and that is why he is called the Gray Wolf; and sometimes it is almost black, and in the Far North it becomes snowy white. Howler the Wolf is very closely related to the Dogs which humans keep as pets. They are really first cousins.”

“My!” exclaimed Peter Rabbit with a shiver, “I am glad Howler the Wolf doesn’t live around here. Do Old Man Coyote and Howler the Wolf get along with one another?” he asked.

“Actually, Old Man Coyote takes pains to keep out of Howler’s way,” said Mother Nature,” and yet he is clever enough to know that when Howler the Wolf has found his prey and had his dinner there may be some left over. So when Howler is hunting in Old Man Coyote’s neighborhood, the latter keeps an eye and ear open to what is going on.”

“By the way, all branches of the Dog family do one thing: they walk on their toes. They never put the whole foot down flat as does Buster Bear. And, as you have already discovered, all branches of the Dog family are intelligent.”

“Why Hello, there is Black Shadow, the cat from Farmer Brown’s, coming down the Lone Little Path!” announced Mother Nature. “I suspect it will be well for some of you smallest ones to get out of sight before she arrives. She doesn’t live over here in the Green Forest rather she simply visits along the edges. She does have a cousin who lives in the Green Forest though, Yowler the Bob Cat. Shall I tell you about Yowler and his cousins tomorrow?”

“Yes please!” cried Happy Jack, speaking for all. Then, as Black Shadow was drawing near, they separated and went their several ways.

Using these prompts inspired from today’s chapter draw, write, color, paint, cut & paste, or creatively capture your ideas and story adventures in your P.L.A.Y. nature journal!

  1. Look closely, can you see the differences between a wolf and a coyote with these paintings? Perhaps look at what they do have in common first and then look for differences.
  2. Visit this LINK to get another view of a coyote from the Mass Audubon Society and this article with photos about coyotes in Massachusetts.

If you find the work and vision of P.L.A.Y. supports you and your family on the life learning path, please pass it forward to friends and neighbors as a Simple Gift that keeps on giving.

P.L.A.Y. has created more updated animal, bird, beaver, deer, and toad story adventures from the Thornton Burgess archives for you and your family.


These tales are woven with fun facts and fiction featuring local four-legged and feathered friends in the fields and forests of New England.

Animal BOOK LOOK – Chapter 27 – Red Fox and Gray Fox

Chapter 27

Red Fox and Gray Fox

When the learning session began the following morning not one four-legged friend was missing. You see, with the exception of Jimmy Skunk and Prickly Porcupine, there was not one in whose life Reddy Fox did not have a most important part. Even Happy Jack the Gray Squirrel and Chatterer the Red Squirrel, tree folk though they were, had many times narrowly missed furnishing Reddy with a dinner. As for Johnny Chuck and Peter Rabbit and Jumper the Hare and Striped Chipmunk and Danny Meadow Mouse and Whitefoot the Wood Mouse, there were few hours of the day or night when they did not have Reddy in mind, knowing that to forget him even for a few minutes might mean the end of them.

Just imagine these little folks getting comfortably seated for the morning session when Reddy himself steps out from behind a tree. Never before was there such a commotion! In the blink of an eye Mother Nature was alone, save for Reddy Fox, Jimmy Skunk, and in the trees Prickly Porky the Porcupine and Happy Jack and Chatterer the Squirrel.

Reddy Fox looked uncomfortable. “I didn’t mean to break up your morning session,” he said to Mother Nature. “I wouldn’t have thought of coming if you hadn’t sent for me.”

Mother Nature smiled. “I didn’t tell any one that I was going to send for you, Reddy,” she said, “for I was afraid that if I did nobody would come this morning. I promised them a surprise, and it is very clear that no one guessed what that surprise was to be. Reddy, if you wouldn’t mind, please go over by that old stump near the Lone Little Path and have a seat.”

Then Mother Nature called each of the little four-legged friends by name requesting they each return at once. She spoke gently and yet with a firm and reassuring voice to encourage everyone to join her. One by one they appeared from all sorts of hiding places, glancing fearfully towards Reddy Fox, and looking to Mother Nature for extra reassurance.

When at last they were all crowded about her as closely as they could get Mother Nature spoke with her soft voice. “Reddy Fox is here because I sent for him, and he is going to sit right where he is until I tell him he can go, and not one of you will be harmed by him. To begin with, I am going to tell you one or two facts about Reddy, and then I am going to find out just how much you have learned about him on your own.”

Red Fox – Illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

“It may seem odd to you that Reddy Fox belongs to the same family as Bowser the Hound, and yet it is true. Both are members of the Dog family and are quite closely related. Howler the Wolf and Old Man Coyote are also members of the family, so all are cousins. Look closely at Reddy and you will see at once that he looks very much like a small Dog with a beautiful red coat, white waistcoat, black feet and bushy tail. Now Peter, you probably know as much about Reddy as any one here. Could you tell us what you have learned in your efforts to keep out of his clutches?”

Peter scratched a long ear thoughtfully and glanced sideways at Reddy Fox. “I certainly ought to know something about him,” he began. “He was the very first four-legged folk my mother warned me to watch for, because she said he was especially fond of young Rabbits and was the smartest predator. Since then I have found out that she knew just what she was talking about.” Johnny Chuck, Danny Meadow Mouse and Whitefoot the Wood Mouse nodded as if they quite agreed. Then Peter continued, “Reddy lives chiefly by hunting, and in his turn he is hunted, so he needs to have sharp wits. When he isn’t hunting me he is hunting Danny Meadow Mouse or Whitefoot or Striped Chipmunk or Mrs. Grouse, or Bob White, or is trying to steal one of Farmer Brown’s Chickens, or is catching Frogs along the edge of the Smiling Pool, or grasshoppers out in the Green Meadows. So far as I can make out, anything Reddy can catch supplies him with food.”

Reddy Fox, who had been listening with a grin on his face said, “I am also rather fond of certain kinds of fruits, sometimes fish, and eggs too.”

Peter continued by stating “Reddy Fox hunts with his ears, eyes, and nose. Many a time I’ve watched him listening for the squeak of Danny Meadow Mouse or watching for the grass to move and show where Danny was hiding; and many a time he has found my scent with his wonderful nose and followed me just as Bowser the Hound follows him. I guess there isn’t much going on that Reddy’s eyes, ears and nose don’t tell him. And it is Reddy’s quick wits that the rest of us fear most. We never know what new trick he will try. Lots of predators are easy to fool, although Reddy isn’t one of them. Sometimes I think he knows more about me than I know about myself. I guess it is just pure luck that he hasn’t caught me with some of those smart tricks of his.”

“Reddy hunts both day and night, although I think he prefers night. I guess it all depends on how hungry he is. More than once I’ve seen him bringing home a Chicken, and I am told that he is smart enough not to steal Chickens near his home, rather to always go some distance to get them. Also I’ve been told that he is too clever to go to the same Chicken yard two nights in succession. He doesn’t seem to mind being chased by Bowser the Hound at all.”

“Actually, I don’t,” spoke up Reddy. “I rather enjoy it. It gives me good exercise. Any time I can’t fool Bowser by breaking my trail so he can’t find it again, I deserve to be caught.

Mother Nature nodded and said “ Reddy, where do you and Mrs. Fox make your home? And how do you raise your babies?”

“This year our home is up in the Old Pasture,” replied Reddy. “We have the nicest kind of a house dug in the ground underneath a big rock. It has only one entrance since there is no need of any other. No one could possibly dig us out there. Last year our home was on the Green Meadows and there were three doorways to that. The year before we dug our house in a gravelly bank just within the edge of the Green Forest. The babies are born in a comfortable bedroom deep underground. Sometimes we have a storeroom in addition to the bedroom; there Mrs. Fox and I can keep food when there is more than can be eaten at one meal. When the babies are first born in the spring and Mrs. Fox cannot leave them, I take food to her. When the youngsters are big enough to use their sharp little teeth, we take turns hunting food for them. Usually we hunt separately, and sometimes we hunt together. You know often two can do what one cannot. If Bowser the Hound happens to find the trail of Mrs. Fox when there are babies at home, she leads him far away from our home. Then I join her, and take her place so that she can slip away and go back to the babies. Bowser never knows the difference.

“Our pups are well trained if I do say it. We teach them how to hunt, how to fool their predators, and all the tricks we have learned. No one has a better training than a young Fox.”

“I want you all to know that Reddy Fox and Mrs. Fox mate for life,” said Mother Nature. “Reddy is the best of fathers and the best of mates.”

“Now, here is a tricky question for you little four-legged folks,” said Mother Nature. “When is a Red Fox not a Red Fox?” Everybody blinked. Most of them looked as if they thought Mother Nature must be joking. Then suddenly Chatterer the Red Squirrel, whose wits are naturally quick, remembered how Mother Nature had told them that there were black Gray Squirrels. “When he is some other color,” cried Chatterer.

“Right you are!” said Mother Nature. “Once in a while a pair of Red Foxes will have a baby who hasn’t a red hair on him. He will be all black, with perhaps just the tip of his tail white. Or his fur will be all black just tipped with white. Then he is called a Black Fox or Silver Fox. He is still a Red Fox, yet there is nothing red about him. Sometimes the fur is only partly marked with black and then he is called a Cross Fox. A great many people have supposed that the Black or Silver Fox and the Cross Fox were distinct kinds. They are not. They are simply Red Foxes with different coats.”

“There’s one thing I do envy about Reddy,” Peter Rabbit spoke up, “and that is that big tail of his. It is a wonderful tail. I wish I had one like it.”

Everybody let out a burst of laugher as they tried to picture Peter Rabbit with a big tail like that of Reddy Fox. “I am afraid you wouldn’t get far if you had to carry that around,” said Mother Nature. “Even Reddy finds it rather a burden in wet weather when it becomes heavy with water. That is one reason you do not find him abroad much when it is raining or in winter when the snow is soft and wet. Reddy Fox is at home all over the northern half of this country, and everywhere he is the same clever fellow whom you all know so well.”

Gray Fox – Illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

“In the South and some parts of the East and West, Reddy has a cousin of about his own size whose coat is gray with red on the sides of his neck, ears and across his breast. The under part of his body is reddish, his throat and the middle of his breast are white. He is called the Gray Fox. He prefers the Green Forest to the open country. He is a better runner. Instead of making his home in a hole in the ground, he usually chooses a hollow tree-trunk or hollow log. The babies are born in a nest of leaves in the bottom of a hollow tree. He is the only Fox that climbs trees.”

“In any case, both Red and Gray Foxes are curious and clever.”

“Now I think this will do for Reddy Fox. Reddy is going to stay right here with me, until the rest of you have had a chance to get home. After that you will have to watch out for yourselves as usual. Tomorrow we will take up Reddy’s big cousins, the Wolves.”

Using these prompts inspired from today’s chapter draw, write, color, paint, cut & paste, or creatively capture your ideas and story adventures in your P.L.A.Y. nature journal!

  1. What phrases have you heard folks say in reference to a fox? Quotes? Catchphrases? Songs? Fables? What type of characters do foxes usually represent in stories? Can you think of a few stories with foxes in them? Would you like to create a story or cartoon with a fox character in your nature journal? Perhaps hum a little ditty or foxy tune you make along the way?
  2. Visit this LINK for more information and photos of foxes provided by the Mass Audubon Society.

If you find the work and vision of P.L.A.Y. supports you and your family on the life learning path, please pass it forward to friends and neighbors as a Simple Gift that keeps on giving.

P.L.A.Y. has created more updated animal, bird, beaver, deer, and toad story adventures from the Thornton Burgess archives for you and your family.


These tales are woven with fun facts and fiction featuring local four-legged and feathered friends in the fields and forests of New England.

Animal BOOK LOOK – Chapter 26 – Fisher

Chapter 26


“There is one remaining member of the Weasel family for us to speak of,” began Mother Nature, when she started up the learning session at the old meeting place in the Green Forest the morning after their visit to the Smiling Pool.

“Pekan the Fisher, sometimes referred to as Blackcat, lives here in the Green Forest too. His coat is a brownish-black, light on the sides, and browner below. His nose, ears, feet and tail are black. He gets his name of Blackcat from his resemblance to a Cat with a bushy tail, though on the ground he looks more like a black Fox. He lives in the pine and spruce forests and prefers to be near swamps. He is a splendid climber and also spends quite as much time on the ground. He is even livelier in the trees and can catch a Squirrel up there and often does. He isn’t afraid of leaping to the ground from high up in a tree, and often when coming down a tree he comes down headfirst. He is very fond of hunting the cousins of Jumper the Hare and is so tireless that he can run them down. He is very clever.”

“Do you all remember how frightened Prickly Porcupine was when I merely mentioned Pekan the Fisher. It was because Pekan is almost the only one Prickly Porky has reason to fear. If Pekan is hungry he doesn’t hesitate to dine on Porcupine. He has learned how to turn a Porcupine on his back, and, as you have already found out, the under part of the Porcupine is unprotected.”

Fisher – Illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

“Just why Pekan should be called a Fisher, I don’t know. True, he eats fish when he can get them, although he isn’t a water animal and doesn’t go fishing as do Billy Mink and Little Joe Otter. He is especially fond of Rabbit and Hare. He is so strong that he can kill a Fox and often does. Bobby Coon is a good fighter and much bigger and heavier than Pekan, and yet he is no match for Pekan.”

“Now this ends the Weasel family. That’s only one family of the order of Carnivora, or flesh eaters. There is another family you all know so well that I think we will take that up next. It is the family to which Reddy Fox and Old Man Coyote belong, and it is called the Dog family.”

“Tomorrow morning when you get here, I may have a surprise for you.”

Using these prompts inspired from today’s chapter draw, write, color, paint, cut & paste, or creatively capture your ideas and story adventures in your P.L.A.Y. nature journal!

  1. Do you have any members of the Weasel family living near you? Which ones? How do you know? Tracks? Scat? Trail Camera? Or?
  2. Visit this LINK from the Mass Audubon Society to see a fisher and read historical and current findings on their local habitat, food & diet, life cycle, etc.

If you find the work and vision of P.L.A.Y. supports you and your family on the life learning path, please pass it forward to friends and neighbors as a Simple Gift that keeps on giving.

P.L.A.Y. has created more updated animal, bird, beaver, deer, and toad story adventures from the Thornton Burgess archives for you and your family.


These tales are woven with fun facts and fiction featuring local four-legged and feathered friends in the fields and forests of New England.

Animal BOOK LOOK – Chapter 25 – Mink + Otter

Chapter 25

Mink and Otter

The bank of the Smiling Pool was a lovely place to hold a learning session at just after sun-up. Everybody who could get there was on hand, and there were several who had not been before. One of these was Grandfather Frog, who was sitting on his big, green, lily pad. Another was Jerry Muskrat, whose house was out in the Smiling Pool. Spotty the Turtle was also there and Longlegs the Heron too. You see, they hadn’t come to the learning sessions the learning session came to them, for that is where they live or spend most of their time.

“Good morning, Jerry Muskrat,” said Mother Nature pleasantly, as Jerry’s brown head appeared in the Smiling Pool. “Have you seen anything of Billy Mink or Little Joe Otter?”

“Little Joe went down to the Big River last night,” replied Jerry Muskrat. “I don’t know when he is coming back, although I wouldn’t be surprised to see him any minute. Billy Mink was here last evening and said he was going up the Laughing Brook fishing. He is likely to be back any time. One never can tell when that fellow will appear. He comes and goes continually. I don’t believe he can keep still five minutes.”

“Who can’t keep still for five minutes?” a new voice jumped in and there was Billy Mink himself just climbing out on the Big Rock.

“Jerry was speaking of you,” replied Mother Nature. “This will be a good chance for you to show him that he is mistaken. I want you to stay here for a while and to stay right on the Big Rock. I may want to ask you a few questions.”

Just then Billy Mink dove into the Smiling Pool, and a second later his brown head popped out of the water and in his mouth was a fat fish. He scrambled back on the Big Rock and looked at Mother Nature as he laid the fish down.

“I couldn’t help myself,” he mumbled. “I saw that fish and dove for him. I hope you will forgive me, Mother Nature. I just can’t sit still for long.”

As Billy Mink sat there on the Big Rock for a moment eating his fish everyone had a good look at him. One glance would tell anyone that he was a cousin of Shadow the Weasel. He was much larger than Shadow and of the same general shape being long and slender. His coat was a beautiful dark brown, darkest on the back. His chin was white. His tail was round, covered with fairly long hair which was so dark as to be almost black. His face was like that of Shadow the Weasel. His legs were rather short. As he sat eating that fish, his back was arched.

Mink – Illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

Mother Nature waited until he had finished his feast. “Now then, Billy,” she said, “Which do you like best, night or day?”

“It doesn’t make any particular difference to me,” replied Billy. “I just sleep when I feel like it, whether it be night or day, and then when I wake up I can hunt. It all depends on how I feel.”

“When you go hunting, what do you hunt?” asked Mother Nature.

Billy grinned. “Anything that promises a good meal,” he said. “I’m not very particular. A fat Mouse, a tender young Rabbit, a Chipmunk, a Frog, Tadpoles, Chickens, eggs, birds, fish; whatever happens to be easiest to get suits me. I am rather fond of fish, and that’s one reason that I live along the Laughing Brook and around the Smiling Pool. I do like a change, and so often I go hunting in the Green Forest. Sometimes I go up to Farmer Brown’s for a Chicken. In the spring I hunt for nests of birds on the ground. In winter, if Peter Rabbit should happen along here when I was hungry, I might be tempted to sample Peter.” Billy blinked his bright eyes as Peter shivered.

“And if Jerry Muskrat were not my friend, I am afraid I might be tempted to sample him too,” continued Billy Mink.

“Oh Pooh!” exclaimed Peter Rabbit. “You wouldn’t dare tackle Jerry Muskrat.”

“Wouldn’t I?” replied Billy. “Just ask Jerry how he feels about it.”

One look at Jerry’s face showed everybody that Jerry, big as he was, was afraid of Billy Mink. “And how do you hunt when you are on land?” asked Mother Nature.

“I hunt with my eyes, nose and ears,” replied Billy. “There may be folks with better ears than I’ve got, although I don’t know who they are. I wouldn’t swap noses with anybody. As for my eyes, well, they are plenty good enough for me.”

“In other words, you hunt very much as does your cousin, Shadow the Weasel,” said Mother Nature.

Billy nodded. “I suppose we are similar at that,” he said.

“You all saw how Billy catches fish,” said Mother Nature. “Now, Billy, if you would swim over to the farther bank and show us how you run.”

Billy slipped into the water and swam for a distance and then popped just his head out. When he reached the edge of the pond he climbed up on the bank and started along it. He went by a series of bounds, his back arched sharply between each leap. Then he disappeared before their very eyes, only to reappear as suddenly as he had gone. So quick were his movements that it was impossible for them to keep their eyes on him. It seemed sometimes as though he must have vanished into the air. Of course he didn’t. He was simply showing them his wonderful ability to take advantage of every little stick, stone and bush.

“Billy is a great traveler,” said Mother Nature. “He really loves to travel up and down the Laughing Brook, even for long distances. Being so slender he can slip under all kinds of places and into all sorts of holes. Quick as he is on land, he is not so quick as his Cousin Shadow the Weasel; and good swimmer as he is, he isn’t so good as his bigger cousin, Little Joe Otter. However, being equally at home on land and in water, he has an advantage over his cousins. Mrs. Mink makes her home nest in a hole in the bank or under an old stump or under a pile of driftwood, and you may be sure it is well hidden. There the babies are born, and they stay with their mother all summer. Incidentally, Billy can climb too.”

“Now, I wish Little Joe Otter were here. I had hoped he would be,” said Mother Nature looking all around.

“Here he comes now,” cried Jerry Muskrat. “I rather expected he would be back.” Jerry pointed towards where the Laughing Brook left the Smiling Pool on its way to the Big River. A brown head was moving rapidly towards them. There was no mistaking that head. It could belong to no one other than Little Joe Otter. Straight on to the Big Rock he came, and climbed up. He was big, being one of the largest members of his family. He was more than three feet long. No one looking at him could mistake him for anyone other than a member of the Weasel family. His legs were short, very short for the length of his body. His tail was fairly long and broad. His coat was a rich brown all over, and a little lighter underneath than on the back.”

“What’s going on over here?” asked Little Joe Otter, his eyes bright with interest.

“We are holding a learning session here today,” explained Mother Nature. “And we were just hoping that you would appear. Would you hold up one of your feet and spread the toes, Little Joe for all to see?”

Otter – Illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

Little Joe Otter did with a puzzled look on his face. “Well I’ll be!” exclaimed Peter Rabbit. “His toes are webbed like those of Paddy the Beaver!”

“Ah yes,” said Little Joe, “I never could swim the way I do if they weren’t webbed.”

“Can you swim better than Paddy the Beaver?” asked Peter.

“I should say I can. If I didn’t, I guess I would go hungry most of the time,” replied Little Joe.

“Why should you go hungry? Paddy doesn’t,” replied Peter.

“Paddy doesn’t live on fish,” replied Little Joe. “I do and that’s the difference.”

“Might you show us how you can swim?” suggested Mother Nature.

Little Joe slipped into the water. The Smiling Pool was very still and the four-legged folks sitting on the bank could look right down and see nearly to the bottom. They saw Little Joe as he entered the water and then saw little more than a brown streak. A second later his head popped out on the other side of the Smiling Pool.

“Phew, I’m glad I’m not a fish!” exclaimed Peter and everybody laughed.

“ Like Billy Mink, Little Joe is a great traveler,” Mother Nature continued, “especially up and down the Laughing Brook and the Big River. Sometimes he travels over land, although he is so heavy and his legs are so short that traveling on land is slow work. When he does cross from one stream or pond to another, he always picks out the smoothest going. Sometimes in winter he travels quite a bit. Then when he comes to a smooth hill, he slides down it on his stomach. By the way, Little Joe, haven’t you a slippery slide somewhere around here?”

Little Joe nodded. “I’ve got one down the Laughing Brook where the bank is steep,” said he. “Mrs. Otter and I and our children slide every day!”

“What do you mean by a slippery slide?” asked Happy Jack Squirrel, who was sitting in the Big Hickory-tree which grew on the bank of the Smiling Pool.

Mother Nature smiled. “Little Joe Otter and his family are quite fond of play,” she said. “One of their ways of playing is to make a slippery slide where the bank is steep and the water deep. In winter it is made of snow and in summer it is made of mud. There they slide down, splash into the water, then climb up the bank and do it all over again. In winter they make their slippery slide where the water doesn’t freeze.”

“I suppose that means that Little Joe doesn’t sleep in winter as Johnny Chuck does,” said Peter.

“Oh no, I should say not,” exclaimed Little Joe. “I like the winter, too. I have such a warm coat that I never get cold. There are always places where the water doesn’t freeze. I can swim for long distances under ice and so I can always get plenty of food.”

“Do you eat anything other than fish?” asked Peter Rabbit.

“Oh, sometimes,” replied Little Joe. “Once in a while I like a little fresh meat for a change, and sometimes when fish are scarce I eat Frogs, but I prefer fish, especially Salmon and Trout.”

“How many babies do you have at a time?” asked Happy Jack Squirrel.

“Usually one to three,” replied Little Joe, “and only one family a year. They are born in my comfortable house, which is a burrow in the bank. There Mrs. Otter makes a large, soft nest of leaves and grass. And now I think I will go on up the Laughing Brook as Mrs. Otter is waiting for me there.”

Using these prompts inspired from today’s chapter draw, write, color, paint, cut & paste, or creatively capture your ideas and story adventures in your P.L.A.Y. nature journal!

  1. Perhaps you live in a climate where there is snow to make a winter slippery slide just like Little Joe Otter. Have you ever thought to make a mud slide in the summer like him too? Try a little research with your family to see what otter slippery slides look like and then see if you can recreate your own version for some summer P.L.A.Y.!
  2. Have you seen a mink walk on land? Can you arch your back “between leaps” like Billy Mink? Or how about leap AND hide as he does? Where are you best suited for travel – on land or in the water?

If you find the work and vision of P.L.A.Y. supports you and your family on the life learning path, please pass it forward to friends and neighbors as a Simple Gift that keeps on giving.

P.L.A.Y. has created more updated animal, bird, beaver, deer, and toad story adventures from the Thornton Burgess archives for you and your family.


These tales are woven with fun facts and fiction featuring local four-legged and feathered friends in the fields and forests of New England.

Animal BOOK LOOK – Chapter 24 – Weasel

Chapter 24


Every one was on hand for the learning session the next morning, despite the fear that the mere mention of Shadow the Weasel had brought about in all except Jimmy Skunk and Prickly Porcupine. You see, everyone felt they must be there so that they might learn all they possibly could about one they so feared. It might help them to escape should they discover Shadow hunting them sometime.

“Striped Chipmunk,” said Mother Nature, “Would you be willing to share something about Shadow the Weasel?”

“He is the one predator I fear more than any other,” declared Striped Chipmunk, “because he is the one who can go wherever I can. Any hole I can get into he can. I’ve seen him just twice in my life, and I hope I may never see him again.”

“What did he look like?” asked Mother Nature.

“Like a snake on legs,” said Striped Chipmunk. “Anyway, that is what he made me think of, because his body was so long and slim and he twisted and turned so easily. He was about as long as Chatterer the Red Squirrel and looked longer because of his slim body and long neck. He was brown above and white below. His front feet were white, and his hind feet rather whitish. His short, round tail was black at the end. Somehow his small head and sharp face made me think of a Snake.”

Weasel – Illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

“I saw him once, and he wasn’t brown at all,” interrupted Jumper the Hare. “He was all white, every bit of him except the end of his tail which was black.”

“Striped Chipmunk is quite right and so are you,” said Mother Nature. “Striped Chipmunk saw him in the summer and you saw him in the winter. He changes his coat according to the season, just as you do yourself, Jumper.”

“Oh, I see” said Jumper.

“What was he doing when you saw him?” asked Mother Nature, turning to Striped Chipmunk.

“Hunting,” replied Striped Chipmunk, and shivered. “He was hunting me. He had found my tracks where I had been gathering beechnuts, and he was following them with his nose just the way Bowser the Hound follows Reddy Fox. I nearly died of fright when I saw him.”

“You are lucky to be alive,” declared Chatterer the Red Squirrel.

“I know it,” replied Striped Chipmunk and shivered again. “I know it. I guess I wouldn’t be if Reddy Fox hadn’t happened along just then and frightened Shadow away. I’ve actually had a kindlier feeling for Reddy Fox ever since.”

“I never ran harder in my life than the time I saw him,” spoke up Jumper the Hare. “He was hunting me just the same way, running with his nose in the snow and following every twist and turn I had made. Only for that black-tipped tail did I see him before it was too late.”

“The idea of a big fellow like you running from such a little fellow as my Cousin Shadow, what a thought!” added Jimmy Skunk to the conversation.

“I may be ever so much bigger, however he is so quick I wouldn’t stand the least chance in the world,” said Jumper the Hare. “When I suspect Shadow is about, I go somewhere else, the farther the better. If I could climb a tree like Chatterer, it would be different.”

“Actually no it wouldn’t,” interrupted Chatterer. “That fellow can climb almost as well as I can. The only thing that saved me from him once was the fact that I could make a long jump from one tree to another and he couldn’t. He had found a hole in a certain tree where I was living, and it was just luck that I wasn’t at home when he called. I was just returning when he popped out. I ran for my life.”

“Has he any predators?” asked Peter Rabbit to Mother Nature.

“Oh, yes,” replied Mother Nature. “Reddy Fox, Old Man Coyote, Hooty the Owl and various members of the Hawk family have to be watched for by him. Although they do not worry him much. You see he moves so quickly, dodging out of sight in a flash, that whoever catches him must be quick indeed. Then, too, he is almost always close to good cover. He delights in old stone walls, stone piles, brush-grown fences, piles of rubbish and barns and old buildings, the places that Mice delight in. In such places there is always a hole to dart into in time of danger. He hunts whenever he feels like it, be it day or night, and often covers considerable ground, though nothing to compare with his big, brown, water-loving cousin, Billy Mink. It is because of his wonderful ability to disappear in an instant that he is called Shadow.”

“Shadow is known as the Common Weasel, Short-tailed Weasel, Brown Weasel, and Ermine, and is found all over the forested parts of the northern part of the country. Most Weasels are alike in habits. When running they bound over the ground much as Peter Rabbit does.”

“Now tomorrow we will meet on the bank of the Smiling Pool.”

Using these prompts inspired from today’s chapter draw, write, color, paint, cut & paste, or creatively capture your ideas and story adventures in your P.L.A.Y. nature journal!

  1. If you were to think of a “furry snake” is a weasel what comes to mind or a different image?
  2. Who do you think we will meet at the Smiling Pool in Chapter 25 when the four-legged folks gather again? Who lives around or in a pond? How many critters can you name?

If you find the work and vision of P.L.A.Y. supports you and your family on the life learning path, please pass it forward to friends and neighbors as a Simple Gift that keeps on giving.

P.L.A.Y. has created more updated animal, bird, beaver, deer, and toad story adventures from the Thornton Burgess archives for you and your family.


These tales are woven with fun facts and fiction featuring local four-legged and feathered friends in the fields and forests of New England.

Animal BOOK LOOK – Chapter 23 – Badger + Wolverine

Chapter 23

Badger and Wolverine

“Well, Peter,” said Mother Nature, “did you visit Digger the Badger yesterday?”

“Oh yes,” replied Peter, “I visited him, although I didn’t find out too much. It took me a long time to find him. He has more holes than anybody I ever knew, and I couldn’t tell which one is his home. When I did find him, he gave me a terrible scare. I didn’t see him until I was right on top of him, and if I hadn’t jumped, and jumped quickly, I guess I wouldn’t be here this morning. He was lying flat down in the grass and he was so very flat that I just didn’t see him. I told him that I wanted to know all about him and his ways and he didn’t say much.”

“I sat around awhile and watched him, although he mostly took a sun bath. He certainly is an odd looking fellow to be a member of the Weasel family. There’s nothing about him that looks like a Weasel, that I could see. Of course, he isn’t as broad as he is long, although he looks almost as if when he is lying flat down and that long hair of his is spread out on both sides. He has a silvery gray and silky looking coat. It seems to be parted right down the middle of his back. His tail is rather short, stout, and hairy. As for his head, each cheek is a bar of black. The back part of each ear is black, and he has rather a sharp nose. He has a broad white stripe from his nose right straight back over his head. Somehow when he is walking he makes me think of a little, flattened-out Bear with very short legs. And such claws as he has on his front feet! I don’t know any one with such big strong claws for his size. I guess that must be because he is such a digger.”

Badger – Illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

“That’s a very good guess, Peter,” said Mother Nature. “Has any one here ever seen him dig?”

“I did once,” replied Peter. “I happened to be over near where he lives when Farmer Brown’s boy came along and surprised Digger some distance from one of his holes. Digger didn’t try to get to one of those holes; he simply began to dig. My gracious, how the sand did fly! He was out of sight in the ground before Farmer Brown’s boy could get to him. Johnny Chuck is pretty good at digging, and yet he simply isn’t in the same class with Digger the Badger. No one is that I know of, unless it is Miner the Mole. I guess this is all I know about him, excepting that he is a great fighter. Once I saw him go after a dog almost twice his size. I never heard such hissing and snarling and growling. He wouldn’t tell me anything about how he lives though.”

“Thank you, Peter,” replied Mother Nature, “That’s as much as I expected you would be able to find out. Just to add a bit more, his home is here and on the great plains and in the flat, open country of the Middle West and Far West, where Gophers and Ground Squirrels and Prairie Dogs live. They furnish him with the greater part of his food. All of them are good diggers, however they don’t stand any chance when he sets his attention on digging them out. His teeth are sharp and strong and he is afraid of no one of his own size. His skin is very tough and he is further protected by his long hair.”

“Digger spends most of his time under ground during daylight, seldom coming out except for a sun bath. As soon as jolly, round, red Mr. Sun goes to bed for the night, Digger appears and travels about in search of a dinner. His legs are so short and he is so stout and heavy that he travels slowly. He makes up for this with his digging speed. He doesn’t expect to catch anyone on the surface, unless he happens to surprise a Meadow Mouse within jumping distance. Instead he goes hunting for the holes of Ground Squirrels and other burrowers, and when he finds one promptly digs. He eats Grasshoppers, Beetles, small Snakes, and other small animals. It was well for you, Peter, that you jumped when you did, for I suspect that Digger would have enjoyed a Rabbit dinner.”

“In winter Digger sleeps as Johnny Chuck does, coming out soon after the snow disappears in the spring. Then Mr. and Mrs. Badger have two to five babies late in the spring or early in the summer. They are born under ground in a nest of grass. Mr. and Mrs. Badger are quite satisfied to live by themselves and be left alone. They are rarely seen in the daytime, although they are probably out more often than you would suppose. Peter has told how he nearly stepped on Digger before seeing him. It is Digger’s wise habit to lie perfectly still until he is sure he has been seen, so people often pass him without seeing him at all, or if they see him they take him for a stone.”

“While Digger the Badger is a lover of the open country and doesn’t like the Green Forest at all he has a cousin who is found only in the Green Forest and usually very deep in the Green Forest at that. This is the Wolverine, the largest member of the family. None of you have seen him, because he lives mostly in the great forests of the North beyond here.”

“Wolverine has several other names. He is called ‘Carcajou’ in the Far North, and out in the Far West is often called ‘Skunkbear.’ The latter name probably is given him because in shape and color he looks a good deal as though he might be half Skunk and half Bear. He is about three feet long with a tail six inches long, and is thickset and heavy. His legs are short and very stout. His hair, including that on the tail, is long and shaggy. It is blackish-brown, becoming grayish on the upper part of his head and cheeks. His feet are black. When he walks he puts his feet flat on the ground as a Bear does.”

Wolverine – Illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

“Being so short of leg and heavy of body, he is slow in his movements. What he lacks in this respect he makes up in strength and cunning. Reddy Fox and Old Man Coyote are clever, and so too is Wolverine. His strength is so great that often he will tear his way into the cabins of hunters while they are absent and then eat or destroy all their food. His appetite is tremendous. What he cannot eat or take away, he covers with musk and buries it so that no other animal will touch it.”

“Mrs. Wolverine has two or three babies in the spring. They live in a cave, and if a cave cannot be found, they use a hole in the ground which Mrs. Wolverine digs. It is usually well hidden. Wolverine will eat any kind of flesh and seems not to care whether it be freshly killed or so old that it is decayed.”

“I think this will do for today. Tomorrow we will take up another branch of the family, some members of which all of you know. I wonder if it wouldn’t be a good plan to have Shadow the Weasel here.”

Such a look of dismay swept over the faces of all those little four-legged folks, with the exception of Jimmy Skunk and Prickly Porky. “If–if–if you please, I don’t think I’ll come tomorrow morning,” said Danny Meadow Mouse.

“I–I–I think I shall be too busy at home and will have to miss that session,” said Striped Chipmunk.

Mother Nature smiled. “Don’t worry, little folks,” she said. “You ought to know that if I had Shadow here I wouldn’t let him hurt any one of you. Although I am afraid if he were here you would pay no attention to me, so I promise you that Shadow will not be anywhere near.”

Using these prompts inspired from today’s chapter draw, write, color, paint, cut & paste, or creatively capture your ideas and story adventures in your P.L.A.Y. nature journal!

  1. What purpose do you think the white stripe serves on a Badger? Why do you think it goes from nose to tail vs. side stripes? Why is it symmetrical on their face?
  2. If the Wolverine looks like a “half skunk + half bear”, what other animals can you think of that look like “half of this + half of that”?

If you find the work and vision of P.L.A.Y. supports you and your family on the life learning path, please pass it forward to friends and neighbors as a Simple Gift that keeps on giving.

P.L.A.Y. has created more updated animal, bird, beaver, deer, and toad story adventures from the Thornton Burgess archives for you and your family.


These tales are woven with fun facts and fiction featuring local four-legged and feathered friends in the fields and forests of New England.

Animal BOOK LOOK – Chapter 22 – Skunks

Chapter 22


Just as Mother Nature asked who they should learn about next, Happy Jack Squirrel spied some one coming down the Lone Little Path. “Look who’s coming!” cried Happy Jack.

Everybody turned to look down the Lone Little Path. There, ambling along in the most matter-of-fact and unconcerned way, came a certain four-legged friend who was dressed all in black and white.

“Hello, Jimmy Skunk,” shouted Chatterer the Red Squirrel. “What are you doing over here in the Green Forest?” Jimmy Skunk looked up and grinned. It was a slow, good-natured grin. “Hello, everybody,” he said. “I thought I would just amble over here and see what you are all up to gathering together. Have any of you seen any fat Beetles around here?”

“Has anyone seen a Fat Beetle?” asks Jimmy Skunk.

Just then Jimmy noticed Mother Nature. “Please excuse me, Mother Nature,” he said, “I don’t mean to interrupt.”

Mother Nature smiled. The fact is, Mother Nature is rather fond of Jimmy Skunk. “You aren’t interrupting,” she said. “The fact is, we have just ended the learning session about Flitter the Bat and his relatives, and were trying to decide who to focus our attention on next. I think you came along at just the right time. You belong to a large and rather important order, one that all these little folks here ought to know about. How many cousins have you, Jimmy?”

Jimmy Skunk looked a little surprised at the question. He scratched his head thoughtfully. “Let me see,” he said, “I have several close cousins in the Skunk branch of the family, although I’m guessing you want to know who my cousins are outside of the Skunk branch. They are Shadow the Weasel, Billy Mink, and Little Joe Otter. These are the only ones I can think of now.”

“How about Digger the Badger?” asked Mother Nature.

A look of surprise swept over Jimmy Skunk’s face. “Digger the Badger!” he exclaimed. “Digger the Badger can’t be a cousin of mine!”

“Digger the Badger is just as much a cousin of yours as is Shadow the Weasel,” Mother Nature confirmed. “You are members of the same order and it is a rather large order. It is called the Car-niv-o-ra, which means ‘flesh-eating.’ You are a member of the Marten or Weasel family, and that family is called the ‘Mus-tel-i-dae.’ Digger the Badger is also a member of that family. That means that you two are cousins. You and Digger and the Wolverine all belong to the stout-bodied branch of the family. Billy Mink, Little Joe Otter, Shadow the Weasel, Pekan the Fisher and Spite the Marten belong to its slim-bodied branch. And all are members of the same family despite the difference in looks, and thus, of course, are cousins. Seeing that you are here, Jimmy, I think we will find out just how much these little folks know about you.”

“Peter Rabbit, could you tell us what you know about Jimmy Skunk?” asked Mother Nature.

“Well, I do know one thing about him,” declared Peter, “and that is he is the most independent fellow in the world. He isn’t afraid of anybody. I saw Buster Bear actually step out of his way the other day.”

Jimmy Skunk grinned. “Buster always treats me very politely,” said Jimmy.

“I have noticed that everybody does, even Farmer Brown’s boy,” added Happy Jack Squirrel.

“It is easy enough to be independent when everybody is afraid of you,” sputtered Chatterer the Red Squirrel.

“And just why is everybody afraid of Jimmy Skunk?” asked Mother Nature.

Skunk illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

“They are afraid of that little scent spray he carries,” spoke up Peter Rabbit. “I wish I had one just like it.”

Mother Nature shook her head. “It wouldn’t do, Peter, to trust you with a scented spray the likes of Jimmy Skunk’s,” she said. “I am afraid there would be trouble in the Green Forest and on the Green Meadow all the time as I suspect that you would drive everybody else away. Jimmy never uses that little scent spray unless he is in real danger or thinks he is. Usually he is pretty sure that he is before he uses it. I’ll venture to say that not one of you has seen Jimmy use his scent spray.”

Peter looked at Jumper the Hare. Jumper looked at Chatterer. Chatterer looked at Happy Jack. Happy Jack looked at Danny Meadow Mouse. Danny looked at Striped Chipmunk. Striped looked at Johnny Chuck. Johnny looked at Whitefoot the Wood Mouse. Then they all looked at Mother Nature and shook their heads. “I thought as much,” she said. “Jimmy is wonderfully well suited for using the scented spray for defense only as needed. He never misuses it. And since everybody knows he has it, nobody interferes with him. Now, Peter, what more do you know about Jimmy?”

“He is good-natured,” said Peter, and grinned at Jimmy.

Jimmy grinned back. “Thank you, Peter,” he said.

“He is one of the best-natured people I know,” continued Peter. “He also eats Beetles and grubs and Grasshoppers and Crickets and insects of all sorts. I am told that he eats eggs when he can find them.”

Jimmy also noted “I might as well add to the list that a Mouse is rather to my liking, young birds, and I also enjoy a Frog now and then, or a Lizard, or a fish.”

“Is that all you know about Jimmy?” asked Mother Nature of Peter.

“I guess it is,” replied Peter, “excepting that he lives in a hole in the ground, and I seldom see him out in winter. I rather think he sleeps all winter, the same as Johnny Chuck does.”

“I do sleep a lot during the winter,” said Jimmy, “however I don’t go into winter quarters until well after the snow comes, and I don’t sleep the way Johnny Chuck does. Sometimes I go out in winter and hunt around a little.”

“Do you dig your house?” asked Mother Nature.

Jimmy shook his head. “Not when I can help myself,” he said. “It is too much work. If I have to I do, although I would much rather use one of Johnny Chuck’s old houses. His houses suit me first rate.”

“I want you all to look at Jimmy very closely,” said Mother Nature. “You will notice that he is about the size of Black Shadow, the Cat from Farmer Brown’s, and that his coat is black with broad white stripes. However, not all Skunks are marked alike. I dare say that no two of Jimmy’s children would be exactly alike. I suspect that one or more might be all black, with perhaps a little bit of white on the tail. Notice that Jimmy’s front feet have long, sharp claws. He uses these to dig out grubs and insects in the ground, and for pulling over sticks and stones in his search for beetles. Also notice that he places his feet on the ground very much as does Buster Bear. That big, bushy tail of his is for the purpose of warning folks. Jimmy never shoots that scent spray without first giving warning. When that tail of his begins to go up in the air, wise people watch out.”

“A lot of people make the mistake of thinking that Jimmy Skunk and his family do a great deal of harm. The truth is, they do a great deal of good. Once in a while they will make the mistake of stealing Chickens or eggs. They make up for all they take in this way by the pests they destroy. Jimmy and Mrs. Skunk have a large family each year, usually from six to ten. Mrs. Skunk usually is living by herself when the babies are born and when they are big enough to walk their father rejoins the family, and you may see them hunting together for Grasshoppers or Beetles. Often the whole family remains together all winter, not breaking up until spring. Jimmy is very neat and takes the best of care of his handsome coat. He isn’t afraid of water and can swim if it is necessary. He does most of his hunting at night and sleeping during the day.”

“Jimmy has cousins in nearly all parts of this great country. Way down in the Southwest is one called the Hog-nosed Skunk, one of the largest of the family. He gets his name because of the shape of his nose and the fact that he roots in the ground the same as a hog. He is also called the Badger Skunk because of the big claws on his front feet and the fact that he is a great digger. His fur is not so fine as that of Jimmy Skunk, and is rather coarse and harsh. He is even more of an insect eater than is Jimmy.”

Spotted Skunk illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

“The smallest of Jimmy’s own cousins is the Little Spotted Skunk. He is only about half as big as Jimmy, and his coat, instead of being striped with white like Jimmy’s, is covered with irregular white lines and spots. He lives in the southern half of the country and in his habits is much like Jimmy, although he is much livelier. Occasionally he climbs low trees. Like Jimmy he eats almost anything he can find. And it goes without saying that, like Jimmy, he carries a little scent spray too. By the way, Jimmy, what do you do when you are angry? Can you show us?”

Jimmy began to growl, an odd-sounding little growl, and at the same time stamped the ground with his front feet. Mother Nature laughed. “When you see Jimmy do that,” she said, “it is best to pretend you don’t see him and keep out of his way.”

“Hasn’t Jimmy any predators at all?” asked Peter Rabbit.

“That depends on how hungry some folks get,” replied Mother Nature. “Hooty the Owl doesn’t seem to mind Jimmy’s little scent spray, however this is the only one I can think of who doesn’t. Some of the bigger animals might take him if they were starving, although even then I think they would think twice.”

“Now, who knows where Digger the Badger is living?” asked Mother Nature.

“I do,” replied Peter Rabbit. “He is living out on the Green Meadows over near the Old Pasture.”

“All right, Peter,” replied Mother Nature, “suppose you run over and pay him a visit and tomorrow morning you can tell us all about it.”

Using these prompts inspired from today’s chapter draw, write, color, paint, cut & paste, or creatively capture your ideas and story adventures in your P.L.A.Y. nature journal!

  1. Can you think of any other “famous” skunk characters in books or movies? If so, how often is the scent spray brought up as the primary thing to know about skunks? Could you write a story about a skunk and focus on something other than the scent spray? What might you write about?
  2. Why hadn’t any of the four-legged friends seen Jimmy Skunk use his scent spray? Have you ever seen a skunk spray? Or have you ever smelled the spray? Did you know the scent can be detected for half a mile away? Write or draw about your skunk scent experience in your nature journal.
  3. *Have you ever seen skunk tracks? The skunk takes short steps and goes slowly so that it makes a double track with the imprints being very close together. The foot makes a longer track than that of the cat and walks upon both palms and heels as well as toes.
  4. *How big is a skunk? How does a skunk benefit a farmer? Do skunks make any vocal noises?
  5. Visit this LINK at the Mass Audubon Society for more information and a photo of a skunk.

Prompts with a * are inspired by or found in the Handbook of Nature Study written by Anna Botsford Comstock, a professor at Cornell University, focusing on flora & fauna in the Northeast in 1911.

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P.L.A.Y. has created more updated animal, bird, beaver, deer, and toad story adventures from the Thornton Burgess archives for you and your family.


These tales are woven with fun facts and fiction featuring local four-legged and feathered friends in the fields and forests of New England.