Animal BOOK LOOK – Chapter 36 – Moose


Chapter 36

Moose


It was the last day of Mother Nature’s learning sessions in the Green Forest, and when jolly, round, bright Mr. Sun had climbed high enough in the blue, blue sky to peep down through the trees, he found not one missing of the little four-legged folks who had been learning so much about themselves, their relatives, neighbors and animals related to them living in other parts of this country. You see, not for anything in the world would one of them willingly have missed that last session.

Lightfoot the Deer was the first one on hand. In fact, he arrived before sun-up and, lying down in a little thicket close at hand, made himself very comfortable to wait for everyone’s arrival. You see he was eager to hear about his big cousin. Then the others began to arrive and settle in as they greeted Lightfoot and each other.

“The Deer family,” began Mother Nature, “is divided into two branches with the round-horned and the flat-horned. I have told you about the round-horned Deer such as Lightfoot.

“There is a cousin who is the biggest of all the Deer family. It is Flathorns the Moose. As you must guess by his name he is a member of the flat-horned branch of the family. His antlers spread widely and are flattened instead of being round. From the edges of the flattened part many sharp points spring out.”

Moose – Illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

“Flathorns wears his crown of great spreading antlers as if he is of great nobility. Mrs. Moose has no antlers. As I have said, Flathorns is the biggest member of the Deer family. He is quite as big as Farmer Brown’s Horse and stands much higher at the shoulders. Indeed, his shoulders are so high that he has a decided hump there, for they are well above the line of his back. His neck is very short, large and thick, and his head is not at all like the heads of other members of the Deer family. Instead of the narrow, pointed face of other members of the Deer family, he has a broad, long face, rather more like that of a Horse. Towards the nose it humps up, and the great thick upper lip overhangs the lower one. His nose is very broad, and for his size his eyes are small. His ears are large.”

“From his throat hangs a hairy fold of skin called a bell. He has a very short tail, so short that it is hardly noticeable. His legs are very long and rather large. His hoofs are large and rounded, more like those of Bossy the Cow than like those of Lightfoot the Deer. Seen at a little distance in the woods, he looks to be almost black, although he is really for the most part dark brown. His legs are gray on the inside.”

“Flathorns lives in the great northern forests clear across the country, and is especially fond of swampy places. He is fond of the water and is a good swimmer. In summer he delights to feed on the pads, stems, and roots of water lilies, and his long legs enable him to wade out to get them. For the most part his food consists of leaves and tender twigs of young trees, such as striped maple, aspen, birch, hemlock, alder and willow. His great height enables him to reach the upper branches of young trees. When they are too tall for this, he straddles them and bends or breaks them down to get at the upper branches. His front teeth are big, broad and sharp-edged. With these he strips the bark from the larger branches. He also eats grass and moss. Because of his long legs and short neck he finds it easiest to kneel when feeding on the ground.”

Local pond likely visited by the moose as it is only a few miles from “Moose Poop Loop”.

“Big as he is, he can steal through thick growth without making a sound. He does not jump like other Deer, rather he travels at a trot which takes him over the ground very fast. In the winter when snow is deep, the Moose family lives in a yard such as I told you Lightfoot the Deer makes. He is very smart and not easily surprised.”

“A special detail to remember is that all male members of the smaller Deer are called bucks, the female members are called does, and the young are called fawns. All male members of the big Deer, such as the Moose, are called bulls. The females are called cows and the young are called calves. The moose is a forest-loving animal and is seldom seen far from the sheltering woods of the Green Forest.”


“So,” said Mother Nature looking down at Peter and all the four-legged folks, “this wraps-up the learning sessions about the land animals, or mammals, in this neck-of-the-woods that Peter Rabbit was so curious to know and eager to share this opportunity with all of you.”

“There are other animals who live all over this great big world and in the ocean which is the salt water which surrounds the land that most of you have never seen. However those stories will have to wait for another time in the future,” Mother Nature said with a smile.


And so ended Mother Nature’s learning sessions in the Green Forest for now. One by one the four-legged folks thanked her for all she had shared with them, and then started for home. Peter Rabbit was the last to leave.

“I know ever so much more than I did when I first came to you, and I guess that after all I know very little of all there is to know,” he said with a gentle sigh and smile which shows that Peter really had learned a great deal. Then he started for the dear Old Briar-patch, already pondering with gratitude all he had learned, with a lipperty-lipperty-lip skip in his step!


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. Near to where I live there is a walking trail called “Moose Poop Loop”. Can you guess one or more ways to see signs of a moose in an area even if you never actually see the moose?
  2. Visit this LINK to see and read more moose facts 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.

ENJOY!!!

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 35 – Deer


Chapter 35

Deer


Lightfoot the Deer appeared the next morning, emerging from the Green Forest, as he stepped quietly out from a thicket and bowed to Mother Nature.

“I heard,” he said, “that my fellow four-legged friends are here to learn something about my family this morning, and thought you would not mind if I joined them.”

“Oh, please do!” exclaimed Peter Rabbit forgetting that Lightfoot had spoken to Mother Nature.

All laughed, even Mother Nature. You see, Peter was so very much in earnest, and at the same time so excited, that it really was funny.

“Peter has spoken for all of us,” said Mother Nature. “You are more than welcome, Lightfoot I am delighted to have you here and I know that the others are too. I suspect you will be more comfortable if you lie down, however before you do this I want everybody to have a good look at you. Just stand for a few minutes in that little open space where all can see you.”

Lightfoot walked over to the open space where the sun fell full on him and there he stood, a picture of grace and beauty with his appearance giving him an air of nobility. There was more than one little gasp of admiration among his little neighbors.

Mother Nature began, “Lightfoot belongs to the Deer family, as you all know, and this in turn is in the order called Ungulata, which means hoofed.”

White-tailed Deer – Illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

Peter Rabbit abruptly sat up, and his ears stood up like exclamation points. “Farmer Brown’s cows have those funny feet called hoofs; are they related to Lightfoot?” he asked eagerly.

“Actually, they belong to another family, however it is in the same order. So they are distant cousins of Lightfoot,” replied Mother Nature.

“And Farmer Brown’s Pigs, what about them?” asked Chatterer the Red Squirrel.

“Yes, they also belong to that order and so are related,” explained Mother Nature

“Lightfoot,” Mother Nature continued, “is the White-tailed or Virginia Deer. You have only to look at him to know that those slim legs of his are meant for speed. He can go very fast, although not for long distances without stopping. Like Peter Rabbit he is a jumper rather than a true runner, and travels with low bounds with occasional high ones when alarmed. He can make very long and high jumps, and this is one reason he prefers to live in the Green Forest where there are fallen trees and tangles of old logs. If frightened he can leap over them, whereas his enemies must crawl under or climb over or go around them. Ordinary fences, such as Farmer Brown has built around his fields, do not bother Lightfoot in the least. He can leap over them as easily as Peter Rabbit can jump over that little log he is sitting beside.”

“Just now, because it is summer, Lightfoot’s coat is decidedly reddish in color and very handsome. In the winter it is very different.”

“I know,” spoke up Chatterer the Red Squirrel. “It is gray then. I’ve often seen Lightfoot in winter, and there isn’t a red hair on him in that season.”

“Quite right,” agreed Mother Nature. “His red coat is for summer only. Notice that Lightfoot has a black nose. That is, the tip of it is black. Beneath his chin is a black spot. A band across his nose, the inside of each ear and a circle around each eye is whitish. His throat is white and he is white beneath. Now, Peter, you are so interested in tails, tell me without looking what color Lightfoot’s tail is.”

“White, snowy white,” replied Peter promptly. “I suppose that is why he is called the White-tailed Deer.”

“Huh!” Johnny Chuck ,who happened to be sitting a little back of Lightfoot, chimed in “I don’t call it white. It has a white edge and is mostly the color of his coat.”

Now while Lightfoot had been standing there his tail had hung down, and it was as Johnny Chuck had said. Then at Johnny’s remark up flew Lightfoot’s tail, showing only the under side. It was like a pointed white flag. With it held aloft that way, no one behind Lightfoot would suspect that his whole tail was not white.

Follow this LINK for more Lightfoot the Deer stories!

“Notice how long and fluffy the hair on that tail is,” said Mother Nature. “Mrs. Deer’s tail is just like it, and this makes it very easy for her babies to follow her in the dark. When Lightfoot is feeding or simply walking about he carries it down, but when he is frightened and bounds away, up goes that white flag. Now look at his horns. They are not true horns. The latter are hollow, while these are not. Farmer Brown’s cows have horns. Lightfoot has antlers. Just remember that. The so-called horns of all the Deer family are antlers and are not hollow. Notice how Lightfoot’s curve forward with the branches or tines on the back side.”

Of course everybody looked at Lightfoot’s crown as he held his head proudly. “What is the matter with them?” asked Whitefoot the Wood Mouse. “They look to me as if they are covered with fur. I always supposed them to be hard like bone.”

“So they will be a month from now,” explained Mother Nature, smiling down at Whitefoot. “That which you call fur will come off. He will rub it off against the trees until his antlers are polished, and there is not a trace of it left. You see Lightfoot has just grown that set this summer.”

“Do you mean those antlers?” asked Danny Meadow Mouse, looking very much puzzled. “Didn’t he have any before? How could things like those grow, anyway?”

“He loses his horns, I mean antlers, every year!” shared Jumper the Hare. “His old ones fell off late last winter. I know, for I saw him just afterward. He didn’t carry his head as proudly as he does now. He looked a lot like Mrs. Deer; you know she hasn’t any antlers.”

“Then can you tell me how could hard, bony things like those grow?” inquired Danny Meadow Mouse.

“I think I will have to explain,” said Mother Nature. “They were not hard and bony when they were growing. Just as soon as Lightfoot’s old antlers dropped off, the new ones started. They sprouted out of his head just as plants sprout out of the ground,and they were soft and very tender and filled with blood, just as all parts of your body are. At first they were just two round knobs. Then these pushed out and grew and grew. Little knobs sprang out from them and grew to make the branches you see now. All the time they were protected by a furry skin which looks a great deal like what humans call velvet. When Lightfoot’s antlers are covered with this, they are said to be in the velvet state.”

“When they had reached their full size they began to shrink and harden, so that now they are quite hard, and very soon that velvet will begin to come off. When they were growing they were so tender that Lightfoot didn’t move about any more than was necessary and kept quite by himself. He was afraid of injuring those antlers. By the time cool weather comes, Lightfoot will be quite ready to use those sharp points on anybody who gets in his way.”

Antler found in the Green Forest

“As Jumper has said, Mrs. Deer has no antlers. Otherwise she looks much like Lightfoot, save that she is not quite as big. Have any of you ever seen her babies?”

“I have,” declared Jumper, who, as you know, lives in the Green Forest just as Lightfoot does. “They are the dearest little things and look like their mother, only they have the loveliest spotted coats.”

“That is to help them to remain unseen by their predators,” explained Mother Nature. “When they lie down where the sun breaks through the trees and spots the ground with light they seem so much like their surroundings that unless they move they are not often seen even by the sharpest eyes that may pass close by. They lie with their little necks and heads stretched flat on the ground and do not move so much as a hair. You see the first thing their mother teaches them is to keep perfectly still when she leaves them.”

“When they are a few months old and able to care for themselves a little, the spots disappear. As a rule Mrs. Deer has two babies each spring. Once in a while she has three, although two is the usual. She is a good mother and always on the watch for possible danger. While they are very small she keeps them hidden in the deepest thickets. By the way, do you know that Lightfoot the Deer and Mrs. Deer are fine swimmers?”

Happy Jack Squirrel looked the surprised. “I don’t see how under the sun any one with little hoofed feet like Lightfoot’s can swim,” he said.

Deer hoof prints in the mud.

“Nevertheless, Lightfoot is a good swimmer and fond of the water,” replied Mother Nature. “That is one way he has of escaping his enemies. When he is hard pressed by Wolves or Dogs he makes for the nearest water and plunges in. He does not hesitate to swim across a river or even a small lake.”

“Lightfoot prefers the Green Forest where there are close thickets with open places here and there. He likes the edge of the Green Forest where he can come out in the open fields, yet be within a short distance of the protecting trees and bushes. He requires much water and so is usually found not far from a brook, pond, or river. He has a favorite drinking place and goes to drink early in the morning and just at dusk. During the day he usually sleeps hidden away in a thicket or under a windfall, coming out late in the afternoon. He feeds mostly in the early evening. He eats grass and other plants, beechnuts and acorns, leaves and twigs of certain trees, lily pads in summer and delights to get into Farmer Brown’s garden, where almost every green thing tempts him.

“Like so many others he has a hard time in winter, particularly when the snows are deep. Then he and Mrs. Deer and their children live in what is called a yard. Of course it isn’t really a yard such as Farmer Brown has. It is simply a place where they keep the snow trodden down in paths which crisscross, and is made where there is shelter and food. The food is chiefly twigs and leaves of evergreen trees. As the snow gets deeper and deeper they become held up in the yard until spring comes to melt the snow and set them free.

Deer tracks in the winter in the Green Forest

“Lightfoot depends for safety more on his nose and ears than on his eyes. His sense of smell is wonderful, and when he is moving about he usually goes up wind; that is, in the direction from which the wind is blowing. This is so that it will bring to him the scent of any predator that may be ahead of him. He is very clever and cunning. Often before lying down to rest he goes back a short distance to a point where he can watch his trail, so that if a predator like Old Man Coyote is following him he will have warning.”

“The White-tailed Deer is the most widely distributed of all the Deer family. He is found from the Sunny South to the great forests of the North–everywhere except in the vast open plains of the mid-west in this country. That is, he used to be. In many places he has been so hunted by man that he has disappeared. When he lives in the Sunny South he never grows to be as big as when he lives in the North.”

“These members of the Deer family belong to the round-horn branch, and are very much smaller than the members of the flat-horn branch whom I shall tell you about tomorrow.”

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. For 10(!) more chapters of Lightfoot the Deer story adventures visit this LINK.
  2. Deer and signs of them are very common to see in your local forests or even backyards. What types of signs have you seen? Where have you seen deer? How did it feel to witness them in nature or come across signs of them having been nearby?
  3. Visit this LINK to see and read more about the white-tailed deer from 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.

ENJOY!!!

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 34 – Opossum


Chapter 34

Opossum


On his way to the next learning session Peter Rabbit passed a certain tree in the Green Forest when a familiar voice hailed him.

“Good Morning Peter Rabbit,” said the voice. “What’s your hurry?” Peter stopped abruptly and looked up in that tree. There, peering down at him from a hole high up in the trunk, was a sharp, whitish-gray face, with a pair of twinkling black eyes.

“Hello Billy the Opossum,” Peter called out. “How are you and Mrs. Opossum this fine day?”

“Poorly, Peter as we haven’t had breakfast yet,” replied Billy with a grin.

A sudden thought popped into Peter’s head. “Billy,” shouted Peter excitedly, “are you a Carnivora?”

Billy the Opossum poked his head a little farther out and put his hand behind his ear as if he were a little hard of hearing. “What’s that Peter Rabbit? Am I a what?” he asked.

“Are you a Carnivora?” repeated Peter.

Peter wasn’t listening for the answer. The fact is, Peter had started lipperty-lipperty-lip for the next learning session, without even saying good-by. He arrived quite out of breath. “I know!” he panted. “I know!”

“What do you know?” asked Mother Nature.

“I know the answer to the question you asked yesterday. I know who it is that eats flesh, yet doesn’t belong to the order of flesh eaters. It’s Billy the Opossum!” cried Peter.

“Right you are,” replied Mother Nature. “However did you find it out?”

“I didn’t exactly find it out; I guessed it,” replied Peter. “On my way here I saw Billy the Opossum, and it popped into my head right away that he was one we haven’t heard about, and must be the one. However, if he eats flesh, I don’t see why he isn’t a member of the order of flesh eaters.”

“It is because he belongs to a group which has something which makes them entirely different from all other animals, and for this reason they have been given an order of their own,” explained Mother Nature. “They belong to the order of Marsupials, which means pouched animals. It is because the mothers have big pockets in which they carry their babies. Mrs. Opossum has just such a pocket.”

“Of course,” exclaimed Peter. “I’ve seen those babies poking their heads out of that pocket.”

“The Opossums are the only Marsupials in this country,” continued Mother Nature. “Now have I made it quite clear why, although they eat flesh, Billy and Mrs. Opossum are not members of the same big order as Buster Bear and the other flesh eaters?”

Everybody nodded. Just then Chatterer the Red Squirrel shouted, “Here comes Billy, and Mrs. Opossum and all the little Opossums.”

Opossum – Illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

Sure enough, down the Lone Little Path came the Opossum family, and a funny looking sight they were. Billy was whitish-gray, his face whiter than the rest of him. He looked as if he had just gotten out of bed and forgotten to brush his hair; it pointed every which way. His legs were dark, his feet black and his toes white. His ears were without any hair at all, and were black for the lower half, the rest being white. He had a long whitish tail without any hair on it. Altogether, with his sharp face and naked tail, he looked a great deal as though he might be a giant Rat.

Mrs. Opossum was even more funny-looking as she seemed to have heads and tails all over her. You see, she had brought along her family, and Mrs. Opossum is one of those who believes in large families. There were twelve youngsters, and they were exactly like their parents, only small. They were clinging all over Mrs. Opossum. Some were on her back, some were clinging to her sides, and a couple were in the big pocket, where they had spent their babyhood.

“We thought we’d join you and see what’s going on today,” explained Billy with a grin.

“I’m glad you did,” replied Mother Nature. “You see, the rest of your friends here are a little curious about the Opossum family.”

Meanwhile Mrs. Opossum was climbing a tree, and when she had reached a comfortable notch the little Opossums left her and began to play about in the tree. It was then that it appeared what handy things those naked little tails were. When the little Possums crawled out where the branches were small, they simply wrapped their tails around the twigs to keep from falling.

“My!” exclaimed Peter. “Those certainly are handy tails.”

“Handiest tails ever,” declared Billy the Opossum smiling proudly at his family.

“Would you like to climb a tree, Billy, and show your friends here how you manage to get the eggs from a nest that you cannot reach by crawling along the branch on which it is placed,” said Mother Nature.

Billy nodded and good-naturedly started up a tree. He crept out on a branch that overhung another branch way out where the branch was small. Then he wrapped the end of his tail around the branch and swung himself off, keeping hold of the branch only with his tail and one hind foot. Then, stretching down full length, he could just reach the branch below him. “You see,” he explained, “if there was a nest on this branch down here, I could get those eggs without any trouble. I wish there was a nest. Just speaking of eggs makes my mouth water.” Again Billy pulled himself back to the other branch.

“What else do you eat?” asked Mother Nature.

Two Toads that would make a Tasty Treat for an Opossum!

“Anything,” replied Billy the Opossum. “I’m not very particular–insects, roots, Frogs, Toads, small Snakes, Lizards, berries, fruits, nuts, young Rats and Mice, corn, any old meat that has been left lying around. I could find a meal most any time most anywhere.”

“Do you always have as big a family as you have here today?” asked Peter Rabbit.

“Not always,” replied Billy. “Although sometimes Mrs. Opossum has to tote around a still bigger family. We usually have two or three big families a year.”

“Where is your home?” asked Johnny Chuck.

“I know,” said Peter Rabbit. “It’s up in a big hollow tree.”

Billy looked down at Peter and said, “remember it isn’t necessary to tell everyone where that hollow tree is now Peter.”

“Are Possums found anywhere except around here?” inquired Happy Jack.

“Yes, indeed,” replied Mother Nature. “They are found all down through the Sunny South, and in the warmer parts of the Mid-West. Billy the Opossum and his relatives are not fond of cold weather. They prefer to be where they can be reasonably warm all the year round.”

“Billy learned a long time ago that he can’t run as fast as some others, so he has learned to depend on his wits in time of danger. What do you think he does?”

“I know,” cried Peter; “I saw him do it once. Farmer Brown’s boy surprised Billy, and Billy just fell right over dead.”

“Pooh! Now that’s a story, Peter Rabbit. How could Billy the Opossum have fallen over dead and be alive up in that tree this very minute?” cried Happy Jack.

“I didn’t mean he was really dead just that he looked as if he were dead,” explained Peter. “And he did, too. He was the deadest looking thing I ever saw. I thought he was dead myself. I was watching from a bramble tangle where I was hiding, and I certainly thought the life had been scared right out of Billy. I guess Farmer Brown’s boy thought so too. He picked Billy up by the tail, and looked him all over, and said, ‘You poor little thing. I didn’t mean to hurt you.’ Billy didn’t so much as wink an eye. Farmer Brown’s boy went off up the path carrying Billy the Opossum by the tail. By and by he laid Billy down on an old stump while he went to look at a nest of Clever the Crow. When he came back Billy wasn’t there. I never did see Billy hurry as he did the minute Farmer Brown’s boy’s back was turned. He came to life as suddenly as he had dropped dead.”

“Very good, Peter,” said Mother Nature. “Pretending to be dead in order to remain alive is the cleverest thing Billy does.”

“Now, how about we focus on Lightfoot the Deer for our next lesson?”

“Splendid,” cried everyone at once and prepared to start for their homes.

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 is the difference between an Opossum like Billy and a Possum? Have you heard folks talk about one or the other where you live? Time to get curious and investigate! Check out this LINK to the Mass Audubon Society page to discover more!
  2. Have you ever hung upside down from “your tail”(using your legs bent at the knees) from a tree branch or on a bar at the playground? What does the world look like from that view? Would you want to hang like that often? Would you wish for a marsupial tail?
  3. Where do many marsupials live? Do they look like Billy the Opossum? What do they have in common? What are their differences?

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.

ENJOY!!!

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 32 – Black Bear


Chapter 32

Black Bear


“Has Buster Bear a tail?” asked Mother Nature, and her eyes twinkled.

“No,” declared Whitefoot the Wood Mouse promptly.

“Yes,” replied Chatterer the Red Squirrel.

“What do you say, Prickly Porky?” Mother Nature asked.

“I don’t think he has any; if he has, I’ve never seen it,” said Prickly Porky.

“He certainly has a tail,” said Jumper the Hare. “It isn’t much of a one, however it is a tail. I know because I’ve seen it many times.”

Huffing and woofing a deep, rumbly, grumbly voice spoke “What’s going on here? Who is it that hasn’t any tail?”

At the sound of that deep voice it looked for a few minutes as if the learning session would be broken up for that day. There was the same mad scrambling to get away that there had been the morning Reddy Fox unexpectedly appeared. However, there was this difference: When Reddy appeared, most of the little people sought safe hiding places, versus now they merely ran to safe distances, and there turned to stare with awe and great respect at the owner of that rumbly, grumbly voice. It was Buster Bear himself.

Buster stood up on his hind legs, like a man, and his small eyes, for they are small for his size, twinkled with fun as he looked around the awe filled circle. “Don’t let me interrupt,” he said. “I heard about these sessions and I thought I would just pay a friendly visit. There is nothing for you to fear. I have just had my breakfast and I couldn’t eat another mouthful to save me, not even such a tender morsel as Whitefoot the Wood Mouse.”

Whitefoot hurriedly ran a little farther away, and Buster Bear chuckled. Then he looked over at Mother Nature. “Won’t you tell them that I’m the best-natured and most harmless fellow in all the Great World?” he asked.

Black Bear collecting honey – Illustration by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

Mother Nature smiled. “That depends on the condition of your stomach,” she said. “If it is as full as you say it is, and I know you wouldn’t tell me an untruth, then not even timid Whitefoot has anything to fear from you.” Then Mother Nature told all the little four-legged folks to put aside their fears and return.

Buster, seeing that some of the more timid were still fearful, backed off a short distance and sat down on his haunches. “What was that about a tail I overheard as I arrived?” he asked.

“It was a little discussion as to whether or not you have a tail,” replied Mother Nature. “Some say you have, and some say you haven’t. Whitefoot the Mouse thinks you haven’t.”

Once more Buster Bear chuckled way down deep in his throat. “Whitefoot never in his life looked at me long enough to know whether I’ve got a tail or not,” he said. “I never yet have seen him until now, when he wasn’t running away as fast as his legs could take him. So with me always behind him, how could he tell whether or not I have a tail?”

“Well, have you?” Peter Rabbit asked bluntly.

“What do you think?” asked Buster.

“I think you have,” said Peter.

Again Buster chuckled. “Quite right, Peter; quite right,” he said. “I’ve got a tail, although hardly enough of a one to really call it a tail.”

As Buster sat there, every one had a splendid chance to see just how he looked. His coat was all black; in fact he was black all over, with the exception of his nose, which was brown. His fur was long and rather shaggy. His ears were round. His paws were big and armed with strong, wicked looking claws.

“You all see what a black coat Buster has,” said Mother Nature. “Now I’m going to tell you something which may surprise you. Just as there are Red Foxes that are black, so there are Black Bears that are brown.”

“What’s that?” grunted Buster, with the funniest look of surprise on his face.

“It’s a fact, Buster,” said Mother Nature. “A great many of your family live out in the mountains of the Far West, and there quite often there will be one who is all brown. People used to think that these brown Bears were a different kind of Bear, and called them Cinnamon Bears. It was a long, long time before it was found out that those brown Bears are really black Bears. Sometimes one of the twin babies will be all black and the other all brown. Sometimes one of Buster’s family will have a white spot on his chest. Buster’s branch of the family is found in nearly all of the wooded parts of the entire country. In the Sunny South they live in the swamps and do not grow as big as in the North. Buster, there is a soft open dirt spot on the ground and I’d like it if you would walk across it so that these little folks can see your footprints.”

Good-naturedly Buster dropped on all fours and walked across the soft dirt spot. Right away every one understood why Mother Nature had asked Buster to do this. The prints of his hind feet were very like the prints of Farmer Brown’s boy when barefoot, only of course very much larger. You see, they showed the print of the heel as well as the rest of the foot.

“You see,” said Mother Nature, “Buster puts his whole foot on the ground, while all members of the Dog and Cat families walk all on their toes. Animals that put the whole foot down are called plantigrade. How big do you think Buster was when he was born?”

Mother Nature smiled at the curious looks on all the faces. “The fact is Buster was a very tiny and very helpless little chap. He was just about the size of one of Prickly Porky’s babies. He was no bigger than a Rat. He was born in the middle of winter and didn’t get his eyes open for forty days. It was two months before he poked his head outside the den in which he was born, to find out what the Great World was like. At that time he wasn’t much bigger than Peter Rabbit, and he and his twin sister were as lively a pair of youngsters and as full of mischief as any Bears the Green Forest has ever seen. And now, Buster, you might tell us what you live on.”

Buster’s eyes snapped. “I live on anything I can eat, and I can eat most everything. I suppose a lot of people think I live only on the little four-legged folks who are my neighbors, however that is a mistake. I do catch Mice when I am lucky enough to find them where I can dig them out, and they certainly are good eating.”

Active Ant Hill – Tiny Snack Time for a Black Bear

At this Whitefoot the Wood Mouse and Danny Meadow Mouse hastily scurried farther away, and Buster’s eyes twinkled with mischief. “Of course I don’t mind a Rabbit either, if I am lucky enough to catch one,” he said and Peter Rabbit quickly backed off a few steps. “In fact I like meat of any kind,” continued Buster. “However, the greater part of my food isn’t meat at all. In the spring I dig up roots of different kinds, and eat tender grass shoots and some bark and twigs from young trees. When the insects appear they help out wonderfully. I am very fond of Ants. I pull over all the old logs and tear to pieces all the old stumps I can find, and lick up the Ants and their eggs that I am almost sure to find there. Almost any kind of insect tastes good to me if there are enough of them. I love to find and dig open the nests of Wasps that make their homes in the ground, and of course I suppose you all know that there is nothing in the world I like better than honey. If I can find a Bee nest I am utterly happy. For the sake of the honey, I am perfectly willing to stand all the stinging the Bees can give me. I like fish and I love to hunt Frogs. When the berry season begins, I just feast. In the fall I get fat on beechnuts and acorns. The fact is, there isn’t much I don’t like.”

“I’ve been told you sleep all winter,” said Johnny Chuck.

“That depends on the winter,” replied Buster Bear. “I don’t go to sleep until I have to. I don’t have to as long as I can find enough to eat. If the winter begins early, with bad weather, I make a comfortable bed of leaves in a cave or under a big pile of fallen trees or even in a hollow log, if I can find one big enough. Then I go to sleep for the rest of the winter. However, if the winter is mild and open and there is a chance of finding anything to eat, I sleep only in the really bad weather.”

“Do you try to get fat before going to sleep, the way I do?” asked Johnny Chuck.

Buster grinned. “Yes, Johnny, I try,” he said, “and usually I succeed. You see, I need to be fat in order to keep warm and also to have something to live on in the spring, just the same as you do.”

“I’ve been told that you can climb, although since I don’t live in the Green Forest I have never seen you climb. I should think it would be slow work for such a big fellow as you to climb a tree,” said Johnny Chuck.

Buster looked up at Happy Jack Squirrel and winked. Then he walked over to the tree in which Happy Jack was sitting, stood up and suddenly began to scramble up the tree. There was nothing slow about the way Buster Bear went up that tree. Happy Jack squealed with sudden fright and started for the top of that tree as only Happy Jack can climb. Then he made a flying jump to the next tree. Halfway up Buster stopped. Then he began to come down. He came down tail first. When he was within ten feet of the ground he simply let go and dropped.

“I did that just to show you how I get out of a tree when I am really in a hurry,” explained Buster. “I don’t climb trees much now unless it is for honey, however when I was a little fellow I used to love to climb trees.”

Suddenly Buster sat up very straight and pointed his nose up in the wind. An anxious look crept into his face. He cocked his ears as if listening with all his might. That is just what he was doing. Presently he dropped down to all fours. “Excuse me,” he said, “I think I had better be going. Farmer Brown is coming down the Lone Little Path.”

Buster turned and disappeared at a speed that was simply astonishing for such a big fellow. Mother Nature laughed. “Buster’s eyes are not very good,” she said, “and yet there is nothing the matter with his nose or with his ears. If Buster says that Farmer Brown is coming down the Lone Little Path, there is no doubt that he is, although he may be some distance away yet. Time for us all to move along.”

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. Would you like to see a Black Bear snack in action? Visit this LINK to see a log full of fun food frenzy!
  2. Are there any Black Bears in your neighborhood or neck-of-the-woods? Do they visit any specific spots like bird feeders or dumpsters?
  3. Visit this LINK for photos and information about Black Bears from 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.

ENJOY!!!

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 31 – Raccoon


Chapter 31

Raccoon


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.

ENJOY!!!

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

Bobcat


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.

ENJOY!!!

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.

ENJOY!!!

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.

ENJOY!!!

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

Fisher


“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.

ENJOY!!!

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.

ENJOY!!!

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