|The Burgess Animal Book for Children|
|by Thornton Burgess|
|To answer Peter Rabbit’s questions about his relatives, Old Mother Nature holds a school for the animals every day at sun-up for a month. Encouraging the animals to notice the differences between them and to offer their observa-tions of animal behavior, Old Mother Nature helps them all gain a greater understanding of the mammals of North America. Starting with the animals close to home, the school moves in ever-widening circles to encompass the animals of the far west and the extreme north, as well. A fine introduction to mammals for students in the primary grades. Ages 6-9 |
SPITE THE MARTEN AND PEKAN THE FISHER
 "THE two remaining members of the Weasel family none of you have
ever seen," began Old Mother Nature, when she opened school at
the old meeting place in the Green Forest the morning after their
visit to the Smiling Pool. "You have never seen them because they
live in the deep forests of the Far North. But were you living up
there, you would know them, and the dread of them would seldom be
out of your mind. One is called Spite the Marten and the other
Pekan the Fisher.
"Spite the Marten is also called the Pine Marten and the American
Sable, and he is one of the handsomest members of the Weasel family.
Shadow the Weasel can climb, but he spends most of his time on the
ground. Jimmy Skunk and Digger the Badger are not climbers at all.
Little Joe Otter spends most of his time in the water.
 But Spite
the Marten is a lover of the tree tops, and is quite as much at home
there as Chatterer the Red Squirrel.
"When he is moving about in the trees, he looks much like a very
large Squirrel, while on the ground he might be mistaken for a
young Fox. His coat is a rich, dark, yellowish-brown, becoming
almost black on the tail and legs. His throat usually is yellow,
though sometimes it is almost white. The sides of his face are
grayish, and his good-sized ears are grayish-white on the inside.
His tail is about half as long as his body and is covered with
long hair, but isn't bushy like a Squirrel's. While his general
shape is that of Shadow the Weasel, his body is much heavier in
proportion to his size.
He is found only in the great
forests of the North.
"Chatterer, you and your Cousin Happy Jack may well be thankful
that Spite the Marten doesn't live about here, for he is very fond
of Squirrels and delights to hunt them. He can leap from tree to
tree quite as easily as either of you, and the only possible means
of escape for a Squirrel he is hunting is a hole too small for
Spite to get into. No Squirrel is more graceful in the trees
than is Spite.
"But he by no means confines himself to the trees. He is quite at
home on the ground, and there he moves with much of the quickness
 Shadow the Weasel. He delights to hunt Rabbits and he covers
great distances, being even more of a traveller than Billy Mink.
He doesn't kill for the love of killing, but merely for food. If
he kills more than he can eat at a meal he buries it, and when he
is hungry again he returns to it. Like all the other members of
his family, he is a great hunter of Mice. Also he catches many
birds, especially those birds which nest on the ground. Birds,
eggs, Frogs, Toads, some insects and fish vary his bill of fare.
But unlike his smaller cousins, he eats some other things besides
flesh, including certain nuts, berries and honey.
"He isn't in the least social with his own kind but prefers to
live alone and is always ready to fight if he meets another
Marten. Being so great a traveler he has several dens. Mrs. Spite
makes her nest of grass and moss in a hollow tree as a rule,
occasionally in a hole in the ground. She has from one to five
babies in the spring. Spite is not a good father, for he has
nothing to do with his family.
"As I told you in the beginning he is found only in the great forests
of the North. The darker and deeper they are, the better it suits
him. His own cousin, Pekan the Fisher, and Tufty the Lynx, are
probably the only natural enemies he
 has much cause to fear. His one
great enemy is man. His coat is one of the most highly prized of all
furs and he is persistently hunted and trapped. In fact, his coat is
one of the chief prizes of the fur trappers.
"In this same deep, dark forest clear across the northern part of
the country lives Pekan the Fisher, also called the Pennant Marten
and Blackcat. He is larger and heavier than Spite the Marten and
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. Like his cousin, Spite the Marten,
he lives in the pine and spruce forests and prefers to be near swamps.
He is a splendid climber but spends quite as much time on the ground.
However, he is even livelier in the trees than is Spite the Marten.
Spite can catch a Squirrel in the tree tops, but Pekan can catch Spite,
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 and, like his
cousin, Glutton the Wolverine, makes no end of
 trouble for trappers
by stealing the baits from their traps.
One of the valuable fur-bearing animals.
"You all remember how frightened Prickly Porky 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.
"Just why Pekan should be called Fisher, I don't know. True, he
eats fish when he can get them, but he isn't a water animal and
doesn't go fishing as do Billy Mink and Little Joe Otter. His food
is much the same as that of Spite the Marten. He is especially fond
of Rabbit and Hare. He is so strong and savage that he can kill a
Fox and often does. Bobby Coon is a good fighter and much bigger
and heavier than Pekan, but he is no match for Pekan.
"Probably all of you have guessed that being a true Marten, Pekan's
coat is highly prized by the fur trappers. He hates the presence of
man and with good cause.
"Now this ends the Weasel family, but that's only one family of the
order of Carnivora, or flesh eaters. There is one family you all
 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.
"To-morrow morning when you get here, I may have a surprise for you."
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics