ONE touch of Nature makes the whole world kin," quoth the poet, and it is this kinship through Nature that is the very essence of Scouting. A
Scout is a friend to all the world and a brother to every other Scout. A Scout is kind to animals. Kindness does not merely mean lack of cruelty. It implies also protection and a sympathetic knowledge and understanding of the ways of all wild folk. Most boys are , familiar to some extent with the habits of domestic animals, but a Scout is not satisfied with this somewhat limited acquaintanceship. After learning aH he can of the inhabitants of his immediate surroundings, he goes further afield and by sympathetic observation, caution and stealth, he very soon acquires first-hand knowledge of the ways of wild animals, and the motives that govern their actions. With this knowledge a keen appreciation is developed of the manifest intelligence and reasoning powers possessed by the many creatures whose very existence depends upon their sagacity.
Indeed, there are many points of comparison between “mice and men,” and the inhabitants of our woods and rivers have cares, anxieties, joys and pleasures similar to ours and varying only in degree.
The beaver, for instance, with the first sign of autumn begins to look for a suitable location where he and his family may spend the winter. All summer they have lived a nomad life, ceaselessly exploring the streams and rivers, but with the first chill of approaching winter, the beaver selects a grove of young poplars which he will a little later cut and store for food-wood. He then chooses a certain part of the stream for his store-house. By means of a dam he will raise the water until it is so deep that it will not freeze solid to the bottom and there he can keep his winter’s supply of food-wood. The site for his house is next located, probably a short distance inland, but far enough back to allow for the overflow of the river, which will occur when his dam is made. Several safety burrows are then dug out where he may take cover if surprised by a possible enemy during the construction of his winter quarters.
The Ways of the Beaver
ON COMPLETION of the dam and while the pond is slowly filling, Father Beaver gathers the food-wood he previously selected. After felling a number of trees
he gnaws the branches into convenient lengths, drags or , rolls them to the nearest water and floats them down to his store house, where they are sunk to the bottom. Sometimes the poplars do not happen to be growing very near the water, in which case the beaver will dig a canal in
order to facilitate transportation. If a lake or other large body of water has to be crossed, the beaver will tow his logs to their destination rather than trust them to a precarious current.
The Scout who wants to catch a glimpse of all these activities must go out after dark when, if he knows where to locate the beaver, he can quietly spy upon the labours of these industrious little river engineers. Should the beaver be pressed for time, however, by a sudden spell of
cold weather with its threat of freezing, he will work ceaselessly day and night to put all in readiness. Sleep can come later! Like the Boy Scout, his evident motto is “Be Prepared.”
While the food pile grows satisfactorily, the construction of the house is started, the number of rooms planned for, varying according to the size of the family. A small lodge is considered quite suitable for a young couple, but roomier quarters are made ready for an older pair who perhaps have a family of yearlings and two year-olds. The beaver are exemplary house-keepers. After eating, they always remove the scraps from their lodge and carry them down into the water where they are sunk to the bottom. All fishy smells are an abomination to them and the odor of musk invariably permeates their dwellings.
The beaver’s social instincts are strongly developed and the safety of his fellows is an ever-present care with him. Thus at any sign of impending dang• er, he gives an alarm signal to the others by hitting the water sharply with his tail as he ducks under.
The Solitary Otter
PERHAPS no greater contrast to the beaver can be found as regards personal characteristics, than the otter. The latter is an incurable, solitary wanderer, but merry and carefree withal. As he is such an expert fisherman and thoroughly enjoys a plunge, earning a living is more of a sportive pasttime to him than is the case with the industrious beaver. In fact, the older the otter grows, the fatter and more frolicsome he becomes. There appears, however, to be a strange feud between the otter and the beaver. This may be due to the fact that the beaver’s engineering proclivities interfere sadly witli fishing while, on the other hand, the sportive splashing of a giddy otter, trespassing near a beaver dam in
winter, may seriously imperil the frost-proof condition of the beaver’s submarine store-house, the destruction of which would mean starvation for him and his family through the resulting blockade of iee. This interference with each other’s activities is perhaps quite unconscious on the part of each offender, but the feud continues nevertheless and beaver and otter have been seen struggling in a death-like grip without any sign of either yielding.
THE FISHER, a species of Weasel, belongs to the same family as the Otter. He is the most destructive of the smaller animals, and the evidence of tragedies with which he is deeply connected can be seen everywhere in the woods. He is as much at home in the trees as on the ground and is a good swimmer, but is not so amphibious as the Muskrat. His chief victims are rabbits, although grouse, ptarmigan, and even deer fall victims to his ferocity. He is instinctively a bloodthirsty creature, , and once he has gripped his prey, it has no chance of escape. It is thought that this is the only animal that can successfully tackle a porcupine and come off “scott-free.” He has been seen to dive beneath the snow, and with his sharp teeth grip a porcupine by the throat. The latter then sheds his quills in vain as they merely lie on top of the snow and the attacker is not wounded at all.
Some Forest Poachers
OERHAPS in the dead of night, the i silence may be broken by a scream like that of a young baby. Should the Scout investigate, he will probably find that a hare or rabbit has been caught in a snare and a fox is in the act of extracting it, thus outwitting the trapper, and claiming the prey for his own. Renard is;indeed the most cunning of poachers, and during the winter, he usually hovers near civilization, where under cover of night he can rob the farmer of ducks, chickens and other live stock. In spite of, perhaps indeed, because of his cunning, we cannot help secretly admiring Renar,d, or congratulating him when, by sheer cunning of criss-cross trails, he manages to outwit the pack of hounds, so thirsty for his capture.
The Great Horned Owl
A NOTHER menace to smaller birds or ■¿Ranimals is the Great-Horned Owl. By means of his curved beak and great claws, many a hare, partridge and skunk has been brought low,and ruthlessly devoured by this bird of prey. Like the Fisher, he will tackle a porcupine, and has been found with many quills penetrating his body. These will gradually work their way inwards and on reaching a vital spot, result in the owl’s death. A Scout indulging in a winter’s hike may come across a track in the snow showing wing prints on either side of a fairly large round dent in the snow. By this he will know that a Great Horned Owl has recently pounced down upon some luckless creature and màde a meal of him!
AMONG the tew birds that remain with us during the] winter is the WhiteTailed Ptarmigan, one of the partridge family. He feeds on birch buds and it is interesting to note how Nature has protected him by changing his feathered coat from speckled grey to a snowy white in winter, and as he makes his home in a little trench in the snow, he is almost invisible.
The more a Scout studies Nature, the more he will reverence the Creator for His wondrous works. Thus David sang:
“Surely He shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler And from the noisome pestilence.
He shall cover thee with His feathers And under His wings shalt thou trust.”
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