Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/699

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679
THE PLANT-EATERS OF NORTH AMERICA.

The deer, the antelopes, the sheep and goats, and the oxen, are indeed very intimately connected with our comforts, and even with our luxuries. And the North American representatives of these useful animals deserve our careful attention and consideration; for they are more intimately connected with our welfare as a nation than we yet fully appreciate or even understand. As all of our domestic sheep and cattle have come from wild species, so in the future we are to draw from the same sources some of the most valuable grazing animals that are to stock the pastures and farmyards of the great farming-regions of this vast country. And we have several kinds of these animals now wild on the plains and in the forests that ought to be added to our domestic flocks and herds; and intelligent legislation should at once be inaugurated to secure this result, which is intimately connected with the welfare of every person-on this continent.

Of deer there are in North America perhaps eight species: the black-tailed deer of the Pacific coast; the mule-deer, and the white-tailed deer, of the Upper Missouri region and westward; the common deer of the United States east of the Missouri; the wapiti of the northern and northwestern portions of the United States; one or two species of reindeer; and the moose of the northern portion of the continent.

The moose (Alce Americanus, Fig. 1) is the largest member of the deer family, equaling a good-sized horse in bulk, and having very long legs; and the male has very long and broad antlers, which in some instances weigh as much as seventy pounds or more. Its muzzle is exceedingly large and long, its ears long and hairy, its neck short and thick, and the latter and the shoulders covered by a mane, and the throat with long hair. The general color is a grayish brown, and the hair is very coarse and brittle. In its movements the moose appears quite awkward, but it is able to make very great speed, striding along without apparent effort over fallen trees, fences, and other obstructions, which would be serious obstacles in the way of most, if not all, of our domestic animals. The moose is still common in the unsettled parts of Maine and Northern New York, and thence northward toward the frozen regions. In the winter it keeps mainly on the wooded hill-sides; and at this time many of them stay in what the hunters term "yards." These are large tracts of ground over which the snow has been trodden hard by the moose, the lighter and untrodden snow forming a wall around the yard. There are generally in each of these yards one male and one female, and one or two fawns. They feed upon the bushes and the saplings that may be growing in the yard, and even peel off and eat all the bark from the hard-wood trees up as high as they can reach. They are especially fond of the birch, the moose-wood, and the poplar.

In the summer the moose frequents lakes and rivers. Here, by