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FUR-FARMING IN CANADA   81

failing can be overcome by giving them sufficiently normal conditions. In their wild state they are in no danger of extermination. Man is their only enemy worth considering and owing to their wandering habits and keen intelligence, they have little to fear from any but the most experienced trapper. They have held their own over thickly settled parts of the United States better than any other animal of equal fur value. They still inhabit most of their original range over the country, never in abundance, but scattered one or two in a stream or lake. They are apparently as common around the suburbs of Washington and in settled sections generally, as in most of the wilder but more trapped forest areas of the country.

"Full-grown Canadian otters are about 4 feet in total

General   length and weigh apps oximately 20 to 30 pounds. Their

Characteristics sts iking characteristics are long, lithe bodies, tapering into long, muscular, flattened tails; very short legs, fully webbed hind feet; short ears, keen little eyes and a beautiful coat of dense, dark brown fur. They are weasel-like in their quickness, extremely muscular and for their size fearless and savage fighters.

"Many kinds of otters occur in different parts of the

Distribution   world, but the largest and most valuable for fur are
and Variation

those of North America, Lutra canadensis, and its several closely related subspecies or geographic varieties. Considering their wide range from Labrador to Alaska and from near the Arctic coast to Florida and Arizona, they show surprisingly little variation in size or in colour or quality of fur. This is, of course, owing to their aquatic habits and to the nearly uniform temperature of water in winter over almost the whole continent. The average lower price of southern otter skins may be due largely to the fact that most are caught before the midwinter cold has brought them up to prime condition. It seems not improbable that with dark otters from eastern Canada to breed from, a high-grade of fur might be produced over most of the southern states where no other high-priced fur could be success-fully raised. The abundance of fish and crustaceans in many of the southern streams would be a distinct advantage in the way of food supply, and ideal situations for otter farms could be found on hundreds of streams where a few of the animals now live in the wild state.

 

 

"For breeding purposes otters with the most valuable coats should be selected, preferably the very dark individuals from eastern Canada, Labrador, Newfoundland or Maine. Considerable individual variation is shown and the grade of fur could doubtless be steadily improved by selective breeding. The largest individuals are from Alaska

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