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FUR-FARMING IN CANADA   83

and small mammals or any fresh meats are eagerly eaten. Otters will soon clear a pond or stream of muskrats, especially in winter when under the ice they readily enter the houses and bank burrows. In confinement they are usually fed on fish and fresh meat, about two pounds each per day as an ordinary allowance. This is usually thrown into the water and the animals seem to enjoy fishing it out.

"To raise otters at a profit, a locality should be selected where an abundant supply of fish can be procured at small cost.

"Otters are polygamous and during the early spring months,

Breeding   the males ti avel widely in search of mates, apparently re-

Habits maining with each female no longer than the nuptial period requires. They are soon off in search of new mates and circumstantial evidence indicates that a male is successively paired with as many females as he can find in condition to accept his attentions during the season. The female finds or makes her den alone in burrows or hollow banks, and raises, guards and feeds her family until the young are large enough to hunt and fight for themselves. They follow her until nearly full grown, but by the time the first snow and ice have come, they have usually scattered and each is living a mainly solitary life. However often their paths may cross or friendly visits may occur, their hunting grounds are selected so far as possible on different streams or lakes; their wanderings are apparently determined by scarcity or abundance of food, and they have no definite home. In confinement they are usually not unfriendly. Two females in a small enclosure in the National Zoological Park have been on good terms for eight years, but a male put in the inclosure with them some years ago was soon killed. For the past 18 months another female and a large male have been in the pen with them and while the three females are usually romping and playing together in the best spirits, one or all often pounce on the male and bite him savagely. Although much larger than any of the females he merely defends himself as best he can and backs away, refusing to either fight of run. It is evident that the males should be kept separate from the females except during the mating season, and it would almost certainly be necessary to isolate the females before the young were born and until they were well grown.

" The number of young in a litter is usually given as two or three, but there are also records indicating four or five, and it seems probable that the smaller numbers are those of the first year of breeding. Data are extremely meagre on this point; but a number of records of families of five or six otters seen together in summer would indicate four or five young, while the uniform number of five mammae of the females would further indicate four as the normal number.


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