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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


December 28, 2002 - Issue 77


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Rabbit and the Moon Man

Micmac Legend

Long ago, Rabbit was a great hunter. He lived with his grandmother in a lodge which stood deep in the Micmac forest. It was winter and Rabbit set traps and laid snares to catch game for food. He caught many small animals and birds, until one day he discovered that some mysterious being was robbing his traps. Rabbit and his grandmother became hungry. Though he visited his traps very early each morning, he always found them empty.

At first Rabbit thought that the robber might be a cunning pine marten, until one morning he found long, narrow footprints alongside his trap line. It was, he thought, the tracks of the robber, but they looked like moonbeams. Each morning Rabbit rose earlier and earlier, but the being of the long foot was always ahead of him and always his traps were empty.

Rabbit made a trap from a bowstring with the loop so cleverly fastened that he felt certain that he would catch the robber when it came. He took one end of the thong with him and hid himself behind a clump of bushes from which he could watch his snare. It was bright moonlight while he waited, but suddenly it became very dark as the moon disappeared. A few stars were still shining and there were no clouds in the sky, so Rabbit wondered what had happened to the moon.

Someone or something came stealthily through the trees and then Rabbit was almost blinded by a flash of bright, white light which went straight to his trap line and shone through the snare which he had set. Quick as a lightning flash, Rabbit jerked the bowstring and tightened the noose. There was a sound of struggling and the light lurched from side to side. Rabbit knew by the tugging on his string that he had caught the robber. He fastened the bowstring to a nearby sapling, to hold the loop tight.

Rabbit raced back to tell his grandmother, who was a wise old woman, what had happened. She told him that he must return at once and see who or what he had caught. Rabbit, who was very frightened, wanted to wait for daylight but his grandmother said that might be too late, so he returned to his trap line.

When he came near his traps, Rabbit saw that the bright light was still there. It was so bright that it hurt his eyes. He bathed them in the icy water of a nearby brook, but still they smarted. He made big snowballs and threw them at the light, in the hope of putting it out. As they went close to the light, he heard them sizzle and saw them melt. Next, Rabbit scooped up great pawfuls of soft clay from the stream and made many big clay balls. He was a good shot and threw the balls with all of his force at the dancing white light. He heard them strike hard and then his prisoner shouted.

Then a strange, quivering voice asked why he had been snared and demanded that he be set free at once, because he was the man in the moon and he must be home before dawn came. His face had been spotted with clay and, when Rabbit went closer, the moon man saw him and threatened to kill him and all of his tribe if he were not released at once.

Rabbit was so terrified that he raced back to tell his grandmother about his strange captive. She too was much afraid and told Rabbit to return and release the thief immediately. Rabbit went back, and his voice shook with fear as he told the man in the moon that he would be released if he promised never to rob the snares again. To make doubly sure, Rabbit asked him to promise that he would never return to earth, and the moon man swore that he would never do so. Rabbit could hardly see in the dazzling light, but at last he managed to gnaw through the bowstring with his teeth and the man in the moon soon disappeared in the sky, leaving a bright trail of light behind him.

Rabbit had been nearly blinded by the great light and his shoulders were badly scorched. Even today, rabbits blink as though light is too strong for their eyes; their eyelids are pink, and their eyes water if they look at a bright light. Their lips quiver, telling of Rabbit's terror.

The man in the moon has never returned to earth. When he lights the world, one can still see the marks of the clay which Rabbit threw on his face. Sometimes he disappears for a few nights, when he is trying to rub the marks of the clay balls from his face. Then the world is dark; but when the man in the moon appears again, one can see that he has never been able to clean the clay marks from his shining face.

Print and Color Your Own Pine Marten
Pine Marten

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Pine Marten (Martes americana)

Pine MartinMarten (Martes americana) are members of the family Mustelidae, which also includes wolverines, weasels and fishers. The South Slavey word for marten is "nohthee", in North Slavey marten are "zo", in Dogrib they are "wha" and in Gwich'in they are "tsuk". They are also called pine marten and American marten.

Pine martens are small, rare members of the weasel family. Their fur is soft and thick, varying in color from pale buff or yellow to reddish or dark brown. The animals' throats are pale buff; their tails and legs are black. Two vertical black lines run above the inner corners of their eyes. In winter, long hairs grow between the toe pads on pine martens' feet. These keep the feet warm and enable the animals to travel on snow.

Pine martens have long, bushy tails that are one-third of their total length. Like other species in the weasel family, they differ in size according to sex. The female is about three-fourths the size of the male.

Sometimes people confuse pine martens with two other members of the weasel family, fishers (Martens pennati) and stone martens (Martens foina). Fishers live in similar habitat and have similar tracks. However, they're larger (females 20-27 inches, 4-8 pounds; males 30- 40 inches, 7-15 pounds) and darker than pine martens. Stone martens are a species native to Europe and Asia. Stone martens are 23-31 inches long (including the tail), weigh 1-4.5 pounds and are pale gray to brown with a white throat patch.

Little is known about the habits of pine martens because they're most active at night. Unlike most members of the weasel family, pine martens (and fishers) are excellent climbers. They'll pursue prey, such as red squirrels or chipmunks, up a tree and may climb trees to avoid danger. Martens move across the ground in a zig-zag fashion, often followed by a series of jumps. They're solitary but curious animals.

Pine martens live in mature, dense conifer forests. They prefer woods with northern white cedar, balsam fir, spruce and eastern hemlock, especially where trees have fallen. These forests provide prey, protection and den sites. In the past, the cutting of large areas of mature conifer forests destroyed much marten habitat.

The size of a male pine marten's territory is 5-10 square miles, while a female's may range in size from 1-5 square miles. Pine martens generally cover their entire territory every 8-10 days as they hunt. Neither males nor females will tolerate another pine marten of the same sex in their territory. A male, however, will allow several females in his territory.

Pine Martin in a treePine martens are omnivores, feeding on a great variety of foods. Even though they're at home in trees, they do most of their hunting on the ground. They have a high metabolism, thus require a lot of food for energy. This intense need for food makes them easy to trap.

Mice and other small rodents are martens' primary prey, but they also eat squirrels, hares, shrews, birds, bird eggs, amphibians, reptiles, insects, fish, crayfish, nuts, fruits and carrion. In the winter, martens will tunnel under the snow in search of mice and other small mammals.

Breeding Biology
Pine martens first mate when they're about two years old. During the July-August breeding season, martens (especially males) become quite aggressive and will fight. Courtship consists of playing and wrestling, followed by mating. Both males and females may mate with several partners during the breeding season.

Although the female marten's eggs are fertilized by mid-summer, they don't fasten to the wall of her uterus until January or February. The fetuses then develop quickly; young are born in late March or April, nine months after fertilization. The female makes a den in a hollow tree, stump or rock crevice, lines it with leaves, moss and other vegetation and gives birth to 2- 4 kits. The male takes no part in rearing the young.

The sparsely furred, newborn pine martens have their eyes closed. When the kits are five weeks old, their eyes open and the female begins to feed them meat. They're weaned at 6-7 weeks and almost full-grown when three months old. The female leaves her kits soon after they're weaned, when she's able to mate again. Young martens may move out of their home territory in late summer or early fall to establish their own territories.

Pine Martin in the snowHistorically, pine martens inhabited mature conifer forests of the northern United States north to treeline in Canada. Populations extended southward along the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California, the Rocky Mountains to New Mexico, the Great Lakes and the Ohio River Valley to southern Ohio.

Today, pine martens live across Canada and Alaska and in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the Rocky Mountains south to Colorado and the northern parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, New York and the northern New England states.

Current Status
As a species, pine martens are not endangered in the U.S. or Canada. In some parts of their range, however, martens have been extirpated or are endangered.

Wisconsin DNR


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