Holy moly, folks. Winter brings with it low-lying clouds and I don’t know if I’m alone in this, but those low, fat clouds make my head fuzzy! I’m also fighting a bug in the lungs so thanks for coming back when I’ve been gone for so long. :) Today is about MUSTELIDS!
Mustelids are one of my favorite groups of wildlife, mainly because I think badgers, wolverines, and otters are super cool.
Mustelidae is a group of carnivorous mammals, some of which are adapted for semi-aquatic lifestyles. They feature long bodies and short legs, and strong jaws for crushing.
Otters are probably the best-known mustelids, and also probably the cutest. Otters come in a variety of flavors and in North America, our most common species is the River Otter. Otters are semi-aquatic mustelids that depend on rivers, lakes, and other bodies of water for sustenance. They’re omnivorous, energetic, and are great hunters. Oh, and, um, they’re so cute that it makes my teeth rot.
Sea Otters are extremely aquatic mammals and are known for tool use: they’ll use large rocks to crack open mollusks whilst floating oh-so-sweetly on their backs. They prey heavily on sea urchins, which keeps kelp populations healthy. When Sea Otters are wiped out, kelp beds can be decimated by high populations of sea urchins, so Sea Otters are known as a ‘keystone’ species (a species upon which the balance of its ecosystem depends).
Mink are also semi-aquatic, and have been farmed for fur for more than 100 years in the US. They’re ferocious, territorial little creatures, and the following photo really sums up anything else I could intelligently communicate about mink:
Other mustelids are totally terrestrial.
Badgers, for example, live in prairies where mammalian food is abundant and the soil is easy to dig. They burrow extensively and are ferocious enough to defend themselves against animals like bears! (Note to you, being called a “badger” is probably not a compliment.) One look at their cute little faces (and those enormous claws) and you can see they’re built for digging.
Wolverines are also terrestrial, and are probably one of the least-known mustelids in North America. They have a limited home range in remote regions of boreal forests in the subarctic around the planet, meaning that snow is essential for them. These guys are *built* for snow: they can cover enormous distances in a short time thanks to large, snowshoe-like paws, incredible speed, and a saucy disposition. Wolverines cache excess food in the snow and have a reputation for being fearless. They’re also really hard to find, even for researchers, as their home ranges may be up to 500 square miles for one individual! Amazing. I recently watched this phenomenal PBS documentary on wolverines on PBS and I highly recommend it. You can watch the whole thing online (just click on that link), and you *should.*
Thanks for reading everybody! Hope winter is starting smoothly for you all. :)