Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 79.djvu/277

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THE ANIMAL KINGDOM

thirty-three years, the number slain was more than two hundred and fifty million, or about eight million each year; a record which has few parallels. Ten or twelve years ago there were very few American children who had ever seen a bison. Just a few years ago, we all began to realize that if a single bison was to be left, effective means must be started to put a stop to the indiscriminate slaughter. The few remaining bison, under care and protection have thrived remarkably well, and increased their numbers considerably. The American Bison Society has recently taken the census of the bison, and reports that all told, there are twenty one hundred and eight of them distributed among three government herds, besides various private ones.

On account of the fact that the alligator is a native of the extreme southern part of this country, many people are uninformed as to the rapid decrease which the demand for 'gator skins has made upon the numbers of alligators in Florida and other southern states. Twenty years ago it was a common occurrence to find alligators of great size in many of the streams of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, Florida and Louisiana. In all of these states excepting Florida and Louisiana, the saurian representatives are comparatively scarce. Florida has the greatest number now, not because of any legislation or special effort for their protection, but because the everglades and the mild climate constitute the natural habitat of the alligator. To-day Florida has laws for the protection of the alligator, and is making every effort to have them enforced. They were being killed in such great numbers that, with a few more years of the "pot hunter" and skin collector, the alligator would have been listed among "those which had been." A few figures will suffice to show to what extent the killing of alligators has gone. Between 1880 and 1890, three million eight hundred thousand alligators were killed in Florida alone; and during the year 1908 twenty thousand were killed. In the majority of cases the skin was taken off, and the rest of the body wasted. It was not until 1885 that the demand for the skins was so great, when suddenly fashion decreed that, satchels, pocket books, music rolls, etc., made of alligator skins were just the style; and the above figures show how it affected the number of alligators.

From reports, which represent practically the entire area of the United States, gathered by Dr. Hornaday, of the New York Zoological Garden, one can state without any fear of contradiction that the following mammals, in the wild state, are practically extinct or are rapidly becoming so. Among the ruminants or cud-chewing animals, the bison of course holds first place, with the wapiti or American elk (Cervus canadensis), moose (Alces americana) and woodland caribou (Rangifer caribou) good seconds. Notable among the smaller ruminants are: the Virginia or white tailed deer (Cariacus virginianus), mule deer (Cari-