The Story Of Wild Animals:
Story Of The Squirrel
Story Of The Otter
Story Of The Civet
Story Of The Crocodile
Story Of The Sloth
Story Of The Tortoise
Story Of The Ocelot
Story Of The Wolf
Story Of The Badger
Story Of The Hyena
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Story Of The Squirrel
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
People who are not intimately acquainted with the squirrel are apt to regard him as a timid little creature. He is one of the friskiest little animals in creation, but he is not timid by any means. Considering his size and means of defense he is one of the most courageous of wild creatures.
One clay with my dog and gun, I was awaiting the approach of a flock of wild fowl, but a little villain of a squirrel, on the bough of a tree close to me, seemed determined that I should not rest in quiet, for he sputtered and chattered with so much vehemence that he attracted the attention of my dog, whom I could scarcely control. The vagrant inattention of my dog was truly mortifying; he kept his eyes fixed upon the squirrel, now so noisy as to be quite intolerable. With my hand, I made a motion to threaten him, but the little beast actually set up his back, and defied me, becoming even more passionate and noisy than before, till all of a sudden, as if absolutely on purpose to alarm the game, he let himself drop down to the ground plump within a couple of yards of Rover's nose. This was too much for any four-footed animal to bear, so he gave a bounce and sprang at the impertinent squirrel, who, in one second, was safe out of his reach, cocking his tail, and showing his teeth on the identical bough where he had sat before. Away flew all the wild fowl, and my sport was completely marred. My gun went involuntarily to my shoulder to shoot the squirrel. At the same moment I felt I was about to commit an act of sheer revenge, on a little courageous animal which deserved a better fate. As if aware of my hesitation, he nodded his head with rage, and stamped his fore paws on the tree; while in his chirruping there was an intonation of sound, which seemed addressed . to an enemy for whom he had an utter contempt. What business, I could fancy he said, had I there, trespassing on his domain, and frightening his wife and little family for whom he was ready to lay down his life? There he would sit in spite of me,-and make my ears ring with the sound of his war-whoop, till the spring of life should cease to bubble in his little heart.
The red squirrel is the most common member of the family; next comes the gray squirrel, and this is followed by the fox-squirrel and the curious flying squirrel. This latter is becoming scarce in the sections east of the Mississippi, where it was formerly very numerous. The skin of the flying squirrel is so curiously formed that they can not only drop from a height without injury, but can even skim for long distances through the air, passing, for example, from one tree to another perhaps forty or fifty yards away. I have often watched the creatures in their native haunts. At times one would be seen darting from the topmost branches of a tall oak, and with wide extended membranes and outspread tail gliding diagonally through the air, till it reached the foot of a tree about fifty yards off, when at the moment we expected to see it strike the earth, it suddenly turned upwards and alighted on the body of the tree. It would then run to the top and once more precipitate itself from the upper branches and sail back again to the tree it had just left. Crowds of these little creatures joined in these sportive gambols; there could not have been less than two hundred. Scores of them would leave each tree at the same moment, seeming to have no other object in view than to indulge a playful propensity.
In India there are several species much larger than those in this country and with a relative greater flight. These measure from 20 to 24 inches in length and extended their parachutes are often 18 inches across. These are capable of a sustained flight of one hundred yards in an almost if not quite horizontal manner.
It is most interesting to find that the tail, which is of such use to the water-inhabiting animals as a rudder by which they can steer their course, is equally of service to the flying squirrel, serving not only to balance the body when the animal is running along the branches, but also to direct and alter the course of the flight. And thus the tail, you see, serves a double purpose, and is just as useful when its owner is in the air as it is when he is gamboling among the boughs of his leafy home.
Like ordinary squirrels, these animals subsist mainly on nuts, seeds and buds, but the American species also eats beetles, and probably other insects, and may be taken in traps baited with meat. While in confinement it will but seldom refuse flesh. The American flying squirrels construct nests in the hollow trees they haunt, and in the cold winters of the Adirondack region near New York they retire to these nests, and probably hibernate. The same habits will doubtless hold good for those inhabiting Kashmir and Afghanistan, but those inhabiting India proper and the warm Malayan region remain active at all seasons.
In the daytime these squirrels remain concealed in hollow trees, and only issue forth at sunset in quest of food.