17 Cat Squirrel
SCIURUS CINEREUS.--Linn., Gmel. [Sciurus Niger cinereus (sub species)] CAT-SQUIRREL. [Fox Squirrel (Cat-squirrel). ENDANGERED] PLATE XVII. S. corpore robusto, S. capistratus minore, S. migratorio majore; cruribus paullum curtis; naso et auribus nunquam albis; cauda corpora paullo longiore.
CHARACTERS. A little smaller than the fox squirrel, (S. capistratus;) larger than the northern gray squirrel, (S. migratorius;) body, stout; legs, rather short; nose and ears, never white; tail, a little shorter than the body. SYNONYMES. SCIURUS CINEREUS, Ray, Quad., p. 215, A.D. 1693. CAT-SQUIRREL, Catesby, Carolina, vol. ii., p. 74, pl. 74, A.D. 1771. CAT-SQUIRREL, Kalm's Travels, vol. ii., p. 409, English trans. CAT-SQUIRREL, Pennant's Arctic Zoology, vol. i., p. 119, 1784. SCIURUS CINEREUS, Linn., Gmel.,--1788. FOX-SQUIRREL, (S. Vulpinus,) Godman, Nat. Hist., vol. ii., p. 128. CAT-SQUIRREL, (S. Vulpinus,) Godman, Nat. Hist., vol. ii., p. 129. SCIURUS CINEREUS, Appendix to American Edition of McMurtrie's Translation of Cuvier's Animal Kingdom, vol. i., p. 433. SCIURUS CINEREUS, Bach, Monog. Zoological Society, 1838. Vulgo, FOX-SQUIRREL, of New-York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, distinct from the Fox-Squirrel (S. capistratus) of the southern States. DESCRIPTION. Head, less elongated than that of S. capistratus, (the fox-squirrel,) and incisors rather narrower, shorter, and less prominent than in that species. Ears broad at base and nearly round, thickly clothed on both surfaces with hair; behind the ears the hairs are longer in winter than during summer, and in the former season, extend beyond the margin of the ear. Whiskers, numerous, longer than the head; neck, short; body, stouter than that of S. capistratus, or any known species of Squirrel peculiar to our continent. Fur, more woolly, and less rigid than in S. capistratus; not as smooth as in S. migratorius. Hinder parts heavy, giving it a clumsy appearance. Tail, long, broad, and flat, rather less distichous than in S. capistratus, or S. migratorius; feet, shorter than in the former. Nails, strong, compressed, moderately arched, and acute. COLOUR. Perhaps none of our squirrels are subject to greater varieties of colour than the present; we have seen specimens in (formerly) PEALE's museum, of every tint, from light-gray almost to black. Two others that came under our observation were nearly white, and had not red or pink eyes, which last are a characteristic mark of that variety in any animal which is commonly called an albino. Between the varieties of our present species and the almost equally numerous varieties of the fox-squirrel, (S. capistratus,) there may be remarked an important difference. In the latter species the varieties are generally permanent, scarcely any specimens being found of intermediate colour between the well-known shades which exist in different localities or families, whilst in the former, every variety of tint can be observed, and scarcely two can be found exactly alike. The prevailing variety, or colour, however, is gray, and one of this colour we will now describe from a specimen before us. Teeth, orange; nails, dark-brown near the base, lighter to the extremities. On the cheeks, a slight tinge of yellowish-brown, extending to the junction of the head with the neck; inner surface of the ears, yellowish-brown; outer surface of the ear, fur soft and woolly in appearance, extending a little beyond the margin, light cinereous edged with rutsy-brown. Whiskers both black and white, the black ones most numerous: under the throat, inner surface of the legs and thighs, and the whole under-fur, white, producing an iron-gray colour at the surface; tail, less flat and distichous (being rather more rounded, and narrower) than in many other species of this genus, composed of hairs which separately examined are of a dull white near the roots, succeeded by a narrow marking of black, then white, followed by a broad line of black, and broadly tipped with white. Another specimen is dark-gray on the back and head, with a mixture of black and cinereous on the feet, thighs, and under-surface. Whiskers, nearly all white. The markings on the tail are similar to those of the other specimen. A third specimen, obtained from Pennsylvania, is dark yellowish-brown on the upper-surface; legs and belly, of a bright, orange-colour. A fourth specimen, obtained in the New-York market, is grayish-brown above, and black beneath. The bones of this species are invariably of a reddish-colour--this is strikingly perceptible after the flesh is cooked. We have represented in the plate three of these Squirrels, all of different colours, but the varieties of tint to be observed in different specimens of the Cat-Squirrel, are so great, that among fifty or more perhaps, we never could find two exactly alike; for which reason we selected for our drawing an orange-coloured one, a gray one, and one nearly black. DIMENSIONS. An old male.--Recent. Inches. From nose to root of tail . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 1/2 Length of tail, (vertebrae) . . . . . . . . . . . 7 1/2 Length of tail, to end of hair . . . . . . . . . . 11 1/2 Length from fore-claws to hind-claws, stretched out . . . 18 3/4 Weight, 1 lb. 13 oz. Female specimen sent to us, by Mr. BAIRD, of Pennsylvania. Inches. Length of body. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 Length of tail, from root to end of vertebrae . . . . . 11 Length of tail, from root to end of hair . . . . . . . 14 Length to end of hind-legs. . . . . . . . . . . . 19 Extent of fore-legs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 3/4 Hind-foot . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 Fore-foot . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 Height of ear, anteriorly . . . . . . . . . . . . 10/12 Height of ear, posteriorly. . . . . . . . . . . . 1 Height of ear, laterally, (inside,). . . . . . . . . 19/24 Nose to occiput . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 Breadth of ear . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17/24 Breadth of tail . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 2/12 Weight, 2 lb. 5 oz. HABITS. This Squirrel has many habits in common with other species, residing in the hollows of trees, building in summer its nest of leaves in some convenient fork of a tree, and subsisting on the same kinds of food. It is, however, the most inactive of all our known species; it climbs a tree, not with the lightness and agility of the northern gray squirrel, but with the slowness and apparent reluctance of the little striped squirrel, (Tamias Lysteri.) After ascending, it does not immediately mount to the top as is the case with other species, but clings to the body of the tree on the side opposite to you, or tries to conceal itself behind the first convenient branch. We have seldom observed it leaping from bough to bough. When it is induced, in search of food to proceed to the extremity of a branch, it moves cautiously and heavily, and generally returns the same way. On the ground it runs clumsily and makes slower progress than the gray squirrel. It is usually fat, especially in autumn, and the flesh is said to be preferable to that of any of our other species of squirrel. The Cat-Squirrel does not appear to be migratory in its habits. The same pair, if undisturbed, may be found in a particular vicinity for a number of years in succession, and the sexes seem paired for life. WILLIAM BAIRD, Esq., of Carlisle, Pennsylvania, says of this species--"The Fox-Squirrel, as this species is called with us, will never, unless almost in the very jaws of a dog, ascend any other tree than that which contains its nest, differing very greatly in this respect from our gray squirrel." The nest, which we have only seen on two occasions, was constructed of sticks and leaves, in the crotch of a tree about twenty feet from the ground, and in both cases the pair had a safer retreat in a hollow of the same tree above. This species is said to have young but once a year. We have no positive evidence to the contrary, but suspect that it will hereafter be discovered that it produces a second litter in the summer, or toward autumn. On taking some of them from the nest, we found on one occasion three, and on another four, young. These nests were placed in the hollows of oak trees. GEOGRAPHICAL DISTRIBUTION. The Cat-Squirrel is rather a rare species, but is not very uncommon in the oak and hickory woods of Pennsylvania; we have seen it near Easton and York; it is found occasionally in Maryland and Virginia, and is met with on Long Island and in some other portions of the State of New-York, but in the northern parts of that State is exceedingly rare, as we only saw two pair during fifteen years' close observation. At certain seasons we have found these squirrels tolerably abundant in the markets of the city of New-York, and have ascertained that persons who had them for sale were aware of their superior value, as we were frequently charged 37 1/2 cents for one, whilst the common gray squirrel could easily be purchased for 12 1/2 cents. The south-eastern portion of New-Jersey seems to be well suited to them. This species is rarely found in Massachusetts and one we received from the north-western part of that State was there regarded as a great curiosity, GENERAL REMARKS. This species has been sometimes, confounded with the fox-squirrel, (S. capistratus,) and at other times with the northern gray squirrel, (S. migratorius,) and all three have by some been considered as forming but one species; it is however in size intermediate between the two former, and has some distinctive marks by which it may be known from either. The northern gray squirrel has (as far as we have been able to ascertain from an examination of many specimens) permanently five molars on each side in the upper jaw, and the present species has but four. The Cat-Squirrel, however, like the young fox-squirrel, has no doubt a small deciduous tooth, which drops out in the very young state, and at so early a period that we have not succeeded in detecting it. Sciurus capistratus is in all its varieties, as far as we have observed, invariably and permanently distinguished by its having white ears and a white nose, which is not the case with S. cinereus. The former is a southern species, the latter is found in the middle and northern States, but not in the colder portions of New England or in Canada. S. capistratus is a longer, thinner and more active species, running with almost the speed of a hare, and ascending the tallest pines to so great a height that nothing but a rifle-ball can bring it down; the present species is heavy, clumsy, and prefers clinging to the body of a tree, not generally ascending to its extreme branches. The hair of S. capistratus is more rigid and smoother than that of R. cinereus, which is rather soft and woolly. We have instituted this comparison in order to prove the inaccuracy of a statement contained in one of the last works published in our country on the American quadrupeds. The author says, "We suspect that GODMAN's fox-squirrel (S. vulpinus) as well as his Cat, (S. cinereus) are varieties only of the hooded squirrel." Under the above names GODMAN published only one and the same species, but the hooded squirrel, (S. capistratus,) with white ears and nose, is a very different species, and is not given by GODMAN. The Cat-Squirrel was the first of the genus described from America. RAY characterizes it as S. virginianus cinereus major. CATESBY gives a tolerable description of it, and a figure, which although rather extravagant in the size of its tail, cannot from its short ears, which as well as the nose are destitute of the white marks of S. capistratus, be mistaken for the gray variety of the latter species. He says--"These squirrels are as large as a half-grown rabbit; the whole structure of their bodies and limbs thicker in proportion and of a grosser and more clumsy make than our common squirrels." From this time it became for many years either lost or confounded with other species by naturalists. DESMAREST, under the name of cinereus, entirely mistook the species, and applied it to two others, the Carolina gray, and the northern gray squirrel. HARLAN copied the article, adopting and perpetuating the error. GODMAN, by the aid of LE CONTE as it appears to us, (see a reference to his letter--Amer. Nat. Hist., vol. ii., p. 129,) was enabled to correct this error, but fell into another, describing one species under two names, and omitting the southern fox-squirrel (S. capistratus) altogether, assigning its habits to his S. vulpinus. In our monograph of this genus, 1838, we endeavoured to correct the errors into which authors had fallen in regard to this species; time and further experience have only strengthened us in the views we then expressed.