29            Rocky Mountain Neotoma

                        NEOTOMA DRUMMONDII.--RICHARDSON.
                               [Neotoma cinerea]

                            ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEOTOMA.
                             [Bushy-tailed Woodrat]

                    PLATE XXIX.  Winter and Summer colours.

     N. subtus albida; supra hyeme flavo-fuscescens, aestate saturate cinereus;
cauda crassa, corpore longiore muse decumano robustior.

     Colour, above, yellowish-brown in winter and dark-ash in summer whitish
beneath; tail, bushy and longer than the body; larger than the Norway rat.


     RAT OF THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS, Lewis and Clarke, vol. iii.,  p. 41.
     MYOXIS DRUMMONDII, Rich., Zool.  Jour., 1828, p. 5, 7.
     NEOTOMA DRUMMONDII, Rich., Fauna Boreali Americana,  p. 137,  pl. 7.


     This species bears a striking resemblance to the Florida rat.  It differs
from the Norway rat by its longer and broader ears, and by its bushy tail and
light active form.  Fur, long and loose, bearing a considerable resemblance to
that of the gray rabbit; nose, rather obtuse; the nostrils have a very narrow
naked margin; the tip of the nose is covered with short hairs; ears, large,
oval, and rounded, nearly naked within, except near the margins, where they are
slightly clothed with short hairs.  On the outer surface there are a few more
hairs, but not enough to conceal the skin beneath; eyes, small, much concealed
by the fur; whiskers, like hog's bristles, very strong, the longest reaching to
the shoulders; neck, short, and fully as thick as the head.
     Fore-legs, short; feet, of moderate size, with four toes; claws, small,
compressed, and pointed.  The third toe nearly equals the middle one, which is
the longest, the first is a little shorter, and the outer one not more than half
the length of the other two; there is also the rudiment of a thumb, which is
armed with a minute nail.  The toes of the hind-feet are longer than those of
the fore-feet, and the claws less hooked; the middle toe is the longest, those
on each side of it of nearly an equal length; the outer one a little shorter,
and the inner shortest of all.  The palms on the fore and hind-feet are naked;
but the toes, even beyond the nails, are covered with short, adpressed hairs.
The hairs of the tail (which are not capable of a distichous arrangement) are
short near the root, and gradually lengthen toward the end, where it is large
and bushy, the hairs being one inch in length.


     Incisors, yellow; on the whole of the back, the head, shoulders, and
outsides of the thighs, a dusky darkish-brown, proceeding from a mixture of
yellowish-brown and black hairs.  From the roots to near the tips, the fur is of
a dark lead-colour, tipped with light-brown and black.  The sides of the face
and the ventral aspect, are bluish-gray.  Margin of the upper lip, chin, feet,
and under surface, dull white; whiskers, black and white, the former colour
predominating; tail, grayish-brown above, dull yellowish-white beneath.
     The above is the colour of this species from the end of summer through the
following winter to the time of shedding the hair in May; when in its new coat
it has far less of yellowish-brown, and puts on a gray appearance on the back,
this colour gradually assuming more of the yellowish hue as the autumn advances
and the fur lengthens and thickens toward winter.


     From point of nose to root of tail  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  9
     Tail (vertebrae)  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  7 1/2
     Tail, including fur  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  8 1/2
     Height of ear, posteriorly .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  1
     Length of whiskers.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  4


     We regret that from personal observation, we have no information to give in
regard to the habits of this species, having never seen it in a living state.
It was, however, seen by LEWIS and CLARKE, by DRUMMOND, DOUGLAS, NUTTALL, and
TOWNSEND).  According to the accounts given by these travellers, this Neotoma
appears to have nearly the same general habits as the smaller species, (N.
Floridans,) the Florida rat, but is much more destructive than the latter.  It
has a strong propensity to gnaw, cut to pieces, and carry to its nest every
thing left in its way.  The trappers dread its attacks on their furs more than
they would the approach of a grizzly bear.  These rats have been known to gnaw
through whole packs of furs in a single night.  The blankets of the sleeping
travellers are sometimes cut to pieces by them, and they carry off small
articles from the camp of the hunter.
     "Mr. DRUMMOND," says RICHARDSON, "placed a pair of stout English shoes on
the shelf of a rock, and as he thought, in perfect security; but on his return,
after an absence of a few days, he found them gnawed into fragments as fine as
     Mr. DOUGLAS, who unfortunately lost his life in ascending Mouna Roa, in the
Sandwich Islands, by falling into a pit for catching wild bulls, where he was
gored by one of those animals, was one of the most indefatigable explorers of
the Western portions of our continent, and kept a journal of his travels and
discoveries in natural history.  It was never published, but a few copies were
printed some time after his death, by his friend and patron, Sir WILLIAM HOOKER,
who presented one of them to us.  In it we found the following account of this
     "During the night I was annoyed by the visit of a herd of rats, which
devoured every particle of seed I had collected, ate clean through a bundle of
dried plants, and carried off my soap, brush, and razor.  As one was taking away
my inkstand, which I had been using shortly before, and which lay close to my
pillow, I raised my gun, which, with my faithful dog, always is placed under my
blanket by my side with the muzzle to my feet, and hastily gave him the
contents.  When I saw how large and strong a creature this rat was, I ceased to
wonder at the exploits of the herd in depriving me of my property.  The body and
tail together measured a foot and a half; the hair was brown, the belly white;
it had enormous ears three quarters of an inch long, and whiskers three inches
in length.  Unfortunately the specimen was spoiled by the shot which in my haste
to secure the animal and recover my inkstand, I did not take time to change; but
a female of the same sort venturing to return some hours after, I handed it a
smaller shot, which did not destroy the skin.  It was in all respects like the
former, except being a little smaller."  This identical specimen is in the
museum of the Zoological Society of London, where we examined it.
     Mr. TOWNSEND has kindly furnished us with some remarks on this species,
from which we make the following extracts:--"I never saw it in the Rocky
Mountains, but it is very common near the Columbia river.  It is found in the
storehouses of the inhabitants, where it supplies the place of the common rat,
which is not found here.  It is a remarkably mischievous animal, destroying
every thing which comes in its way--papers, books, goods, &c.  It has been known
not unfrequently to eat entirely through the middle of a bale of blankets,
rendering the whole utterly useless; and like a pet crow carries away every
thing it can lay its hands on.  Even candlesticks, porter-bottles, and large
iron axes, being sometimes found in its burrows."
     The food of this species consists of seeds and herbage of various kinds; it
devours also the small twigs and leaves of pine trees, and generally has a
considerable store of these laid up in the vicinity of its residence.
     It is said by DRUMMOND to make its nest in the crevices of high rocks.  The
nest is large, and is composed of sticks, leaves, and grasses.  The abode of
this Rat may be discovered by the excrement of the animal, which has the colour
and consistence of tar, and is always deposited in the vicinity.  It is stated
by those who have had the opportunity of observing, that this species produces
from three to five young at a time.

                           GEOGRAPHICAL DISTRIBUTION.

     We were informed by a gentleman who was formerly engaged as a clerk in the
service of the Missouri fur company, that this Rat exists in the valleys, and
along the sides, of the Rocky Mountains, through an extent of thirty degrees of
latitude.  DOUGLASS states that it is very numerous near the Mackenzie and Peace
rivers, latitude 69 degrees.  TOWNSEND found it in Oregon.  We have seen a
specimen that was said to have been obtained in the Northern mountains of Texas,
and have heard of its existence in North California.