34            Black Squirrel

                             SCIURUS NIGER.--LINN.

                                BLACK SQUIRREL.
                          [Fox Squirrel (color phase)]

                         PLATE XXXIV.--MALE AND FEMALE.

     S. corpore S. migratorio longiore; vellere molli nitidoque auribus, naso et
omni corporis parte nigerrimis, cirris albis dispersis.

     A little larger than the Northern gray squirrel; fur, soft and glossy ears,
nose, and all the body, black; a few white tufts of hair intespersed.


     SCIURUS NIGER,  Godman, Nat.  Hist., vol. ii., p. 133.
     SCIURUS NIGER,  Bachman, Proceedings Zool.  Society, 1838, p. 96.
     SCIURUS NIGER,  Dekay, Nat.  Hist.  of New-York, part i., p. 60.


     Head, a little shorter and more arched than that of the Northern gray
squirrel, (in the latter species, however, it is often found that differences
exist, in the shape of the head, in different individuals.)  Incisors,
compressed, strong, and of a deep orange colour anteriorly; ears, elliptical,
and slightly rounded at the tip, thickly clothed with fur on both surfaces, the
fur on the outer surface extending three lines beyond the margin; there are
however no distinct tufts; whiskers, a little longer than the head; tail, long,
not very distichous, thickly clothed with moderately coarse hair; the fur is
softer than that of the Northern gray squirrel.


     The whole of the upper and lower surfaces, and the tail, glossy jet black;
at the roots the hairs are a little lighter.  Specimens procured in summer do
not differ materially in colour from those obtained in winter, except that
before the hairs drop out late in spring, they are not so intensely black.  In
all we have had an opportunity of examining, there are small tufts of white
hairs irregularly disposed on the under surface, resembling those on the body of
the mink.  There are also a few scattered white hairs on the back and tail.


                                                                 Inches.  lines.

     Length of head and body  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  13        0
     Length of tail (vertebrae)  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .   9        1
     Length of tail, including far  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  13        0
     Palm, to end of middle fore-claw  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .   1        7
     Length of heel to the point of middle claw .  .  .  .  .  .   2        7
     Length of fur on the back   .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .   0        7
     Breadth of tail with hair extended   .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .   5        0


     An opportunity was afforded us, many years since, of observing the habits
of this species, in the northern part of the State of New-York.  A seat under
the shadow of a rock near a stream of water, was for several successive summers
our favourite resort for retirement and reading.  In the immediate vicinity were
several large trees, in which were a number of holes, from which at almost every
hour of the day were seen issuing this species of Black Squirrel.  There seemed
to be a dozen of them; they were all of the same glossy black colour, and
although the Northern gray squirrel and its black variety were not rare in that
neighbourhood, during a period of five or six years we never discovered any
other than the present species in that locality; and after the lapse of twenty
years, a specimen (from which our description was in part drawn up) was procured
in that identical spot, and sent to us.
     This species possesses all the sprightliness of the Northern gray squirrel,
evidently preferring valleys and swamps to drier and more elevated situations.
We observed that one of their favourite trees, to which they retreated on
hearing the slightest noise, was a large white-pine (Pinus strobus) in the
immediate vicinity.  We were surprised at sometimes seeing a red squirrel,
(Sciurus Hudsonius,) which had also given a preference to this tree, pursuing a
Black Squirrel, threatening and scolding it vociferously, till the latter was
obliged to make its retreat.  When the Squirrels approached the stream, which
ran within a few feet of our seat, they often stopped to drink, when, instead of
lapping the water like the dog and cat, they protruded their mouths a
considerable distance into the stream, and drank greedily; they would afterwards
sit upright. supported by the tarsus, and with tail erect, busy themselves for a
quarter of an hour in wiping their faces with their paws, the latter being also
occasionally dipped in the water.  Their barking and other habits did not seem
to differ from those of the northern gray squirrel.

                           GEOGRAPHICAL DISTRIBUTION.

     Many of our specimens of the Black Squirrel were procured through the
kindness of friends, in the counties of Rensselaer and Queens, New York.  We
have seen this species on the borders of Lake Champlain, at Ogdensburg, and on
the eastern shores of Lake Erie; also near Niagara, on the Canada side.  The
individual described by Dr. RICHARDSON, and which may be clearly referred to
this species, was obtained by Captain HAYFIELD, at Fort William on Lake
Superior.  Black Squirrels exist through all our western forests, and to the
northward of our great lakes; but whether they are of this species, or the black
variety of the gray squirrel, we have not had the means of deciding.  It is a
well ascertained fact that the Black Squirrel disappears before the Northern
gray squirrel.  Whether the colour renders it a more conspicuous mark for the
sportsman, or whether the two species are naturally hostile, we are unable to
decide.  It is stated by close observers that in some neighbourhoods where the
Black Squirrel formerly abounded, the Northern gray squirrel now exclusively
occupies its place.

                                GENERAL REMARKS.

     We have admitted this as a true species, not so much in accordance with our
own positive convictions, as in deference to the opinions of our naturalists,
and from the consideration that if it be no more than a variety, it has by time
and succession been rendered a permanent race.  The only certain mode of
deciding whether this is a true species or merely a variety, would be to
ascertain whether male and female Black Squirrels and gray squirrels associate
and breed together in a state of nature.  When a male and a female, however
different in size and colour, unite in a wild state and their progeny is
prolific, we are warranted in pronouncing them of the same species.  When on the
contrary, there is no such result, we are compelled to come to an opposite
     We had great doubts for many years whether this species might not
eventually prove another of the many varieties of the Northern gray squirrel,
(S. migratorius.)  Although these doubts have not been altogether removed by our
recent investigations, they were considerably lessened on ascertaining the
uniformity in size, shape, colour, and habits of all the individuals we have
seen in a living state, as well as all the prepared specimens we have examined.
     Much difficulty has existed among authors in deciding on the species to
which the name of S. niger should be appropriated.  The original description by
LINNAEUS was contained in the single word "niger."  If he had made no reference
to any author, his description would have served quite well, as this was the
only species of squirrel purely black, that was known at that day.  He however
made a reference to CATESBY, who figured the black variety of the Southern
fox-squirrel, (S. capistratus) and BRISSON, PENNANT, ERXLEBEN, and SCHREBER
referred the species in the same manner to the description and figure of
CATESBY.  Our American writers on natural history, as well as Dr. RICHARDSON,
have however adopted the name given by LINNAEUS, and applied it to this species.
We consider it advisable to retain the name, omitting the reference to CATESBY.
     It is difficult to decide, from the descriptions of Drs. HARLAN and GODMAN,
whether they described from specimens of the black variety of the northern gray
squirrel or from the present species.
     Dr. RICHARDSON has, under the head of Sciurus niger, (see Fauna Boreali
Americana, p. 191,) described a specimen from Lake Superior, which we conceive
to be the black variety of the gray squirrel; but at the close of the same
article (p. 192) he described another specimen from Fort William, which answers
to the description of this species.