7              Carolina Gray Squirrel

                          SCIURUS CAROLINENSIS.--GMEL.
                             [Sciurus carolinensis]

                            CAROLINA GRAY SQUIRREL.
                                [Gray Squirrel]

                          PLATE VII.--MALE AND FEMALE.

     S. griseus supra, subtus albus, colorem haud mutaris, S. migratorii, minor.
Cauda corpore breviore, S. migratorii angustiore.

     Smaller than the Northern Gray Squirrel, (Sciurus Migratorius,) tail
narrower than in that species, and shorter than the body; above, rusty gray;
beneath, white; does not vary in colour.


     ECUREUIL GRIS DE LA CAROLINE, Bosc., vol. ii., p. 96, pl. 29.
     SCIURUS CAROLINENSIS, Bach., Monog., Proceedings Zool. Soc., London,
       August, 1838, Mag., Nat. Hist., 1839, p. 113.


     This species, which has been many years known, and frequently described,
has been always considered by authors as identical with the Gray Squirrel of the
Northern States (Sciurus migratorius).  There are, however, so many marked
differences in size, colour and habit, that any student of nature can easily
perceive the distinction between these two allied species.
     Head shorter, and space between the ears proportionately broader than
between those of the Northern Gray Squirrel; nose sharper than in that animal.
Small anterior molar in the upper jaw permanent, (as we have invariably found it
to exist in all the specimens we have examined;) it is considerably larger than
in S. migratorius, and all our specimens which give indications of the
individual having been more than a year old when killed, instead of having a
small, thread-like, single tooth, as in the latter species, have a distinct
double tooth with a double crown.  The other molars are not much unlike those of
S. migratorius in form, but are shorter and smaller, the upper incisors being
nearly a third shorter.  Body, shorter and less elegant in shape, and not
indicating the quickness and vivacity by which S. migratorius is eminently
     The ears, which are nearly triangular, are so slightly clothed with hair on
their interior surfaces, that they may be said to be nearly naked; externally
they are sparsely clothed with short woolly hair, which however does not extend
as far beyond the margins as in other species.  Nails shorter and less crooked;
tail shorter, and without the broad distichous appearance of that of the
Northern Gray Squirrel.


     Teeth, light orange; nails, brown, lightest at the extremities; whiskers,
black; on the nose and cheeks, and around the eyes, a slight tinge of rufous
     Fur on the back, for three-fourths of its length, dark plumbeous, succeeded
by a slight indication of black, edged with yellowish-brown in some of the
hairs, giving it on the surface a dark grayish-yellow tint.  In a few specimens
there is an obscure shade of light brown along the sides, where the yellowish
tint predominates, and a tinge of this colour is observable on the upper surface
of the fore-legs, above the knees.  Feet, light gray; tail, for three-fourths of
its length from the root yellowish-brown; the remainder black, edged with white;
throat inner surface of the legs and belly, white.
     This species does not run into varieties, as do the Northern Gray Squirrel
and the Black Squirrel; the specimens received from Alabama, Florida and
Louisiana, scarcely present a shade of difference from those existing in South
Carolina, which we have just described.



     Length of head and body .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .   9 1/2
     Length of tail (vertebrae,).  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .   7 1/3
     Length of tail to end of hair .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .   9 1/2
     Height of ear  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .     1/2
     Palm to end of middle claws.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .   1 1/4
     Heel to end of middle nail .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .   2 1/2
     Length of fur on the back  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .     1/2
     Breadth of tail (with hair extended).  .  .  .  .  .  .   3


     This species differs as much in its habits from the Northern Gray Squirrel
as it does in form and colour.  From an intimate acquaintance with the habits of
the latter, we are particularly impressed with the peculiarities of the present
species.  Its bark has not the depth of tone of that of the Northern species,
and is more shrill and querulous.  Instead of mounting high on the tree when
alarmed, which the latter always does, the Sc. Carolinensis generally plays
round the trunk, and on the side opposite to the observer, at a height of some
twenty or thirty feet, often concealing itself beneath the Spanish moss
(Tillandsia Usneoides) which hangs about the tree.  When a person who has
alarmed one of these Squirrels remains quiet for a few moments, it descends a
few feet and seats itself on the first convenient branch, in order the better to
observe his movements.
     It is, however, capable of climbing to the extremity of the branches and
leaping from tree to tree with great agility, but is less wild than the Northern
species, and is almost as easily approached as the chickaree, (Sc. Hudsonius.)
One who is desirous of obtaining a specimen, has only to take a seat for half an
hour in any of the swamps of Carolina and he will be surprised at the immense
number of these squirrels that may be seen running along the logs or leaping
among the surrounding trees.  A great many are killed, and their flesh is both
juicy and tender.
     The Carolina Gray Squirrel is sometimes seen on high grounds among the oak
and hickory trees, although its usual haunts are low swampy places or trees
overhanging streams or growing near the margin of some river.  In deep cypress
swamps covered in many places with several feet of water during the whole year,
it takes up its constant residence, moving among the entwined branches of the
dense forest with great facility.  Its hole in such situations may sometimes be
found in the trunk of a decayed cypress.  On the large tupelo trees, (Nyssa
aquatica,) which are found in the swamps, many nests of this species, composed
principally of Spanish moss and leaves, are every where to be seen.  In these
nests, or in some woodpecker's hole, they produce their young.  These are five
or six in number, and are brought forth in March; it is well ascertained also
that the female litters a second time in the season, probably about mid-summer.
     This species has one peculiarity which we have not observed in any other.
It is in some degree nocturnal, or at least crepuscular, in its habits.  In
riding along by-paths through the woods, long after sunset, we are often
startled by the barking of this little Squirrel, as it scratches among the
leaves, or leaps from tree to tree, scattering over the earth the seeds of the
maple, &c., which are shaken off from the uppermost branches as it passes over
     This species is seldom, if ever, seen in company with the Fox Squirrel,
(Sc. Capistratus,) or even found in the same neighbourhood; this arises probably
not so much from any antipathy to each other, as from the fact that very
different localities are congenial to the peculiar habits of each.
     We have observed the Carolina Gray Squirrel on several occasions by
moonlight, as actively engaged as the Flying Squirrel usually is in the evening;
and this propensity to prolong its search after food or its playful gambols
until the light of day is succeeded by the moon's pale gleams, causes it
frequently to fall a prey to the Virginian owl, or the barred owl; which last
especially is very abundant in the swamps of Carolina, where, gliding on
noiseless pinions between the leafy branches, it seizes the luckless Squirrel
ere it is aware of its danger, or can make the slightest attempt to escape.  The
gray fox and the wild cat often surprise this and other species by stratagem or
stealth.  We have beheld the prowling lynx concealed in a heap of brushwood near
an old log, or near the foot of a tree frequented by the Squirrel he hopes to
capture.  For hours together will he lie thus in ambush, and should the
unsuspicious creature pass within a few feet of him, he pounces on it with a
sudden spring, and rarely fails to secure it.
     Several species of snakes, the rattle-snake, (Crotalus durassus,) black
snake, (Coluber constrictor,) and the chicken snake, (Coluber quadrivittatus,)
for instance, have been found on being killed, to have a Squirrel in their
stomach; and the fact that Squirrels, birds, &c., although possessing great
activity and agility, constitute a portion of the food of these reptiles, being
well established, the manner in which the sluggish serpent catches animals so
far exceeding him in speed, and some of them endowed with the power of rising
from the earth and skimming away with a few flaps of their wings, has been the
subject of much speculation.  Some persons have attributed a mysterious power,
more especially to the rattlesnake and black snake--we mean the power of
fascinating, or as it is commonly called, charming.
     This supposed faculty of the serpent has, however, not been accounted for.
The basilisk of the ancients killed by a look; the eye of the rattlesnake is
supposed so to paralyze and at the same time attract its intended prey, that the
animal slowly approaches, going through an infinite variety of motions,
alternately advancing and retreating, until it finally falls powerless into the
open jaws of its devourer.
     As long as we are able to explain by natural deductions the very singular
manoeuvres of birds and squirrels when" fascinated "by a snake, it would be
absurd to imagine that anything mysterious or supernatural is connected with the
subject; and we consider that there are many ways of accounting for all the
appearances described on these occasions.  Fear and surprise cause an
instinctive horror when we find ourselves unexpectedly within a foot or two of a
rattle-snake; the shrill, startling noise proceeding from the rattles of its
tail as it vibrates rapidly, and its hideous aspect, no doubt produce a much
greater effect on birds and small quadrupeds.  It is said that the distant roar
of the African lion causes the oxen to tremble and stand paralyzed in the
fields; and HUMBOLDT relates that in the forests of South America the mingled
cries of monkeys and other animals resound through the whole night, but as soon
as the roar of the Jaguar, the American tiger, is heard, terror seizes on all
the other animals, and their voices are suddenly hushed.  Birds and quadrupeds
are very curious, also, and this feeling prompts them to draw near to strange
objects.  "Tolling" wild ducks and loons, as it is called, by waving a red
handkerchief or a small flag or by causing a little dog to bound backward and
forward on a beach, has long been successfully practised by sportsmen on the
Chesapeake Bay and elsewhere.
     The Indians attract the reindeer, the antelope, and other animals, until
they are within bow-shot, by waving a stick to which a piece of red cloth is
attached, or by throwing themselves on their backs and kicking their heels up in
the air.  If any strange object is thrown into the poultry-yard, such as a
stuffed specimen of a quadruped or a bird, &c., all the fowls will crowd near
it, and scrutinize it for a long time.  Every body almost may have observed at
some time or other dozens of birds collected around a common cat in a shrubbery,
a tortoise, or particularly a snake.  The Squirrel is remarkable for its
fondness for "sights," and will sometimes come down from the highest branch of a
tree to within three feet of the ground, to take a view of "a small scarlet
snake, (Rhinostoma coccinea,) not much larger than a pipe-stem, and which,
having no poisonous fangs could scarcely master a grasshopper.  This might be
regarded by believers in the fascinating powers of snakes as a decided case in
favour of their theories, but they would find it somewhat difficult to explain
the following circumstances which happened to ourselves.  After observing a
Squirrel come down to inspect one of the beautiful little snakes we have just
been speaking of, the reptile being a rare species was captured and secured in
our carriage box.  After we had driven off, we recollected that in our anxiety
to secure the snake we had left our box of botanical specimens at the place
where we had first seen the latter, and on returning for it, we once more saw
the Squirrel darting backward and forward, and skipping round the root of the
tree, eyeing with equal curiosity the article we had left behind; and we could
not help making the reflection that if the little snake had "charmed" the
Squirrel, the same "fascinating" influence was exercised by our tin box!
     Quadrupeds and birds have certain antipathies:  they are capable of
experiencing many of the feelings that appertain to mankind; they are
susceptible of passion, are sometimes spiteful and revengeful, and are wise
enough to know their "natural enemies" without a formal introduction.  The blue
jay, brown thrush, white-eyed fly-catcher, and other little birds, are often to
be heard scolding and fluttering about a thicket in which some animal is
concealed; and on going to examine into the cause of their unwonted excitement,
you will probably see a wild cat or fox spring forth from the covert.  Every one
familiar with the habits of our feathered tribes must have seen at times the owl
or buzzard chased by the smallest birds, which unite on such occasions for the
purpose of driving off a common enemy; in these cases the birds sometimes
approach too near, and are seized by the owl.  We once observed some night-hawks
(Chordeiles Virginianus) darting round a tree upon which an owl was perched.
Whilst looking on, we perceived the owl make a sudden movement and found that he
had caught one of them in his sharp claws, and notwithstanding the cries and
menaces of the others he instantly devoured it.
     Birds dart in the same manner at snakes, and no doubt are often caught by
passing too near--shall we therefore conclude that they are fascinated?
     One of the most powerful "attractions" which remain to be considered, is
the love of offspring.  This feeling, which is so deeply rooted in the system of
nature as to be a rule almost without an exception, is manifested strongly by
birds and quadrupeds; and snakes are among the most to be dreaded destroyers of
eggs and young birds and of the young of small species of viviparous animals; is
it not likely therefore that many of the (supposed) cases of fascination that
are related, may be referred to the intrepidity of the animals or birds,
manifested in trying to defend their young or drive away their enemy from their
vicinity?  In our  work, the "Birds of America," we represented a mocking-bird's
nest attacked by a rattle-snake, and the nest of a red thrush invaded by a black
snake; these two plates each exhibit several birds assisting the pair whose nest
has been robbed by the snake, and also show the mocking-bird and thrush
courageously advancing to the jaws even of their enemy.  These pictures were
drawn after the actual occurrence before our eyes of the scenes which we
endeavoured to represent in them; and supposing a person but little acquainted
with natural history to have seen the birds, as we did, he might readily have
fancied that some of them at least were, fascinated, as he could not probably
have been near enough to mark the angry expression of their eyes, and see their
well concealed nest.
     Our readers will, we trust, excuse us for detaining them yet a little
longer on this subject, as we have more to say of the habits of the rattlesnake
in connexion with the subject we are upon.
     This snake, the most venomous known in North America, subsists wholly on
animal food; it digests its food slowly, and is able to exist without any
sustenance for months, or even years, in confinement; during this time it often
increases in size, and the number of its rattles is augmented.  In its natural
state it feeds on rabbits, squirrels, rats, birds, or any other small animals
that may come in its way.  It captures its prey by lying in wait for it, and we
have heard of an instance in which one of these snakes remained coiled up for
two days before the mouth of the burrow of the Florida rat, (Neotoma Floridans,)
and on its being killed it was found to have swallowed one of these quadrupeds.
     As far as we have been able to ascertain, it always strikes its intended
prey with its fangs, and thus kills it before swallowing it.  The bite is
sudden, and although the victim may run a few yards after it is struck, the
serpent easily finds it when dead.  Generally the common species of rattle-snake
refuses all food when in a cage, but occasionally one is found that does not
refuse to eat whilst in captivity.  When a rat is turned loose in a cage with
one of these snakes, it does not immediately kill it, but often leaves it
unmolested for days and weeks together.  When, however, the reptile, prompted
either by irritation or hunger, designs to kill the animal, it lies in wait for
it, cat-like, or gently crawls up to it and suddenly gives the mortal blow,
after which, it very slowly and deliberately turns it over into a proper
position and finally swallows it.
     We have seen a rattle-snake in a very large cage using every means within
its power and exerting its cunning for a whole month, before it could succeed in
capturing a brown thrush that was imprisoned with it.  At night the bird roosted
beyond the reach of the snake, and during the day-time it was too cautious in
its movements, and too agile, snatching up its food at intervals, and flying
instantly back to its perch, to be struck by the unwieldy serpent.  We now added
a mouse to the number of the inmates of the cage; the affrighted animal
retreated to a corner, where the snake, slowly crawling up to it, with a sudden
blow darted his fangs into and killed it; soon after which he swallowed it.
About a week after this adventure, the snake again resumed his attempts to
capture the thrush, and pursued it all round the cage.
     This experiment offered a fair opportunity for the rattle-snake to exert
its powers of fascination, had it possessed any; but as it did not exhibit them,
we do not hesitate to say that it was entirely destitute of any faculty of the
     After some hours' fruitless manoeuvring, the snake coiled itself up near
the cup of water from which the bird drank.  For two days the thrush avoided the
water; on the third, having become very thirsty, it showed a constant desire to
approach the cup; the snake waited for it to come within reach, and in the
course of the day struck at it two or three times; the bird darted out of its
way, however, and was not killed until the next day.
     If, notwithstanding these facts, it is argued, that the mysterious and
inexplicable power of fascination is possessed by the snake, because birds have
been seen to approach it, and with open wings and plaintive voice seemed to wait
upon its appetite, we must be prepared to admit that the same faculty is
possessed by other animals.  On a certain day, we saw a mocking-bird exhibiting
every appearance, usually, according to descriptions, witnessed when birds are
under the influence of fascination.  It approached a hog which was occupied in
munching something at the foot of a small cedar.  The bird fluttered before the
grunter with open wings, uttered a low and plaintive note, alighted on his back,
and finally began to peck at his snout.  On examining into the cause of these
strange proceedings, we ascertained that the mocking-bird had a nest in the
tree, from which several of her younglings had fallen, which the hog was eating!
Our friend, the late Dr. WRIGHT, of Troy, informed us that he witnessed a nearly
similar scene between a cat-bird and a dog which had disturbed her brood, on
which occasion the cat-bird went through many of the movements generally
ascribed to the effect of fascination.

                           GEOGRAPHICAL DISTRIBUTION.

     We have received a specimen of this Squirrel which was procured in the
market at New Orleans, where it is said to be exceedingly rare.  We have not
traced it farther to the South.  It is the most abundant species in Florida,
Georgia and South Carolina.  We have seen it in the swamps of North Carolina,
but have no positive evidence that it extends farther to the northward than that
State.  We have obtained it in Alabama, and in Mississippi we are told it is
found in the swamps.  Nothing has been heard of it west of the Mississippi

                                GENERAL REMARKS.

     This species was first described by GMELIN, and afterward noticed and
figured by Bosc.  The descriptions in HARLAN, GODMAN, and all other authors who
have described this species under the name of Sciurus Carolinensis, refer to the
Northern Gray Squirrel.  We believe we were the first to observe and point out
the distinctive characters which separate the present species from S.
migratorius, the Gray Squirrel of the North.