Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 11.djvu/421

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THE NORWEGIAN LEMMING.

tion of the animal itself will not be out of place. It is a vole, like our short-tailed field-mouse, very variable in size and color, but the figures (Fig. 1), which are about half the natural size, will be found to resemble the majority in the latter respect. The claws, especially on the fore-foot, are strong and curved; the tail is very short, the ears scarcely visible, and the bead-like, black eyes seem always to notice objects above them rather than those in any other direction. During the summer these animals form their nests under stones, usually betraying their habitations by the very care which they take to keep them

PSM V11 D421 Group of lemmings.jpg
Fig. 1.—Group of Lemmings.

sweet and clean. In winter, however, they form long galleries through the turf and under the snow in search of their food, which is exclusively vegetable; and it is at this time that those ravages are caused which have led the Norwegians in former times to institute a special form of prayer against their invasions. There are several species of lemming, easily recognizable, and with well-marked geographical range; but it is to the Scandinavian species only that the following old description applies: "It lives on the shoots of the dwarf-birch, reindeer lichens, and other mosses; it hisses and bites; in winter it runs under the snow; and about every tenth year, especially before an extremely severe winter, the whole army of animals, in the autumn and at night, migrates in a direct line." According to Olaus Magnus they fall from the clouds; and Pennant narrates that "they descend from the Kjölen, marching in parallel lines three feet apart; they trav-