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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 12.djvu/717

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THE WICKED WEASEL.

The results I have presented to you are mainly derived from personal observation; and, since a large part of the higher vertebrate remains hitherto found in this country have passed through my hands, I am willing to assume full responsibility for my presentation of the subject.

For our present knowledge of the extinct Mammals, Birds, and Reptiles of North America, science is especially indebted to Leidy, whose careful, conscientious work has laid a secure foundation for our vertebrate paleontology. The energy of Cope has brought to notice many strange forms, and greatly enlarged our literature. Agassiz, Owen, Wyman, Baird, Hitchcock, Deane, Emmons, Lea, Allen, Gibbes, Jefferson, DeKay, and Harlan, deserve honorable mention in the history of this branch of science. The South American extinct Vertebrates have been described by Lund, Owen, Burmeister, Gervais, Huxley, Flower, Desmarest, Aymard, Pictet, and Nodot. Darwin and Wallace have likewise contributed valuable information on this subject, as they have on nearly all forms of life.

 

In this long history of ancient life I have said nothing of what Life itself really is—and for the best of reasons—because I know nothing. Here, at present, our ignorance is dense, and yet we need not despair. Light, Heat, Electricity, and Magnetism, Chemical Affinity, and Motion, are now considered different forms of the same force; and the opinion is rapidly gaining ground that Life, or vital force, is only another phase of the same power. Possibly the great mystery of Life may thus be solved, but, whether it be or not, a true faith in science knows no limit to its search for Truth.

 

THE WICKED WEASEL.

THERE are other enemies of game-life besides human poachers whose numbers must be kept within bounds to insure successful sport. The thirst of the weasel for blood is insatiable, and it is curious to watch the persistency with which he will hunt down the particular rabbit he has singled out for destruction. Through the winding subterranean galleries of the "buries" with their cross-passages, "blind" holes and "pop" holes (i. e., those which end in undisturbed soil, and those which are simply bored from one side of the bank to the other, being only used for temporary concealment), never once in the dark, close caverns losing sight or scent of his victim, he pursues it with a species of eager patience. It is generally a long chase. The rabbit makes a dash ahead, and a double or two, and then halts, usually at the mouth of a hole; perhaps to breathe.