Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 12.djvu/720

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view, and they are gone. When waiting in a dry ditch with a gun on a warm autumn afternoon for a rabbit to come out, sometimes a bunny will suddenly appear at the mouth of a hole which your knee nearly touches. He stops dead, as if petrified with astonishment, sitting on his haunches. His full dark eye is on you with a gaze of intense curiosity; his nostrils work as if sniffing; his whiskers move; and every now and then he thumps with his hind-legs upon the earth with a low, dull thud. This is evidently a sign of great alarm, at the noise of which any other rabbit within hearing instantly disappears in the "bury." Yet there your friend sits and watches you as if spellbound, so long as you have the patience to move neither hand nor foot nor to turn your eye. Keep your glance on the frond of the fern just beyond him, and he will stay. The instant your eye meets his, or a finger stirs, he plunges out of sight. It is so also with birds. Walk across a meadow, swinging a stick, even humming, and the rooks calmly continue their search for grubs within thirty yards; stop to look at them, and they rise on the wing directly. So, too, the finches in the trees by the road-side. Let the wayfarer pass beneath the bough on which they are singing, and they will sing on, if he moves without apparent interest; should he pause to listen, their wings glisten in the sun as they fly.

Stoats, though not so numerous as weasels, probably do quite as much injury, being larger, swifter, stronger, and very bold, sometimes entering sheds close to dwelling-houses. The laboring-people—at least, the elder folk—declare that they have been known to suck the blood of infants left asleep in the cradle upon the floor, biting the child behind the ear. They hunt in couples also—seldom in larger numbers. We have seen three at work together, and with a single shot killed two out of the trio. In elegance of shape they surpass the weasel, and the color is brighter. Their range of destruction seems only limited by their strength; they attack anything they can manage.

The keeper looks upon weasel and stoat as bitter foes, to be ruthlessly exterminated with shot and gin. He lays to their charge deadly crimes of murder, the death of rabbits, hares, birds, the theft and destruction of his young broods, even occasional abstraction of a chicken close to his very door, despite the dogs chained there. They are not easily shot, being quick to take shelter at the sight of a dog, and, when hard hit with the pellets, frequently escaping, though perhaps to die. Both weasel and stoat, and especially the latter, will snap viciously at the dog that overtakes them, even when sore wounded, always aiming to fix their teeth in his nose, and fighting savagely to the last gasp. The keeper slays a wonderful number in the course of a year, yet they seem as plentiful as ever. He traps perhaps more than he shoots. It is not always safe to touch a stoat caught in a trap; he lies apparently dead, but lift him up, and instantly his teeth are in your hand, and it is said such wounds some-