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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 36.djvu/849

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829
INTELLIGENCE OF SQUIRRELS.

INTELLIGENCE OF SQUIRRELS.[1]
By Dr. T. WESLEY MILLS,

PROFESSOR OF PHYSIOLOGY IN MCGILL UNIVERSITY.

UNTIL recently, the habits of animals seem to have been considered simply as interesting manifestations of their life, but without any special reference to their relations to the intellectual part of the creatures concerned. But unless we assume that animals are devoid of mind and true intelligence—an extreme and untenable position—there must be a possible science of comparative psychology, as there is of comparative anatomy and physiology. The study of animal intelligence is possible, interesting, and important, whether we regard man as derived from some lower form, and his intellectual as well as his physical being the result of evolution; or whether we consider that man stands wholly apart in origin either as to body or mind. In the latter case, the study of the lower forms of mind affords a useful contrast with its highest development as seen in man; in the former, we aim at the construction of a ladder by which we may climb from the simplest manifestations of consciousness to the highest performances of the most gigantic human intellect.

I have selected the study of squirrel psychology as the subject of this paper, because so little seems to have been written on the subject; because these animals are open to the observation of every one; and chiefly because I have been able to give special attention to them myself. Their habits will be considered principally, but not exclusively, from the psychological standpoint; and I shall apply the comparative method, making such references to the habits and intelligence of other rodents as seem to throw light on those of the squirrel. While some attention has been paid to other species of squirrels, my studies have been chiefly on the ground squirrel (Tamias Lysteri) and the red squirrel (Sciurus Hudsonius).

These species, in many respects, form a contrast to each other. The chipmunk, chipping squirrel, or hackee, has his abode underground in a specially constructed burrow; the red squirrel, or chickaree, lives in nests in trees; and the intelligence of the latter seems to be altogether of a much higher order than in the ground squirrel. This was abundantly illustrated in my experiments with an ordinary wire rat-trap having a spring door. The trap was scarcely laid down near the haunts of the chipmunk before one entered it, in fact before my eyes; and there was never any difficulty in securing as many as were wanted. On several occa-

  1. Part of a paper communicated to the Royal Society of Canada.