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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/573

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soil surface. If you ask a native the cause of this singular phenomenon, which you will perhaps at first be disposed to consider a kind of arenaceous eruption which has somehow broken out on the face of Nature, your informant will sententiously reply, "Salamanders!"

All this disfigurement is indeed the work of a curious little rodent popularly so named and about the size and color of an ordinary rat. He is never seen above ground if he can possibly help it. He digs innumerable branching underground tunnels at depths varying from one to six feet, and these mounds of sand are simply the "dump heaps" which, in his engineering operations, he finds it necessary to make.

After carrying the excavated earth to the surface this cautious little miner takes the greatest pains to cover up his tracks. No

PSM V56 D0573 Pocket gopher.png
"Snap-shot" View of a Live "Salamander."

opening into his burrow is left. How he manages to so carefully smooth over his little sand mound and then literally "pull the hole in after him" is as yet unexplained. The work is mostly done at night, when observation is especially difficult. Sometimes, when he is a little belated and the early morning twilight admonishes him that it is "quitting time," he gets in a hurry and slights his work. Then a little depression at the top of the mound tells where he has made a hasty exit. Ordinarily the rounding out of the sand pile is as deftly done as though it had all been managed from above. Indeed, the feat actually accomplished by this little underground builder appears more puzzling the more it is considered. The most skilled human engineer would confess his inability to