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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/577

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561
"SALAMANDERS" AND "SALAMANDER" CATS.

Indeed, it is by taking advantage of this morbid antipathy to intruders and daylight that our little underground dweller is usually caught. If by skillful digging a recently formed burrow is reached, one may be reasonably certain that in from five to ten minutes Mr. "Salamander" will be on hand to see what has happened and to repair damages. A shotgun kept steadily aimed at the opening, and with a quick pull on the trigger the instant the slightest movement in the sand is seen, "fetches" him every time. Another very successful method is to place a strong trap right at the opening into his burrow. In making repairs our "salamander" is in too big a hurry to look very carefully where he steps, and so is quite likely to blunder into the trap. He is always caught, however, by one of his legs, and if left any length of time is quite apt to gnaw off the captive limb and thus make his escape. Spartan bravery or love of freedom surpassing this would be hard to find.

The food of Geomys bursarius appears to be exclusively vegetable. Native roots and root stocks, cones and bulbs, together with the root bark of various trees, are eaten by him, and sometimes in a very annoying way. Orange trees are peculiarly liable to his attacks. He gnaws through and around the tap root as near to the surface as he can without disturbing it or in any way calling attention to his work, and not infrequently he continues his depredations until every root of any size is eaten off. This, of course, means the death of the tree.

From the "salamander" point of view, however, the greatest food "bonanza" of all is a sweet-potato patch. "A 'possum up a 'simmon tree" or a "pig in clover" is not more alive to the delights and advantages of the situation. He not only eats all he can stuff, but invites his relatives and friends. Nor is this all. He has learned that in autumn sweet potatoes are liable to suddenly disappear, so he "takes time"—and the potatoes—"by the forelock," and packs them away in liberal measure in his burrow for winter use. So well understood are the ways and weaknesses of this underground marauder that any suspicious mound of earth in a sweet-potato field is the signal for an active campaign of extermination, which ends only in the intruder's flight or death.

The "side pockets" of the "salamander" have already been referred to. They are undoubtedly a great convenience to their owner in carrying food and possibly other things. The capacity of these cheek pouches is about sufficient to give room for a pigeon's egg. They are, however, quite extensile, and can readily be made to hold three or four times this amount. Indeed, the skin and underlying connective tissue are so elastic that these pockets can