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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/578

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562
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

readily be turned inside out. It is claimed that the "salamander" employs his handlike fore feet to fill and empty these receptacles, using the right foot for the left pouch, and vice versa. A gentleman in Florida recently assured me that by a lucky thrust of a spade he once killed one of these mischievous rodents as he was in the very act of cutting off the roots of an orange tree. The cheek pouches of the culprit were filled with fragments of bark which he had gnawed off, doubtless to be stowed away in his burrow.

Why, in a climate where there is almost no winter, where there is very little interruption to vegetable growth and the food supply is practically unlimited, provisions should thus be stored away is somewhat difficult to explain. It is not impossible that it is simply the survival of an ancestral habit acquired during the Glacial period. Or it may be that, like the dog, the "salamander" finds the flavor of old and well-seasoned food more to his taste. All that can be positively affirmed is that this wise little rodent does, occasionally at least, thus caché his food supplies.

One of the most curious results of the existence and habits of this elusive little burrowing rodent is the development of a new and peculiar breed of Felis domestica, called "salamander" cats. Ordinary tabbys do not understand or admire the ways of Geomys bursarius, or, for some other good and sufficient feline reason, do not include him in their game list. The variety of cats in question, which, so far as the author knows, is confined to Florida, appears to have been developed spontaneously and with very little if any human agency, and is noted for its special skill in catching "salamanders," as well as a decided liking for the sport. Any Mrs. Tabby of this breed, especially if she has a family to provide for, is up betimes in the morning. The particular object of her pursuit is a remarkably early riser, and finishes his day's work before most people have begun theirs. So if there is a convenient fence around the grounds she proposes to hunt she mounts it with the first peep of day, and, with a sharp eye to landward, starts on her tour of observation. Any fresh pile of sand is closely scrutinized. The slightest movement there brings her to the mound with a spring, and she is at once crouching behind it; so when Mr. Geomys comes up in a big hurry with his next load of sand he finds somebody to meet him that is in a bigger hurry still, and so the unsuspecting victim is borne off in triumph.

An estimable lady of the writer's acquaintance who owned one of these "salamander" cats, with a single juvenile pussy to provide for, kept an accurate account of the number of these rodents which she saw this industrious mother cat bring to her offspring in a single month. The number was thirty, and as the month hap-