Categories: STEEL TRAPS AND THE ART OF TRAPPING.
There are many species of squirrels found in the United States,
but their fur is of little value, and of trifling importance in
the fur trade; the squirrel fur of our markets being that of a
small grey European variety. Squirrels, as a class, possess much
the same peculiarities and habits. Their claws are particularly
adapted for life among the trees; their tails are long and bushy,
covering over the backs of the anima
s when in a sitting posture.
They are all lithe and quick of movement, and their senses of sight
and hearing are especially keen. They are constantly on the alert,
and are full of artifice when pursued. Their food consists chiefly
of nuts, fruits, and grain, but when pushed by hunger, there is
no telling what they will not eat. They generally provide for the
winter months by laying up a store of the foregoing provisions,
either in holes in trees or interstices in the bark, or in cavities
under ground. The shag-bark hickory offers an especial inducement to
these provident creatures in the numerous crevices and cracks
throughout the bark. It is not an uncommon thing to find whole
handfuls of nuts carefully packed away in one of these cracks, and
a sharp stroke with an ax in the trunk of one of these trees will
often dislodge numbers of the nuts. The writer has many a time gone
nutting in this way in the middle of winter with good success. The
nests of squirrels are generally built in trees, either in a crotch
between the branches or in some deserted woodpecker's hole. Some
species live in burrows in the ground, and those individuals who
are lucky enough to be in the neighborhood of a barn often make their
abode therein, taking their regular three meals a day from the granary.
In many localities these animals thus become a perfect pest to the
farmers, and their destruction becomes a matter of urgent necessity.
Squirrels, although resembling each other much as regards
their general habits, differ considerably in the size and color
of the different species.
The principal varieties found on our continent are:--
The large grey squirrel, which is common in the Eastern and Middle
States, and which is about two feet in length, including the tail.
The common red squirrel, or chicaree, smaller than the foregoing,
and found more or less all through the United States. The black
squirrel, which is about the size of the grey, and found in the
north-eastern part of the United States, near the great lakes. In
the Southern States there is a variety known as the fox squirrel,
about the size of the red squirrel, and quite variable in color.
The Middle States furnishes a species called the cat squirrel,
rather smaller than the preceding. Its tail is very broad, and its
color varies from very light to very dark grey.
The ground squirrel, or chipmuck, with its prettily striped sides,
is common to most of our readers, its general color being red and
the stripes being black and white.
Another burrowing species, known as the Oregon or downy squirrel,
is found in the Territory from which it takes its name, and also
northward in British America. In size it resembles the chipmuck,
and its color is light red above, pure white beneath, and silver
grey at the sides.
The beautiful silky variety, known as the flying squirrel, with
its grey chinchilla-like fur and loose skin, is found throughout
the United States east of the Mississippi.
Louisiana and Texas furnish the golden-bellied squirrel, which is
about twenty inches in length, with tail golden yellow beneath,
and golden grey above. The sooty squirrel is also found in this
locality, being about the same size as the last mentioned, and
black above and brownish red beneath.
There are other varieties in California known as the woolly,
soft-haired, and weasel squirrels; and in the Western States we
find the large red-tailed squirrels, which are about the size of
the large grey variety of the Eastern and Middle States.
Squirrels, as a tribe, are much sought for as pets, and most of
the species are easily tamed.
Box traps of various kinds are used in taking them alive. The varieties
on pages 103, 106 and 110 are especially adapted for this purpose,
and should be set either in the trees or on the ground, and baited
with an apple, a portion of an ear of corn, or of whatever the
animal is particularly fond.
When the animals exist in such numbers as to become a destructive
nuisance to the farm, the small-sized steel trap, No. 0, arranged
with bait hung above it, will work to good advantage. Twitch-ups
are also successful, and we might also recommend the traps on pages
107, 116 and 128 as worthy of trial when the animal is not desired
to be captured alive.
Squirrels may be skinned either by ripping up the belly, or in a
whole piece, as described in regard to the fox.
We pause before going further into the mysteries of trapping in
connection with the animals which we are about to consider, as
they are generally exempt from the wiles of the trapper's art,
coming more properly in the field of the hunter or sportsman. The
idea of trapping a deer, for instance, seems barbarous indeed;
but are not all the ways of deceiving and killing these splendid
animals equally so? Are not the various strategies and cunning
devices of the sportsman, by which these noble creatures are decoyed
and murdered, equally open to the same objection? As far as barbarity
goes, there is to us but little choice between the two methods;
and, generally speaking, we decry them both, and most especially
do not wish to be understood as encouraging the trapping of these
animals, except where all other means have failed, and in cases
where their capture becomes in a measure a matter of necessity.
This is often the case in the experience of professional trappers.
The life of the trapper during the trapping season is spent almost
entirely in the wilderness, often many miles from any human habitation;
and at times he is solely dependent upon his gun or trap for his
Sometimes in a dry season, when the leaves and twigs crackle under
foot, the rifle is as good as useless, for it becomes impossible to
approach a deer within shooting range. And there are other times
when ammunition is exhausted, and the trapper is thus forced to rely
only on his traps for his supply of food. In such circumstances,
the necessities of the trapper are paramount, and the trapping of
deer, in such straits, as the most desirable food is rather to
be recommended than condemned. The same remarks also in a measure
apply to the moose and prong-horn antelope, as well as to several
other animals hereinafter mentioned, as they are generally considered
more in the light of the hunter's than the trapper's game.