No country in the Old World has so many true ground squirrels as we have. Prairie dogs, gophers and woodchucks are ground squirrels. The gopher is the ill-tempered, rat-like hermit of the garden. You may be sure he is under a flower or vegetable bed, biting off roots, if plant tops suddenly wither. But be careful in digging him out. He cannot be tamed, and he bites with his chisel teeth. The prairie dog is found only on the wide plains of the West. To try to dig a village of these amusing little yappers out is like starting to dig a well. In the park zoo the prairie dog village is in a deep cement-lined pit filled with earth, so these clever little animals cannot tunnel and spread over the park.

Prairie Dog



Woodchuck Or Ground Hog


You can dig the woodchuck, or ground-hog, out. He is the fat, sleepy-head bear squirrel. Don't look for him in the woods. Keep your eyes open when crossing a hill-side clover field, or in going down a steep creek bank. If you see a hole big enough to thrust your arm in, probe it with a stick. If the hole slants upwards, Mr. Woodchuck is there. In the winter you can dig him out and roll him on the snow, like a flabby muff of coarse, gray-brown hair. He is so fast asleep that if you take him into a warm house he will open his eyes, yawn, crawl under a bed or bureau, and go to sleep again. Some people say he wakes up on the second of February. If the sun is shining, and he sees his shadow, he knows there will be six weeks more of winter, so he goes to sleep again. With his clumsy body, flat head, beady eyes, and small ears and tail, he doesn't look in the least like a squirrel. But he sits upright to eat, and to look about. He never goes far from his hole, for he cannot run well. When alarmed, he jumps to shelter like a rabbit.

Molly Cottontail pricks up her nervous ears at that. " Not run well! Just watch me for three seconds!" she says. Look out for bunny. She is the color of dead grass, weeds and snow. She may be at your feet, or in that weedy fence corner. She smells you, hears you, sees you. She doesn't know yet, whether to sit still or to run. Boys can't smell rabbits, but dogs can. " Zip! " there she goes, a flying brown shadow, the bit of white under her tail, a flag of truce that no one regards. Poor Molly Cottontail! A timid, helpless creature, her only safety is in her legs. She cannot climb a tree, dig a den, or bite. She cannot crack nuts nor store food. She can run fast but not far. Her home is wherever she sleeps, out in the open, ears erect, eyes half-closed, nose wide and quivering. She is lucky if she gets forty winks at a time. If no dogs are about, she may creep under a barn, or in a wood pile, in cold weather. She distrusts a hole, because foxes, owls and other enemies live in holes.

The one clever thing she can do is to cut tunnel roads in undergrowth. Bunny slips and winds through these six-inch mazes of runways she has patiently cut with her teeth. There she puzzles and tires out dogs and foxes by crossing the scent, and so gets away. A sociable little creature, Molly lives a fugitive life and all alone, for safety. On some brambly hill-side, you may come upon the shallow nest she has scooped out and lined with white fur from her own breast. Do not frighten her. There she brings up her brood of six or eight babies, in fear of their lives and her own.