May 17th, 2006


Mystery Mammal Revealed!

For a few days now, James and I have been catching sight of a Mystery Mammal in the yard. He's smaller than a squirrel and very quick, so it's been hard to get a good enough look to ID. But this morning, he decided to amble up the path, picking up birdseed, and I got the binoculars on him, revealing our native friend, the Hispid cotton rat.

Well, I use the word "friend" loosely. They're not really a problem to me at the moment, but they have been known to occasionally swarm in the grain belt. E-nature describes it, with great understatement, as "one of the most prolific of all mammals." They can breed at six weeks. Even for a rodent, that's a pretty quick turnaround.

Cotton rats are rats, as one might guess, but chunkier and rounder than the Norwegian version, perhaps owing to the lack of cross-country skiing. Their tails are shorter in proportion to their body, and they're standard issue agouti. (Agouti: When We Can't Think Of Any Other Color To Be.)

He's not bothering anybody, and his family was probably here before I was, so I'll leave him alone.

I also discovered, to my unspeakable delight, while looking this guy up that there is a beast that lives in western North Carolina called the Southern Bog Lemming.

Dude. Bog lemmings. That's wonderful! I can see tiny hordes assembling and marching off to throw themselves in the bog. Then they sit there for a minute, look sheepish, lemming-paddle to the shore and go home.

Well, except for Fred, who found the quicksand. Good show, Fred!

(Yes, yes, I know, urban legend, lemmings don't do that, Disney's totally responsible. This is mythology, people, not biology.)


Like any of my brief obsessions, there will probably be two or three of these before I am distracted by another shiny object...

Edit: Why is it that you always have the painting finished and uploaded before it occurs to you that the way he's holding his arm makes it look like he's flashing some kind of (admittedly limited by digit number) gang sign, or maybe flipping the viewer off?

Oh, well.