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red; the eyes are very small, and the ears resemble those of a mouse.
It appears early in the summer, and commences its flight in the dusk of the evening; principally frequenting the sides of woods and shady walks, and skimming along the surface of pieces of water. Its flight is a laborious irregular movement, and if it happen to be interrupted in its course, it cannot readily prepare for a second elevation; so that if it strike against any object, and fall to the ground, it may be easily taken. It feeds upon gnats, moths, and nocturnal insects of every kind, and appears only in the most pleasant evenings, when such prey is abroad. At other times it remains concealed in the chink of some dilapidated building, or the hollow of a tree. Thus, even in summer, it sleeps away the greatest part of its time; never venturing out by daylight, nor in rainy weather: and its short life is still more abridged, by continuing in a state of torpidity during the winter; when it is frequently found hanging by its hooked claws to the roofs or sides of caves, unaffected by every change of weather, and regardless of the eternal damps that surround it.
From the observations of Spallanzani, it appears that the LONG-EARED, the HORSESHOE, and the Noc. TULE Bats possess an additional sense, by which, when deprived of the power of seeing, they are enabled to avoid any obstacles that may be in the way of their flight.
THE VAMPYRE. This formidable species of Bat is to be found in Guinea, Madagascar, the islands of the Indian Ocean, and New Holland. It is from nine inches to a foot in length, and its wings sometimes expand to the width of upwards of four feet. In colour it is generally of a deep reddish brown. The head bears a resemblance to that of a fox, and the tongue is pointed and terminated by sharp prickles. In those hot climates, the inhabitants leave open the doors and windows of their bedchambers, by which means the Vampyres enter; and if they find any part of the body exposed, they invariably fasten upon it, insinuate their aculeated tongue into a vein, with all the art of the most experienced surgeon, and continue to suck the blood till they are satiated. And it frequently occurs that persons, when awaked from their sleep (through loss of blood), have not sufficient strength left to bind up the orifice. The reason why the puncture is not felt is that, while the Vampyre is sucking, it continues to fan the air with its wings in such a manner that the refreshing breeze lulls the sufferer into a still deeper sleep.
The smell of these creatures is ranker than that of a fox, yet the Indians consider them as delicious food, and the French who reside in the Isle of Bourbon even boil them in their soup to give it a relish! The hair of the Vampyre Bat, interwoven with threads of cyperus squamosus, is used by the natives of New Caledonia for making ropes and the tassels of their clubs.
The distinguishing marks of all the Weasel tribe are long and slender bodies, short legs, and great flexi
bility of motion, the latter of which is a consequence of the loose articulation of the spine. They are thus eminently calculated to pursue their prey through narrow and deep recesses. They are all of a bold and ferocious disposition. As their subsistence is precarious, they sometimes live a long time without food; and if they happen to fall in where it is plentiful, they destroy all about them before they attempt to satisfy their appetite, and suck the blood before they begin to touch the flesh.
The Weasel is the smallest of this numerous tribe; and is an active and handsome little animal. Exclusive of the tail it is not seven inches in length; and its height is not more than two and a half. The tail which is bushy, measures about two inches and a half. The colour of the Weasel is a pale reddish brown on the back and sides, but white under the throat and the belly. The eyes are small and black; the ears short and roundish, and the nose is furnished with whiskers, like those of a cat. It moves by unequal leaps, and can spring several feet from the ground, or run up a wall without difficulty.
In its wild state, the night is the time during which this animal may be properly said to live. At the approach of evening, it is seen stealing from its hole, and creeping about the farmer's yards in quest of prey. It destroys rats, mice, moles, poultry, pigeons, rabbits, and even hares; and it also sucks eggs, by making a small hole at one end, through which it licks out the yolk. It seizes its prey near the head, but seldom eats it on the spot. Buffon relates an instance of a Weasel which was tamed, and which then manifested much good temper and affection, and an unbounded curiosity.
The Polecat, or Fitchet, is about seventeen inches in length; of a deep chocolate colour, nearly approaching to black; has short ears, tipped with white, and the tail is covered with longish hair. In summer he generally lives in woods, thick brakes, or rabbit warrens. His burrow is about two yards deep, and commonly ends under the root of a tree. In winter he haunts barns, haylofts, and other outhouses, whence he sallies forth on the poultry.
These animals are very destructive to young game of all kinds, and commit dreadful devastations among pigeons when they get into a dovehouse. Without making so much noise as the Weasel, they do a great deal more mischief; dispatching each victim with a single wound in the head, and satiating themselves with copious draughts of blood, after which they carry off the prey: or if the aperture by which they entered will not admit of this, they first eat the brains, and then carry away the head, leaving the body behind. They are also extremely fond of honey, and are frequently known, in winter, to attack the hives, and drive away the bees. Rabbits, however, seem to be their favourite prey, and a single Polecat is often sufficient to destroy a whole warren. They will also
catch and eat fish, though, probably, this is done by them only when other food is not attainable.
The odour of the Polecat is insufferably fetid; yet the fur, especially when procured in the winter, is both valuable and beautiful.
The Ferret resembles the polecat in his manners and babits, yet is evidently a distinct species. It is originally a native of Africa. It is not so large as a polecat, is of a dingy but pale yellow, has red eyes, and a strong and offensive smell. Though not difficult to be tamed, it is of an irascible nature, and will bite severely. It is used for driving rabbits from their burrows into the nets which are set for them. For this purpose the Ferret is always muzzled; for it is such an inveterate enemy of the rabbit kind, that if a dead one be presented to a young Ferret, it instantly bites at it; or if it be living, the Ferret seizes it by the neck, winds itself round it, and continues to suck its blood till it be satiated.—They are usually fed with bread and milk, and kept in boxes of wool, with which they make themselves a warm bed, to defend them from the inclemency of winter. There is a mixed breed, between the Ferret and the polecat, which some warreners prefer to the wholebred Ferret.