140 Little Nimble Weasel
PUTORIUS AGILIS.--AUD. and BACH. [Mustela fronata] LITTLE NIMBLE WEASEL. [Long-tailed Weasel] PLATE CXL.--MALE and FEMALE. WINTER PELAGE. P. Magnitudine intermedius P. pusillum inter et P. fuscum; cauda longa, auriculis prominulis, aestate supra dilute fuscus, subtus albus, hyeme corpore toto caudaque niveis, cauda apice nigro. CHARACTERS. Intermediate in size between P. pusillus and P. fuscus; tail, long; ears, prominent. Colour, in summer, light brown above, white beneath; in winter, body and tail, pure white, except the tip of the latter, which is broadly tipped with black. DESCRIPTION. This hitherto undescribed species is light, slender, and graceful, with well proportioned limbs, giving evidence of activity and sprightliness; it may be termed a miniature of the ermine; it stands proportionately higher on its legs, and although the smaller animal of the two, has the most prominent ears; the hair is softer and shorter, both in summer and winter, than in either the ermine or Brown Weasel (P. fuscus); whiskers, numerous but rather short. Head, moderate; skull, broad; nose, short and rather pointed; feet, small; nails, partially concealed by the hair on the feet; tail, long, covered with fur to within one and three quarters of an inch of the end, where it terminates in long straight smooth hairs. COLOUR. In summer: Head, ears, neck, outer surface of thighs, all the upper portions of the back, and the tail on both surfaces to near the tip, light brown, which is the colour of the hair from the roots to the tips; end of the tail, black; chin, throat, chest, belly, and inner side of thighs, white; the brown colour extends far down on the sides and flanks, leaving a rather narrow stripe of white beneath, which is broadest on the neck; the line of demarcation between the upper and under colours on the sides is distinctly but somewhat irregularly drawn. All the feet are brown; whiskers and nails, dark brown; teeth, white. In winter: Pure white on the whole body, and for about three inches on the tail; tip of the tail, black for an inch and three quarters; tip of nose, flesh colour; whiskers, mostly white, a few black. DIMENSIONS. Inches. Point of nose to root of tail,. . . . 8 1/2 Length of tail (vertebrae),. . . . . 3 3/4 Length of tail (to end of hair), . . . 4 3/4 Point of nose to ear,. . . . . . . 1 1/4 Height of ear externally, . . . . . 1/4 HABITS. We preserved a specimen of this little animal during several months in the winter, forty years ago, in the northern part of New York; it had been captured in a box trap, which was set near its hole in a pine forest, whither we had tracked it on the snow, believing from its small foot-prints that it was some unknown species of Rodentia. What was our surprise when on the following morning we discovered the eyes of this little marauder prying through the crevices of the trap. Supposing it to be a young ermine we preserved it through the winter, under the impression that it would become tame, and increasing in size, attain its full growth by the following spring; we were, however, disappointed in our expectations; it continued wild and cross, always printing on our gloves the form of the cutting edges of its teeth whenever we placed our hand within the box. It concealed itself in its nest, in a dark corner of the cage, during the whole day, and at night was constantly rattling and gnawing at the wires in the endeavour to effect its escape. We fed it on small birds, which it carried to its dark retreat and devoured greedily. Having placed a common Weasel, twice the size of our animal, in the cage with it, the ermine immediately attacked our little fellow, which ensconced itself in a corner at the back of the cage, where with open mouth and angry eyes, uttering a hissing spitting or sputtering noise, he drew back his lips and showed his sharp teeth in defiance of his opponent. To relieve him from a troublesome companion we removed the ermine. Towards spring we placed a Norway rat in his cage in order to test his courage. The rat and the Weasel retreated to opposite corners and eyed each other during the whole day; on the following morning we found the rat had been killed; but the Weasel was so much wounded that he died before evening. We have no other information in regard to the habits of this Weasel. Its burrow, the entrance to which was very small, and without any hillock of earth at its borders, was situated in a high ridge of pine land. We have no doubt that, like the ermine, in prowling about it finds its way into the retreats of the meadow-mouse, the little chipping squirrel, and other small animals, for although the rat above mentioned was too formidable an opponent, we are confident it could easily have mastered the little Tamias Lysteri. GEOGRAPHICAL DISTRIBUTION. We have only observed this Weasel in the northern part of the State of New York, but the specimens from which we drew our figures were procured by Mr. J. G. BELL in Rockland county in that State.