Gateway to the Classics: Handbook of Nature Study: Mammals by Anna Botsford Comstock
Handbook of Nature Study: Mammals by  Anna Botsford Comstock


dropcap image URRY was a baby red squirrel. One day in May his mother was moving him from one tree to another. He was clinging with his little arms around her neck and his body clasped tightly against her breast, when something frightened her and in her sudden movement, she dropped her heavy baby in the grass. Thus, I inherited him and entered upon the rather onerous duties of caring for a baby of whose needs I knew little; but I knew that every well cared for baby should have a book detailing all that happens to it, therefore, I made a book for Furry, writing in it each day the things he did. If the children who have pets keep similar books, they will find them most interesting reading afterward, and they will surely enjoy the writing very much.

Extracts from Furry's Note-book

May 18, 1902—The baby squirrel is just large enough to cuddle in one hand. He cuddles all right when once he is captured; but he is a terrible fighter, and when I attempt to take him in my hand, he scratches and bites and growls so that I have been obliged to name him Fury. I told him, however, if he improved in temper I would change his name to Furry.

May 19—Fury greets me, when I open his box, with the most awe-inspiring little growls, which he calculates will make me turn pale with fear. He has not cut his teeth yet, so he cannot bite very severely, but that isn't his fault, for he tries hard enough. The Naturalist said cold milk would kill him, so I warmed the milk and put it in a teaspoon and placed it in front of his nose; he batted the spoon with both forepaws and tried to bite it, and thus got a taste of the milk, which he drank eagerly, lapping it up like a kitten. When I hold him in one hand and cover him with the other, he turns contented little somersaults over and over.

May 20—Fury bit me only once to-day, when I took him out to feed him. He is cutting his teeth on my devoted fingers. I tried giving him grape-nuts soaked in milk, but he spat it out in disgust. Evidently he does not believe he needs a food for brain and nerve. He always washes his face as soon as he is through eating.

May 21—Fury lies curled up under his blanket all day. Evidently good little squirrels stay quietly in the nest, when the mother is not at home to give them permission to run around. When Fury sleeps, he rolls himself up in a little ball with his tail wrapped closely around him. The squirrel's tail is his "furs," which he wraps around him to keep his back warm when he sleeps in winter.

May 23—Every time I meet Uncle John he asks, "Is his name Fury or Furry now?" Uncle John is much interested in the good behavior of even little squirrels. As Fury has not bitten me hard for two days, I think I will call him Furry after this. He ate some bread soaked in milk to-day, holding it in his hands in real squirrel fashion. I let him run around the room and he liked it.

May 25—Furry got away from me this morning and I did not find him for an hour. Then I discovered him in a pasteboard box of drawing paper with the cover on. How did he squeeze through?

May 26—He holds the bowl of the spoon with both front paws while he drinks the milk. When I try to draw the spoon away, to fill it again after he has emptied it, he objects and hangs on to it with all his little might, and scolds as hard as ever he can. He is such a funny, unreasonable baby.

May 28—To-night I gave Furry a walnut meat. As soon as he smelled it he became greatly excited; he grasped the meat in his hands and ran off and hid under my elbow, growling like a kitten with its first mouse.

May 30—Since he tasted nuts he has lost interest in milk. The nut meats are too hard for his new teeth, so I mash them and soak them in water and now he eats them like a little piggy-wig with no manners at all. He loves to have me stroke his back while he is eating. He uses his thumbs and fingers in such a human way that I always call his front paws hands.  When his piece of nut is very small he holds it in one hand and clasps the other hand behind the one which holds the dainty morsel, so as to keep it safe.

May 31—When he is sleepy he scolds if I disturb him and, turning over on his back, bats my hand with all of his soft little paws and pretends that he is going to bite.

June 4—Furry ranges around the room now to please himself. He is a little mischief; he tips over his cup of milk and has commenced gnawing off the wall paper behind the book-shelf to make him a nest. The paper is green and will probably make him sorry.

June 5—This morning Furry was hidden in a roll of paper. I put my hand over one end of the roll and then reached in with the other hand to get him; but he got me instead, because he ran up my sleeve and was much more contented to be there than I was to have him. I was glad enough when he left his hiding place and climbed to the top shelf of the bookcase, far beyond my reach.

June 6—I have not seen Furry for twenty-four hours, but he is here surely enough. Last night he tipped over the ink bottle and scattered nut shells over the floor. He prefers pecans to any other nuts.

June 7—I caught Furry to-day and he bit my finger so it bled. But afterwards, he cuddled in my hand for a long time, and then climbed my shoulder and went hunting around in my hair and wanted to stay there and make a nest. When I took him away, he pulled out his two hands full of my devoted tresses. I'll not employ him as a hairdresser.

June 9—Furry sleeps nights in the top drawer of my desk; he crawls in from behind. When I pull out the drawer he pops out and scares me nearly out of my wits; but he keeps his wits about him and gets away before I can catch him.

June 20—I keep the window open so Furry can run out and in and learn to take care of himself out-of-doors.

Furry soon learned to take care of himself, though he often returned for nuts, which I kept for him in a bowl. He does not come very near me out-of-doors, but he often speaks to me in a friendly manner from a certain pitch pine tree near the house.

There are many blank leaves in Furry's note-book. I wish that he could have written on these of the things that he thought about me and my performances. It would certainly have been the most interesting book concerning squirrels in the world.

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