The American Ferret

The American ferret (Putorius nigripes, Audubon and Bachman), of which we offer a representation, is one of the least known of North American mammals, and is but rarely met with in collections. It was described by Audubon and Bachman in 1851 from a single specimen, and a quarter of a century passed before our knowledge of the species was in any wise augmented. In 1874, Dr. Coues advertised his desire for specimens in certain sporting papers, and was gratified to receive for the Smithsonian institution several examples from different localities. Since that time quite a number of specimens 1 TVCJE. [VOL. VI., No. 150. manni of Siberia. It seems very improbable, however, that Hensel’s view is correct. The specimen figured was obtained for the Smithsonian institution by Capt. James Gillis, at Cheyenne, Wyoming. The head and body measure 19 inches (following the curves); the tail, including the terminal pencil, 51 inches. F. W. TRUE. A CLERGYMAN has just been committed to prison in England for seven days as a penalty for striking a constable. The assailant was coming out of his house, when the policeman, who happened to be waiting to serve a summons, laid the document on his arm. His reverence exclaimed, “You brute, how you did frighten me!” and struck the constable a violent blow in the face with a candlestick. In commenting on this case, the Lancet says that it should not be forgotten THE AMERICAN FERRET. have accumulated in the national museum and some other establishments. Of the habits and distribution of the blackfooted ferret, we still know very little. The specimens thus far recorded are from Texas, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Montana, and Wyoming. The species probably ranges over the greater part of that section of the United States lying between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains. The specimens of which the history is known were taken from prairie-dog holes; and Dr. Coues states that about Fort Wallace, Kansas, the species is said to be known as the ‘prairie-dog hunter.’ Dr. Hayden found the remains of a prairie-dog in the stomach of a ferret which he sent to the Smithsonian institution. In his work upon the weasels, Dr. Coues established a special sub-genus, Cynomyonax, for the black-footed ferret, and in 1881 Hensel made the species synonymous with the Putorius Eversthat in many instances the immediate effect of a ‘fright’ is to make the person startled strike out with any thing at hand. Some persons are paralyzed by panic: others are instantly roused to action in a way that does not involve volition. The blow is as much the result of the excitation as the knee-jerk produced by striking the patellar tendon, albeit the train of actions is more complex, and involves the exercise of that co-ordinative faculty which has been called the sub-consciousness. In stumbling we make certain movements with the feet, and clutch at any thing that may be within reach in a manner designed to prevent or minimize the effect of a fall. A good horseman will, ‘instinctively,’ as we say, take such precautions as will prevent his being hurt by a fall. The will is not intentionally active in these processes. The recognition of the danger, and the adoption of suitable measures, seem to occupy too short a time for thought.


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