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.)