Page:VCH Surrey 1.djvu/264

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A HISTORY OF SURREY 1 8. Polecat. Putorius putorius, Linn. Bell Mustcla putorius. The polecat certainly existed in Surrey for many years after the disappearance of the marten, but there is little doubt that it is now extinct. It is probable, from the records which exist of its occurrence, that it was much commoner than the former animal. Mr. Harting, in his paper on this species pub- lished in the Zoologist, 1891, p. 283, writes : 'In the woodlands of Surrey in years gone by I have occasionally come across traces of the polecat, and seen recently killed speci- mens strung up by the keepers or brought home to be stuffed by the local taxidermist.' Brewer included it in his Reigate list of mammals (Flora of Reigate, 1856), and Mr. Henry Sawyer of Richmond Park tells us that fifty years ago they were well known there, but have now disappeared (in lit.). About twenty-eight years ago seven were killed amongst some poultry near Chobham, one killed about twenty years ago near the same place, and another about 1885 taken alive in that neighbourhood (Le Marchant in lit.). Mr. Larken believes that many years ago it used to be found in Gatton Woods (in lit.), and about 1886 one was observed and nearly caught at Headley Park, Epsom (Murray). Since that date there seems to be no record of any specimen having been observed or captured in the county. The existence of both this and the preceding species became utterly impossible as game preservation particularly of pheasants grew more and more close. 19. Stoat. Putorius ermineus, Linn. Bell Musteb erminea. The stoat is still common in the rural districts, though it is probably slowly sharing the fate of the marten and polecat. A speci- men preserved by Mr. Reeves of Reigate was of a whitish yellow colour with pink eyes and without any black tip to its tail, probably a true albino. It was shot near Reigate in 1885. A curious story by no means unique is told by Mr. F. H. Salvin, who states that a man bathing in a canal near Guildford was attacked by no fewer than twelve stoats and badly bitten, but with the aid of a passer-by managed to kill three and put the remainder to flight. The account of this remarkable incident is related in the recently published Memoir of Lord Lilford. 2O. Weasel. Putorius nivalis, Linn. Bell Mustela vulgaris. Still abundant in the country and in our opinion a good deal more common than the stoat. It is of course trapped and shot religiously and is probably on the decrease. Bell in his British Quadrupeds (2nd ed. p. 187) states that in Surrey it is known by the name of 'kine,' a word signifying the same as the French ' chien.' 21. Badger. Meles meles, Linn. Bell Meles taxtu. The badger is of such nocturnal habits that its presence is often seldom recognized even in places where it is of quite common occur- rence. In Surrey the species is now confined to the most rural districts, but it is only within the last twenty years that it has come to be regarded as at all uncommon. They were once quite abundant round Boxhill and amongst the thick woods running across the Weald, but at the present day the chief localities in Surrey in which they are to be found are the western district near Hascombe and Bramley and again westward by Loseley, Eashing and Peper Harrow. We have however casual notes of its occur- rence from all over the county and a few are still to be found in a good many places. Brockham, the little village not far from Dorking, is doubtless ' The Badger's Home,' ' Brock ' being the old English name given to this species. ^ Mr. F. H. Salvin of Whitmoor House, Guildford, bred and reared the badger in captivity very successfully. As a rule little mercy is shown to this poor beast if a chance is obtained of shooting or catching it or even, as has been the case to our own knowledge more than once, running into it with a pack of hounds. 22. Otter. Lutra lutra, Linn. Bell Lutra vulgaris. The occasionally published exploits of the redoubtable 'Otter' Hone show that this species is still fairly common on the Thames. Up the Wey and Mole and right up their smaller tributaries the otter frequently ascends and sometimes is found too on the chain of big western lakes. The otter travels over- land so quickly and so far that it is quite possible that the Surrey specimens are not all ascendants from the Thames but come from the south country watershed. Most of the Surrey otters are on the move when caught, but a good many breed in the ' deeps ' of the two principal streams and we understand near one at least of the larger meres. We have a strange record of a fine male, weighing 32 lb., being killed by the train between Betchworth and Reigate in 1886. 222