Page:VCH Warwickshire 1.djvu/249

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.

MAMMALS doubt whether it preys on shrews, but that it destroys a great many nests of ground build- ing birds is without doubt ; and that it follows moles in their subterranean runs is obvious from its being sometimes caught in the mole trap. 1 8. Badger. Meles me/es, Linn. Bell Meles taxus. An uncommon animal, which owes its very existence to its fossorial habits. Were it not gifted with great capabilities of exca- vating it would long since have disappeared from the cultivated parts of the county, in- deed probably it has become extinct in nearly all parts. 19. Otter. Lutra lutra, Linn. Bell Lutra vulgaris. Not so rare in the streams of Warwickshire as formerly when the upper Avon was a navigable stream. It cannot now be men- tioned as by any means abundant, but has certainly become more common since the navigation has been superseded by railways. A creature of the size of the otter is never likely to be plentiful in a stream passing through a cultivated district. RODENTIA 20. Squirrel. Sciurus leucourus, Kerr. Bell Sciurus vulgaris. Common in all considerable woods. It is accused by keepers and woodmen of destroy- ing the eggs and young of many tree build- ing birds. [Dormouse. Muscardinus ave/lanarius, Linn. The dormouse has been said to occur in the county, though the writer has never met with it, and it is not included by Mr. J. Steele Elliott in his list of the mammals of Sutton Coldfield.] 21. Brown Rat. Mas decumanus, Pallas. An abundant pest of nasty habits, but easily tamed even when not in captivity. Aged males often become solitary in their habits and develop cannibal propensities. 22. Black Rat. Mm rattus, Linn. A few years since the black rat was by no means rare in several localities in the county, all more or less near to the Avon ; and it was supposed that it was introduced by barges laden with grain up that stream from Glouces- ter and Bristol. That was probably the case, as since the navigation of the Avon has ceased the black rats have not been observed. It is still said to frequent some of the Bristol warehouses. 23. House Mouse. Mus musculus, Linn. Too abundant and too great a pest to re- quire further mention. 24. Long-tailed Field Mouse. Mus sylvati- cus, Linn. Common and frequenting the open fields. It is one of the prettiest of our mammals, and may be very easily tamed. 25. Harvest Mouse. Mus minutus, Pallas. So far as the observations of the present writer go, this small creature is found only in the southern and western parts of the county and is unknown in the north. It is more common in the valley of the Avon than else- where, preferring the lower and more fertile tracts. 26. Water Vole. Murotus amphibius, Linn. Bell Arvicola amphibius. Common wherever there is water, whether in river, brook, pond, or even ditch. Aquatic plants constitute the chief food, such as the succulent bottom part of the large bulrush and duckweed. When feeding on the latter the animal sits on its hind legs in the manner of a dormouse or squirrel, and conveys the weed to the mouth by the two paws, only the green leafy part being eaten. When hard pressed for food, more especially during floods, the bark of bushes and trees is eaten. 27. Field Vole. Microtus agrestis, Linn. A common and sleepy looking animal having very little intelligence, as any one keeping it in captivity will very soon observe. Sometimes, after severe winters, large orna- mental masses of ivy on walls or other build- ings will be seen in the spring to have dead branches, which on examination will be found to have been barked by mice. It is the pre- sent species, the writer believes, which must be credited with the mischief. 28. Bank Vole. Evotomys glareolus, Schreber. A less abundant species than the last named, but yet not rare. Its habits are very similar to those of the field vole, but it is a much more lively creature, while its brighter colour and less obese form add greatly to its general appearance. This and the last species, as well as the harvest mouse, the long-tailed field mouse, and the three species of shrews, were much more frequently met with before the 211