The animals are easily caught by setting the traps at the entrance of their burrows, and carefully covering them with loose earth, no bait being required. They may also be captured by the aid of a spring-pole, with noose attached, the pole being bent down and caught under a notched stick, and the noose being arranged at the opening of the burrow, see page 43, the Woodchuck in passing in or out will become entangled in the noose, and in his efforts to escape the pole will be loosened from the peg, thus lifting the animal in mid-air. Woodchucks are also sometimes drowned out of their holes, and the turtle is often put to good use for the purpose of smoking the animals from their subterranean dwellings. A ball of wicking saturated with kerosene is attached by a wire to the tail of the reptile. When the ball is ignited the creature is introduced into the entrance of the hole, and of course in fleeing from its fiery pursuer it traverses the full length of the burrow, and as another matter of course drives out its other occupants, which are shot or captured as they emerge.
The woodchunk’s skin is generally taken off as described for the muskrat, and stretched accordingly.
This remarkable little animal somewhat resembles the Mole in its general appearance and habits. It is also commonly known as the Canada Pouched Rat, and is principally found west of the Mississippi and northward. It is a burrowing animal, and like the Mole drives its subterranean tunnels in all directions, throwing up little hillocks at regular intervals of from five to twenty feet. Its body is thick set and clumsy and about ten inches long, and its Mole-like claws are especially adapted for digging. Its food consists of roots and vegetables, and its [Page 206] long and projecting incisors are powerful agents in cutting the roots which cross its path in making its burrow. The most striking characteristic of the animal, and that from which it takes its name, consists in the large cheek pouches which hang from each side of the mouth and extend back to to shoulders. They are used as receptacles of food which the animal hurriedly gathers when above ground, afterward returning to its burrow to enjoy its feast at its leisure. It was formerly very commonly and erroneously believed that the Gopher used its pouches in conveying the earth from its burrow, and this is generally supposed at the present day, but it is now known that the animal uses these pockets only for the conveyance of its food.
The color of the fur is reddish-brown on the upper parts, fading to ashy-brown on the abdomen, and the feet are white.
In making its tunnels, the dirt is brought to the surface, thus making the little mounds after the manner of the mole. After having dug its tunnel for several feet the distance becomes so great as to render this process impossible, and the old hole is carefully stopped up and a new one made at the newly excavated end of the tunnel, the animal continuing on in its labors and dumping from the fresh orifice. These mounds of earth occur at intervals on the surface of the ground, and although no hole can be discovered beneath them, they nevertheless serve to indicate the track of the burrow, which lies several inches beneath.