Exploration of the Red River of Louisiana, in the year 1852 / by Randolph B. Marcy ; assisted by George B. McClellan. Page: 63 of 368
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ASSOCIATES OF THE PRAIRIE-DOGS.
the elevated table-lands of New Mexico, where there was no water upon
the surface of the ground for twenty miles, and where it did not seem
probable that it could be obtained by excavating to the depth of a hundred
feet. This has induced me to believe that they do not require that
element without which most other animals perish in a short time.
As there are generally no rains or dews during the summer months
upon the plains where these towns are found, and as the animals never
wander far from home, I think I am warranted in coming to the conclusion
that they require no water beyond that which the grass affords
them. That they hybernate and pass the winter in a lethargic or torpid
state is evident, from the fact that they lay up no sustenance for the
winter, and that the grass around their holes dries up in the autumn, the
earth freezes hard, and renders it utterly impossible for them to procure
food in the usual manner.
When the prairie-dog first feels the approach of the sleeping season,
(generally about the last days of October,) he closes all the passages to
his dormitory to exclude the cold air, and betakes himself to his brumal
slumber with the greatest possible care. He remains housed until the
warm days of spring, when he removes the obstructions from his door,
and again appears above ground as frolicsome as ever.
I have been informed by the Indians, that a short time before a cold
storm in the autumn, all the prairie dogs may be seen industriously
occupied with weeds and earth closing the entrances to their burrows.
They are sometimes, however, seen reopening them while the weather is
still cold and stormy, but mild and pleasant weather is always certain to
It appears, therefore, that instinct teaches the little quadrupeds when
to expect good or bad weather, and to make their arrangements aocordingly.
A species of small owl is always found in the dog towns,
sitting at the mouths of the holes when not occupied by the dogs;
whether for the purpose of procuring food, or for some other object, I
do not know. They do not, however, as some have asserted, burrow
with the dogs; and when approached, instead of entering the holes, they
invariably fly away. It has also been said that the rattl snake is a
constant companion of the dog; but this is a mistake, for I have sometimes
passed for days through the towns without seeing one. They are,
however, often seen in the holes in company with the dogs, and it has
been supposed by some that they were welcome guests with the proprietors
of the establishments; but we have satisfied ourselves that this
is a domestic arrangement entirely at variance with the wishes of the
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Marcy, Randolph Barnes. Exploration of the Red River of Louisiana, in the year 1852 / by Randolph B. Marcy ; assisted by George B. McClellan., book, 1854; Washington, DC. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth6105/m1/63/: accessed March 22, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; .