AUDUBON, John James (1785-1851) Vol. I, Plate 4, Florida Rat

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Painted by John James Audubon (1785-1851) with background likely by Victor Gifford Audubon (1809-1860)
Lithographed by J. T. Bowen &. Co.
Lithograph with hand color, paper dimensions: approximately 28 x 22 inches
From Vol. I, Part 1 of John James Audubon and John Bachman’s (1790-1875) The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America.
New York: V.G. Audubon, 1845-1848.

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The following passage is included in the accompanying description of Neotoma Floridana, Say et Ord. Florida Rat:

“The specimens from which we drew the figures we have given on our plate, which represents this species in various ages and attitudes on the branch of a pine tree, were obtained in South Carolina, and were preserved alive for several weeks in cages having wire fronts. They made no attempt to gnaw their way out. On a previous occasion we preserved an old female with three young (which latter were born in the cage a few days after the mother had been captured) for nearly a year; by which time the young had attained the size of the adult. We fed them on corn, potatoes, rice, and bread, as well as apples and other fruit. They seemed very fond of corn flour, (Indian meal,) and for several months subsisted on the acorns of the live oak. (Quercus virens.)

They became very gentle, especially one of them which was in a separate cage. It was our custom at dark to release it from confinement, upon which it would run around the room in circles, mount the table we were in the habit of writing at, and always make efforts to open a particular drawer in which we kept some of its choicest food…

About fifteen years ago, on a visit to the grave-yard of the church at Ebenezer, Georgia, we were struck with the appearance of several very large nests near the tops of some tall evergreen oaks (Quercus aquaticus); on disturbing the nests, we discovered them to be inhabited by a number of Florida rats of all sizes, some of which descended rapidly to the ground, whilst others escaped to the highest branches, where they were concealed among the leaves. These nests in certain situations are of enormous size. We have observed some of them on trees, at a height of from ten to twenty feet from the ground, where wild vines had made a tangled mass over head, which appeared to be larger than a cart wheel and contained a mass of leaves and sticks that would have more than filled a barrel.”