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Lewis & Clark as Naturalists
The Journals Lewis and Clark as Naturalists

Mountain Beaver

Capt. Lewis, February 26, 1806--Sewelel is the Chinnook and Clatsop name for a small animal found in the timbered country on the coast.  it is more abundant in the neighbourhood of the great falls and raids of the Columbia than immediately on the coast.  the natives make great use of the skins of this animal in forming their robes, which they dress with the fur on them and attatch together with sinews of Elk or deer.  I have never seen the animal and can therefore discribe it only from the skin and a slight view which some of our hunters have obtained of the living animal.  the skin when dressed is from 14 to 18 inches in length and from 7 to 9 in width; the tail is always severed from the skin in forming their robes I cannot therefore say what form or length it is.  one of the men informed me that he thought it reather short and flat.  that he saw one of them run hp a tree like a squirrel and that it returned and ran into a hole in the ground.  the ears are short thin pointed and covered with short fine hair.  they are of a uniform colour, a redish brown; tho' the base of the long hairs, which exceed the fur but little in length, as well as the fur itself is of a dark colour for at least two thirds of it's length next to the skin.  the fur and hair are very fine, short, thickly set and silkey.  the ends of the fur and tips of the hair being of the redish brown that colour predominates in the ordinary appearance of the animal.  I take this animal to be about the size of the barking squirrel of the Missouri.  and beleive most probably that it is of the Mustela genus, or perhaps the brown mungo itself.  I have indeavoured in many instances to make the indians sensible how anxious I was to obtain one of these animals entire, without being skinned, and offered them considerable rewards to furnish me with one, but have not been able to make them comprehend me.  I have purchased several of the robes made of these skins to line a coat which I have had made of the skins of the tiger cat.  they make a very pleasant light lining.

Capt. Clark, February 26, 1806--Sewelel is the Clatsop and Chinnook name for a small animal found in the timbered country on the coast.  it is more abundant in the neighbourhood of the great falls and raids of the Columbia than immediately on the coast.  the nativs make great use of the skins of this animal in forming their robes, which they dress with the fur on them and attached together with sinears [sinews] of the Elk or Deer.  I have never seen the animal and can therefore only discribe it from the skin and a slight view which some of our party have obtained of the liveing animal.  the skin when dressed is from 14 to 18 inches in length, and from 7 to 9 in width; the tail is always severed from the body in forming their robes, I cannot therefore say in what form or length it is.  one of the men informed me that he thought it reather short and flat.  that he saw one of them run up a tree like a squirrel, and that it returned and ran into a hole in the ground.  the ears are short, thin, pointed and covered with short fine hair.  they are of a uniform colour, a redish brown; tho the base of the long hairs, exceed the fur but little in length, as well as the fur itself is of a dark colour for at least 2/3rds of it's length next to the skin.  the fur and hair are very fine, short, thickly set, and silky.  the ends of the fur and tips of the hair is of the redish brown, that colour prodominates in the ordinary appearance of the animal.  I took this animal to be about the size of the barking squirrel of the Missouri.  and believe most probably that it is of the Mustela genus, or perhaps the brown mungo itself.  I have in maney instances endeavured to make the nativs sensiable how anxious I was to obtain one of these animals entire, without being skinned, and offered them rewards to furnish me with one, but have not been able to make them comprehend me.  we have purchased several of the roabs made of these skins to loin [line] a westcoat of the sea otter, which I have made and Capt Lewis a Tiger cat skin coat loined with them also, they make a very pleasant light lining.

 
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