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Devil Squirrel

This article was originally posted to the Freelance Traveller website in 2009, and reprinted in the November/December 2012 issue of the magazine.

Classic Traveller Statistics

Devil Squirrel

TEMPERATE FOREST Terrain Standard world, dense atmosphere, 40%-80% hydrographics
  # Enc Mass Hits Armor Wounds Weapons      
(Glider) Pouncer 3D 2-3kg 2/5 none 1D + poison* sting A(surprise) F(surprised) S2

*Poison causes paralysis and damage to tissues as follows:

For the first sting that INFLICTS DAMAGE (meaning it got through the armor) the player must make a roll of END or less on 2D6, add one die to roll for every round after the first and for every sting after the first.

If the player fails then the character falls unconscious and requires emergency medical care to avoid cardiac arrest and keep them breathing. The character takes 1D6 damage every turn – per sting until medical care has been provided and antidote has been administered. Damage is then healed normally per Traveller Book 1: Characters and Combat.

An arboreal mammal that lives in temperate forests, the Devil Squirrel is a gliding pouncer carnivore that lives in large social groups of up to 15-20 adults and a smaller number of juveniles. There is no alpha group or individual per se; rather, the mob (as they are called by xenobiologists) lives in close cooperation with each other with some forms of social hierarchy exhibiting itself only during mating season (late autumn) and when feeding (as a pecking order forms from largest to smallest). The Devil Squirrel has an elastic skin flap that is stretched between the wrists of the front legs, along the body, and terminates at the wrists of the hind legs. With full extension of its legs, the flap is opened to form a sort of parachute to allow it to “fly” out of, or across to another, tree. When running along the tree limbs or the ground, the flap’s elasticity keeps it tight against the body using a series of cartilaginous bands extending from the ribs to the edge of the flap. The flattened tail acts as a rudder for steering the Devil Squirrel in flight.

The average male is 40-45cm long (excluding the long, flattened tail of another 25-30cm), and the average female is slightly smaller in mass, but the same length. A Devil Squirrel weighs about 2-3kg, and is covered with a fine coat of gray-green fur that is highly prized for its luxurious feel in the high end garment industry. The sexual dimorphism among the Devil Squirrel is extended to the fur coats’ color patterns: the males have a pattern of black bands, while the female has a mottled black pattern. Both of these patterns aid the Devil Squirrel in hiding from other arboreal predators by mimicking the shadow play among the branches and leaves of the trees they live in. Because the female pattern is more subtle and its fur is denser and softer, the female is more valuable, often bringing as much as Cr500/pelt.

The face is long, with a pointed snout, and the ears are extremely large. When extended the ears allow the animal to hear sounds and track its prey from many kilometers away in the dense atmosphere of the Devil Squirrel’s world. The Devil Squirrel emits ultra high-pitched squeaks and clicks to communicate with others of its kind when declaring territorial rights, searching or mates and young, or for cooperating with others in a hunt. An expanding sac in the throat also allows the Devil Squirrel to emit very low frequency croaking that can carry even farther in the dense atmosphere than the clicking and is used to warn off other mobs and attract mates by display. When hunting and travelling the Devil Squirrel lowers its ears tight against its neck and head to protect them from snags in the trees.

The Devil Squirrel is a carnivorous daytime pouncer that uses a venomous spur in its fore claws to subdue prey much larger than the individual Devil Squirrel. The spur is retractable and located inside the inner wrist; it extends out 1cm when the Devil Squirrel uses it for striking or threatening. The venom is a potent mixture of a curare-like protein with a necrotic compound. When envenomed the prey is paralyzed and dies of suffocation, while the necrotic compound breaks down the tissues for easier digestion and disarticulation of the prey item by the Devil Squirrel.

The typical prey of the Devil Squirrel is a large (30-50kg) rodent-like herbivore living on the forest floor. The Devil Squirrel mob will swoop down one at a time and scratch the back of the prey with their spurs, and then glide to a landing on a nearby tree trunk. The mob then waits above the prey until the prey collapses and dies. The mob then glides or runs down to feed. The mob will drag portions it can tear loose up the tree trunks to females with young. A typical prey of 30kg can feed a mob for 2-3 days, but often they are chased off by a scavenger species that has armored plating on its back to protect it from the poisoned spurs of the angry mob.

Humans have sometimes been attacked by mobs when they have tried to approach what they take for a “cute” little animal (especially when a juvenile found on the ground is thought to have fallen out of a tree or been abandoned) and the mob swoops down to protect its territory or what it perceives as threatened young. Hunters who harvest the Devil Squirrel for fur wear mesh armor and closed helmets to protect themselves from the poison spurs. If the animal is destroyed per the rules for animal combat in Traveller Book 3: Worlds and Adventures, then the pelt will be of no value.

A Devil Squirrel will live about ten Terran years and females will bear 2 pups a season. The females breed in autumn and give birth in the spring. Since the pups cannot fend for themselves until they are about 3 months old, the females will nest with them in a hollow branch or trunk, protected by the rest of the mob and having their food brought to them while they nurse the young on milk. The pups are weaned off the milk onto regurgitated meat at 2 months old, and capable of feeding on their own at 3 months. Once the pups leave the nest they are capable of flight and are fully venomous. In fact, the juvenile from 3 months until they are 1 year old are more venomous than the adults. The venom is far more potent and it is believed that this is because they are less capable of defending themselves through threat displays or by flying than the larger, more experienced adults.

The main predator of the Devil Squirrel is another arboreal mammal that lacks the ability to fly in any way but uses a harpoon-like dart to capture and paralyze the Devil Squirrel with venom similar to the Devil Squirrel’s, but lacking the necrotic inducing component. The bony “dart” is attached to an elastic cartilage-like ribbon anchored inside the mouth under the predator’s tongue. The predator has three pairs of legs and will hang upside down by 2 pairs above a Devil Squirrel mob. The dart is propelled by a puff of air “coughed” out by the predator with a bladder located in the neck. The dart will paralyze the Devil Squirrel instantly and the predator will then run to avoid any attack by the mob. Since this ambush predator attacks from above the mob, the Devil Squirrel are hampered by not being able to fly towards the predator, but will frequently “bail” from the tree and fly elsewhere for safety if they sense an approaching predator.