Chipmunks

moon phase Week of 09/29/2002 Best days to harvest crops

Chipmunks

The valley I live in is mostly wooded with bordering grasslands. This is good habitat for squirrels and there are plenty of them here. There is always a squirrel of some kind at the feeders. Often there may be 4-6 gray squirrels in the trees, jumping from branch to branch. They are seldom a nuisance and I enjoy having them around. They tend to get a little greedy and take more birdseed than I'd like but who can blame them. Free food is hard to pass up. I've learned how to live with them so I buy enough seed for everyone.

The larger red, fox squirrels, don't come as often because they live over the other side of the mountain. This summer a mother fox squirrel raised her babies in the owl box in a black locust tree in the front yard. All the other squirrels make room for the big fox squirrel when she comes into the yard. To supplement the birdseed when the squirrels are around, I put out several ears of corn to keep them busy. I also set out a couple of old deer antlers to give them something to chew on beside my house.

The woodchuck or groundhog is the largest member of the squirrel family living around my place. There was a large male living under the shed and helping himself to the garden. He was here for a couple months and then he was gone.

The most numerous squirrels in the woods here are the busy little chipmunks. They seem to be here, there and everywhere. Chipping and chucking, running and hiding as they make their way back to the place where they hide the seed. They fill their cheek pouches with sunflower seeds and cracked corn and away they go. The ear corn helps to distract them, but until they hibernate, they'll run off with a lot of food. It doesn't take long before most of the chipmunks have little or no fear of me. They seem to know that I wouldn't harm them and often come within a foot of me. I know how easy it is to train squirrels to eat from your hand but I'm not ready to go there.

In a small valley a few miles away is a community of small, reddish pine squirrels that are very busy and very vocal. They tend to live where there is a good supply of pinecones. The seeds from the white pine trees are their favorite food. Of all the squirrels, the pine squirrel is the most likely to find a way into your house.

When night falls on my valley home, the tiny nocturnal flying squirrels come to the bird feeders. If I didn't shine a flashlight on the feeders, I would rarely ever see them. They don't seem to take any seed away with them but eat their fill before sailing off thru the trees.

As a boy at summer scout camp, we tried to hide our special edibles (candy, peanuts, etc.) under our pillows. We thought the shrewd little chipmunks would never look there. Not only would they dig under the pillow for a treat, they would do it while my head was on the pillow. For the two weeks I was at camp, I had fewer snacks because I shared them with the chipmunks. I was enthralled by the trust they had with me and I've loved chipmunks ever since.

There's another small squirrel that lives here in the Kickapoo Valley, the thirteen-lined ground squirrel. We call them gophers. They are one of the grassland species that live in southern Wisconsin and are most often seen by the farmers who notice them in the pastures or along the edge of a cornfield. When winter comes they hibernate in a grass nest at the end of a deep burrow underground. Wherever there are a lot of short grass lawns, there may be gophers living. Common places to find them are parks, golf courses, cemeteries and schoolyards.

I feel very fortunate to live where there are so many different kinds of squirrels. They make my home a happier place to live. I know that when I take a walk down nature's trail I will most always see a frisky squirrel.

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