Monday, June 08, 2009

Fun with Nature, #10


There just seems to be so many new things to explore on our new property than we first expected. After watching a slithery three foot long snake make his way towards the center treed area at the front of our home a few days back, we now know what he was headed there for after setting foot out there today.

Many, many holes were noted, evidence of a mammoth underground trail system was obvious. What could live there we thought? That is, until a rustle in the bush warranted a quick turn of our heads and three sauntering young chipmunks were racing towards the house, quicker than one could even imagine. Wow, they are so fast!

Obviously he's filling his pouch up with more supplies for winter

There were places where we walked where the ground felt spongy and soft underfoot, signs of tunnel activity no doubt, where the solidity of the ground was seemingly compromised from all the holes likely underneath the earth's surface. They can dig down three feet deep and burrow tunnels up to thirty or more feet with several chambers and exits. No wonder the ground feels so soft!

After a short time we just stopped counting the holes we came across, rather all submitted to the fact there must be an entire city under the ground where chipmunk nested, stored their food and lived. Who else lived there with them we thought? Maybe mice, rats, vole, or maybe something larger like gophers? No wonder we discovered the large snake making his way across the driveway. He was very clever knowing what delicious offerings were awaiting his tunnel entry into a blissful meal find, and plenty more over the course of many days to come at that.

We deduced the fact we've a slew of Eastern Chipmunks about our property, a given from being able to identify the ones we snapped photos of around the garden beds closer to the house. We've seen them pop in and out of holes along the flower gardens and thought they preferred to be local to the house during the winter months.

Then with information from THIS SITE, we found out; eastern chipmunks are found near woods, brush, and occasionally in yards near stone walls. Surrounding our flower garden is a stone wall, thus is the reason why we were able to locate them there.

However, this week we've had much activity during the day from "critters" not exactly resembling a typical chipmunk, something more like a cross between a rat and chipmunk, but I just wasn't exactly sure my eyes were telling the story correctly.

Photo not mine, snapped by farm4 on flicker

After some research on the internet, we found THIS SITE detailing an often confusing identification between a typical eastern chipmunk and a THIRTEEN-LINED GROUND SQUIRREL. One link soon led to another, and then another until I found a perfect photo of one of these critters before declaring BINGO! Ah-ha!

At this time we aren't exactly sure about all of our ground critters, their territories or what will come of them once we remove all of the ground cover out front to expose their holes. Maybe we have underground battles happening between both types of species, who knows, especially if they are territorial and enter into one another's spaces. Either way, they are widely known as pests close to homes for the damage they can do and they aren't typically shy of humans. One has to remember though that they are wild.

Here are some fun facts we have discovered about Eastern Chipmunks;

  • - It has a white stripe boarded by two black stripes on each side as well as a black stripe down the center of its back and light stripes above and below its eyes.
  • - Inside its pouched cheeks it can hold nine large nuts, two on each side and one between its teeth for a total of 12 nuts at one time.
  • -They are omnivores and eat nuts, acorns, seeds, mushrooms, fruits, berries, corn and sunflower seeds (think bird seed!). They also eat insects (yeah!), slugs (yeah!) bird eggs (we saw one climb up a tree to find and take one), snails, and small mammals like mice (yeah!).
  • - They don't hibernate but wake every few weeks during the winter to eat. This is why we saw a few during winter when the snow first began to melt and then none again for a few more weeks.
  • - Their burrow systems are vast and have many entrances (yep, we know this first hand).
  • - There are separate entrances for storing food, sleeping, keeping empty shells and feces.
  • - They are territorial! They will defend an area surrounding their dens of up to fifty feet in circumference.
  • - They like to burrow into stone walls (gulp!) Remember where I mentioned we first saw them? In the flower garden near the stone wall?
This is where we first saw our resident chipmunks; dipping in and out of holes in the flower garden near the stone walls at its edge nearest the driveway.