The tale of the campground chipmunks

I confess, as a child and young teenager, I would spend hours watching, following, and feeding peanuts to chipmunks at our campsite in Algonquin Park. So, it is partly my fault that the campground chipmunks have learned (or have been naturally selected perhaps?) to be terribly, terribly tame. Sadly, I know better now, and my kids are not allowed to feed the chipmunks. *Sigh* It truly was one of the highlights of the camping experience for me.

But, given the constant exposure to disobedient campers, these chipmunks have taken up permanent residency as campsite pets (like it or not). On our most recent trip, we watched them foraging in our dining tent, jumping in and out of our cars and climbing onto our feet. One, with some sort of death wish, would run up in front of my husband every time he started splitting logs with an axe. The kids loved all this! (Ok, so did I.) All you had to do for some instant chipmunk love was assume a crouching position. Please note: that is a STICK my son is holding in the photo. Chippy had to check it out anyway.

IMG_5685

My son, NOT feeding a chipmunk. That is a stick.

Despite the fact that we weren’t actively feeding the chipmunks, they may have realized that our two-year old is somewhat less than coordinated with his food. He tends to leave a trail of cereal, nuts and other snacks behind him wherever he goes. (Perhaps this will be useful should he get lost in the woods. It’s less helpful indoors at home.) So, we had constant chipmunk company. There is also a plethora of red squirrels in the park, which are more vocal, but also decidedly less friendly.

Now, here’s a question. Last year, when we went camping on the same site, the weather was normal, but something was very different. I noticed it immediately. There was not a single chipmunk or squirrel to be seen the entire time we were there. I found it incredibly eerie, as if their absence was a precursor to some sort of impending environmental disaster. There were no red squirrels whipping pine cones down at the tarps, or having chattering arguments in the early morning. There were no chipmunks filling their cheeks or dashing across the site. Where were they all?

I was relieved to find them there this year, but I still don’t have an answer. If anyone has any suggestions, I’d love to hear them.

Anyhow, please don’t feed the wildlife. It’s bad for their health, and it’s bad for them to develop too much dependency on humans. (I’ve said it before…here. I also offer some alternatives to animal feeding in this post.) But they sure are fun to watch!

See you little guys next year (hopefully)!

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3 Responses to The tale of the campground chipmunks

  1. Maybe on that eerie visit there was a new hawk or owl hunting in the area and the little critters were wary?

    Populations of squirrels and chipmunks can vary considerably from one year to another. Depends at least in part on whether it was a good “mast” (food) year. This year we have more chipmunks than I’ve seen in 9 years here, and I don’t know why. Meanwhile, over the past several years the number of red squirrels here has generally declined … except the year when we had loads of beech nuts (which are usually seldom and unpredictable).

    A bit of good news for the kids from the CDC (http://www.cdc.gov/rabies/pets/): “Small mammals such as squirrels, rats, mice, hamsters, guinea pigs, gerbils, chipmunks, rabbits, and hares are almost never found to be infected with rabies and have not been known to cause rabies among humans in the United States. Bites by these animals are usually not considered a risk of rabies unless the animal was sick or behaving in any unusual manner and rabies is widespread in your area.”

  2. Pingback: The other day (the other day), I met a bear (I met a bear). | Unlocking the Gate

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