August 8th, 2011 permalink
No matter how small their brains, wild critters can be very smart in how they manage their daily activities. The goal of this chipmunk is to expend the least amount of energy transporting his future food supply back to his burrow. The more peanuts he can carry, the less energy he can save to use another day.
Peanuts in their shells come in two general shapes: 1-nut and 2-nuts. With one 2-nut already lodged in his left cheek pouch and a second 2-nut hanging out of his right pouch, this industrious fellow works to place a third peanut between his teeth before he heads to his burrow (top).
On another trip (right), the same chipmunk starts to insert the second 2-nut into his right pouch. You can see how far the first 2-nut has stretched his left cheek pouch beyond his ear. By rotating the shell with his front paws and feeling it with his tongue and teeth, he can determine the best way to get a peanut that’s almost as big as his skull into his pouch so he can use all four feet to scurry back home.
June 19th, 2011 permalink
Within 200 feet of where I photographed Stubby last August, I was thrilled to run into him again this past week. The lives of chipmunks are short (couple of years usually) so it was great to see him again. Wait a minute. That’s not Stubby.
Stubby had a badly torn left ear and this chipmunk doesn’t. They both have the same shortened tail though. I’ve concluded the 2011 edition Stubby is an impostor!
I said last year Stubby’s tail was short due to an encounter with a raccoon or other predator, but maybe there’s a genetic trait in the lineage of the millpond chipmunks. It’s either that or a predator that botches his lunges. At any rate, this one is just as friendly and skilled as the original Stubby at accepting handouts. After the first peanut was rushed to his burrow (below), he quickly returned for more and would have continued the routine all evening if I had more peanuts to offer. You can almost see his disappointment in the upper right photo. Click it to see the larger version. It’s a nice, crisp shot.
June 6th, 2011 permalink
The Brighton millpond chipmunks are acclimated to humans. Especially peanut carrying ones. Peanuts don’t grow in Michigan, but the park’s chipmunks know precisely what they are and where they belong — in their burrow.
Here’s a tale to illustrate their problem solving abilities: I dropped two peanuts within a foot of a chipmunk’s burrow. The chipmunk appeared, saw the nuts (right), rushed for the smaller one (below), and stuffed it into its right cheek pouch. Then it headed for the other nut. When the second one wouldn’t fit in its left cheek pouch, the rodent grabbed it with its teeth just as a group of humans walking the path arrived with a scary dog.
Frightened, the chipmunk scurried under foliage and stood dead-still for about 5 minutes with both nuts in his mouth (top). Then he made a mad 3-foot dash to his burrow from the underbrush. That’s when the problem surfaced.
The peanut in his right pouch along with the other one jutting out of the other side of his mouth made his width wider than the burrow’s entrance. Realizing he was vulnerable to attack by humans, dogs, and (possibly) hawks, he quickly maneuvered his head in various ways until he got his treasures through the entrance. There must be a sharp curve in the tunnel below ground, however. His forward progress halted with one of his hind feet and his tail waving in the air for about five seconds while he vigorously wiggled to get his whole body underground. Problem solved. Unfortunately, this photographer was too intrigued to lift his camera to get that great shot. Damn.
June 3rd, 2011 permalink
Memorial Day marks the beginning of the prime ice cream cone season. A millpond park visitor tossed a chipmunk a bit of her cone which he hardily accepted. With the Dairy Queen only a block from his burrow, I doubt this is his first encounter with cones. Remnants of cones, Blizzards, and gooey red plastic spoons are surely found daily in his territory during the summer months.
August 12th, 2010 permalink
I’m surprised I don’t see more chipmunks along the millpond trail. The public likes to feed them and in other nearby parks, they are abundant. This is one of the few I’ve seen and he’ll be easy to identify in the future. He’s had an unfortunate encounter with another beast or a slammed door. His tail has been clipped. But he looks very healthy otherwise and was kind enough to pose for me … until he discovered I didn’t have any treats for him.