There’s no need for a weather report around here. Just look out the window for chipmunks on the stone wall. Chipmunks: warm. No chipmunks: cold.
Chipmunks don’t actually hibernate. They sleep much of the winter and, supposedly, wake up every few weeks to eat. They mate in early spring and usually have one litter a year. Their burrows can be thirty feet long. I believe this, since the crevices of our wall seem to get deeper and more pronounced every winter.
Eastern chipmunks (Tamias striatus) are found throughout most of North America. Most gardeners tolerate them and are amused by their antics. I was not amused a few years ago when I suspected them of raiding the nest of some newly-hatched birds. I kept seeing chipmunks sitting on the fence under the nest; I had never seen them in that area before the birds disappeared.
Last week, a mama chipmunk crept out of the stone wall with her baby in tow. They could see me through the kitchen window so I had to sneak around to get their photo. All day long they took turns popping in and out of four or five crevices, like little jacks-in-the-box.
It’s hard to resist a baby chipmunk, so I decided to take it a snack. I had a container of pre-chopped vegetables and put out a few pieces each of purple cabbage, broccoli, celery, carrots, and what appeared to be parsnip, or maybe jicama.
A few minutes later, I saw one of the chipmunks standing on its hindlegs, chewing on a piece of celery held in its paws. I didn’t see them eat anything the rest of the day, but by the next morning, everything had disappeared. I found that chipmunks prefer celery, broccoli, and red cabbage to carrots and jicama. I did not throw seeds, nuts, or fruit in the mix, which might have changed the outcome of my experiment. (Obviously, I am easily entertained, and my little garden inhabitants are easily sated).