ChipmunksSeptember 10, 2012
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Chipmunks! You think their just so cute don’t you? I mean who wouldn’t. With their fluffy tails, big puffy cheeks, and their spunky attitude. Last year I would have agreed with you. Meadow was slightly annoyed with them because they got to her sunflower seed heads before she could. This past winter was a warm one by all standards. We plowed the road all of zero times and the snow never really took hold in the fields. I am assuming this is the main reason the wave of chipmunks that hit us this year was so much higher then last year. On the positive side we are probably having less predation because the predators have more of these furry little critters to eat. But after a boom year comes the high predator year, so we are most likely going to see some more attempts next year.
Scarcity is the root of conflict. Real or perceived scarcity leads to fights when one party wants more because they don’t think they have enough. Thats why I now see chipmunks for what they really are. Rats that have evolved to look cute and fluffy purely as a PR stunt. They knew their cuteness would give them a good reputation so that when the time was right they could strike. Chipmunks see the early spring and summer as a time to stretch out and find that special chipmunk to bunk with. Then the race is on for gathering food for the winter when they will hideout in their dark caves. The woods and fields have a bounty of yummy treats for them but they have to work hard to run about and collect what they need. The new greenhouse on the other hand is like a all you can eat buffet. Flats full of seeds as far as their tiny eyes can see. In our case rice seeds painstakingly seeded just days or hours before. Scarcity. In the Chipmunks eyes the outside world has nothing compared to this bounty. In our eyes these rice trays represent thousands of pounds of rice, but are so few in number now. The chipmunk gains the upper hand. Pulling little green shoots from the soil to nimble on the remains of the seeds. Because of the threat I feel to my meager amount of rice starts I strike back. Traps are set and fail to work. The chips keep gorging themselves going flat to flat. We kick it up a notch like any good waring nation would. We bring out the ultimate but brutal trap the bucket trap which does the job where other traps had failed. The population drops a bit and our new rice starts have a chance. We took out 25 or 30 chips in 2 weeks most of which were on the first week. They were still around but were no longer a major threat. I relented in setting traps. A truce was set. We both could meet our needs with out harming the other. I’m sure in the chipmunk history books I will be depicted as an evil war monger stopping the helpless little creatures from fulfilling their god given right to feed. It’s all about perspective of scarcity.
All was right in the world. Our truce held strong. For a few weeks. Then; Scarcity. The second breeding of the eastern chipmunk happens in early summer. The breeding session lead to another large pulse in the Chipmunk population. The outside world was not big enough for these tiny spruced up rats. They thought if Meadow and I can come invade the great outdoors they should be able to return the push and head to the not quite as great indoors. Thats when the home incursions began. Scarcity. We believed that inside the confines of our four walls we should not be subject to the high pitched warning calls of are little rat in fluffy clothes. They disagreed and quite frequently. Scurrying in to the house then suggesting loudly that we should give them some space. Scarcity. New bucket traps. Balanced restored. With a slight addition to the arms race. A ferious new predator.
In the door yard, Meadow planted hundreds of bulbs and many perennials. The chips said thanks for the new garden bed to dig and make a new home in. They built burrows almost immediately. As long as they didn’t cause to much trouble we would leave them be. Scarcity. We had not given them enough space apparently. Chipmunks unlike squirrels create one large cache of food and they remain in this cache during the winter. Next to our new garden is where we park our cars. One adventurous chip decided a great place for a winter home would be our air filter. I disagree strongly but was not aware of it until a few scrapes of filter went into the engine making the engine jump and jive for a bit till it could cough it out. New buckets in place. New balance restored?
My last tale(well hopefully last tale this year) comes full circle. Our new paddies are basically subsoil. They are in need of some organic matter and some nutrients. We supplied some in the form of compost and manure teas but it wasn’t enough to really overcome our deficiencies. As the years go by well will be improving the soil and that will result in higher and higher yields. This year though we are sensing some scarcity. I walk the paddies almost every morning. In mid August I noticed a disturbing new trend. Piles of rice hulls laying next to stalks of the rice plants. Stalks that had been felled by a quick snip from some very sharp small teeth. It happened only along edge of the paddy where the water was a bit shallower. Right around that time the dry summer got a bit dryer. We hadn’t used the pond in awhile because it was to low, and the brook had slowed to a trickle. The paddies began to dry up. The day after the water left I went to inspect the rice. I went to the best spot in the best paddy. What I saw made me raise my fists in to the air and scream ChipmunKKKSSSS!!! Alright I didn’t do that but it did do the Seinfeld Newman line. Which is a quick clench of the fist with a slight upturning motion while hostilely whispering chipmunk! They had taken out a good chunk of our best patch. Enter buckets for yet another battle over what we see as a limited resource. We’ve lowered the numbers again but collateral damage may soon appear. The buckets in the paddy have become a feeding ground for raccoons. Solving our problem with the chipmunks while creating a potentially new and more severe problem, I am starting to feel like a real war monger now