A blog focused on nature, science, environmental topics, and happenings at the Pocono Environmental Education Center (PEEC).

Naif in the Forest by Darrell Berger

Wing Tips to Hiking Boots: Musings of a New, Full-Time Poconos Resident

 Violet the Corgi is convinced there are chipmunks living in these pallets. She can smell but not see them. I can’t photograph them. She’s been telling me they are everywhere this fall. 

Chipmunk populations increase after mild winters and an abundance of acorns and seeds. They also increase when you build special housing for them. Our recently completed stone walls provide countless condos for chipmunks, toads and, small snakes. Recently Violet chased a chipmunk into a small space between stones. I looked into the space with a flashlight. The chipmunk had completely disappeared. 

Chipmunk tunnels can be as long as thirty feet. Their homes are divided into bathroom, pantry and bedroom. They are not true hibernators but sleep away most of the winter, awaking only to eat. They make three kinds of sounds, all variations on a “chit” translated roughly as “danger,” “Danger!” and “DANGER!!” 

They can gather well over a hundred acorns a day, appearing mostly at dawn and dusk. Their excrement spreads seeds, which is good for tree growth. They also eat bulbs, dig up gardens, and, unfortunately, eat the eggs of songbirds. 

Real chipmunks share the qualities of that unavoidable Christmas ditty sung by Alvin and the Chipmunks, logically titled “The Chipmunk Song,” of being both cute and annoying. Maximum annoyance is reached in late fall, when bulbs are being eaten and the lyrics “Christmas, Christmas time is here,” is heard before Thanksgiving. Alvin and the Chipmunks are the best-selling children’s recording group of all time. 

The other famous chipmunks are Disney’s Chip and Dale, who first appeared in a cartoon in 1943. Chip is brown, has a black nose and two teeth set closely, while Dale is tan with a red nose and two gapped teeth. Chip is the clever one, Dale not. 

Today I saw a chipmunk run a very fast and zig-zaggy pattern before diving into a space between rocks in our wall. I could not discern the color of its fur or nose, nor its dentition. It neither sang nor chitted an alarm. It did seem rather clever.

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