Tim and I have this nature dichotomy thing going. On one hand we love animals and encourage their residence in our yard. We pay more money monthly for our bird seed and peanuts than we do our cable, and if we had to give up one, the t.v. would go. We established a National Wildlife Federation’s Certified Wildlife Habitat in our yard, and have the sign to prove it! And we spend time every morning having coffee with the birds and squirrels.
On the other hand, we are gardeners. And by virtue, we are often at odds with the very animals we invite into our yard. Bottom line, wildlife ARE NOT courteous guests. They have little respect for our property, never offer to help, and I’ve yet to get a thank-you note from a single one. We read about natural ways to keep the animals out of the areas we don’t want them, but obviously they don’t read the same books because it seldom works. And they never seem content with the virtual cornucopia of gastronomic delicacies we put out for them. Instead, after filling their bellies with seeds and nuts, they move on to tender foliage and juicy roots.
We’ve managed to curtail the abuses of rabbits and deer enough to get meager crops from our yard, but what we’ve never been able to get a handle on, is the destruction from chipmunks. Such cute little guys, gluttonously filling their cheeks with seeds, planting them deep in the ground, only to forget where they stuck them later. But we’re okay with that. The problem is they like to tunnel under our perennial beds and eat the roots. Their destruction is camouflaged and deadly. This is how it works. You have a lovely plant in your yard, let’s say a coral bell. It looks beautiful and healthy. No nibble marks on it. Then one day, when you are watering, you notice the bottom leaves look a little wilty. When you reach down to examine the plant, the whole bloody thing falls over. There isn’t a root left to anchor it to the ground or to nourish the plant. And in the corner, just out of reach, a chipmunk is rubbing it’s belly, enjoying the afterglow of a gourmet’s nosh.
The only way we’ve found to deal with chipmunks, is to trap them, and take them for a long drive. On a good summer’s day, we can relocate 8 of these little rodents. Because I really hate breaking up families, we always drop them off at the same place, hoping they’ll be reunited with their loved ones. It’s this lovely, quaint little country cemetery, and I don’t think the residence mind their roots being munched on.
Having said all this, here’s what happened yesterday morning. Tim looks out of our bedroom window and says, “Oh no. There’s a chipmunk in the pool.” Looking out the window, I see a chipmunk doggy paddling for all he’s worth. This is just a little plastic sided pool we keep on the deck for the kids to splash around in after they get out of the big pool. (This is where they have their evening bathes on many summer’s nights.) But once in, the little guy could not get out. I’m not sure how long he was in there, but when Tim scooped him out, and laid him on the deck, it was obvious he was nearing death, and undoubtedly heading toward the light!
He was so pathetic. How long had he been there? What little chipmunk thoughts were going through his head? I wonder if he was thinking about all the things he had yet to accomplish in his life. There were so many coral bells yet to be ate. Had he properly prepared his children for survival? From my bedroom window, I’m telling Tim to lift his head and rub his chest. Doubting his ability to properly resuscitate a drowning rat, I headed outside, wrapped the little guy in a towel, and began stroking his chest. “Don’t give up little, guy. You made it this far, don’t die on us now.” After about 15 minutes of stroking him, I sent Tim in the house to get another dry towel. We were going to make a little bed for him until he got his strength back. When Tim came out, carrying the towel, it felt warm. “I heated it up for him.” (I kid you not.) We placed the towel in a basket making a little nest, and set the little guy inside. He briefly lifted his head, I’m going to believe he was thanking us, then settled in.
He was still wrapped in the towel a half an hour later when I needed to leave the house, but his nose was twitching more, and he tried to dig deeper in the towel when he saw me. When I came home 2 hours later, he was gone. I felt elated. I know tomorrow I’ll be griping about the chipmunks in the garden. I will gently chide our border collie for not chasing them off, and we’ll set a trap in hopes of transporting another chipmunk over the county line. But we’ll go nose to nose with a strong and healthy chipmunk. We were not going to take advantage of the little guy’s weakened state. I’d like to think he will repay our kindness by sticking to bird seed and leaving our plants alone. But a fish has to swim, a bird has to fly, and a chipmunk has to nimble on roots.