Chipmunk Puzzler

by Carl Strang

Not far from the coyote den at Mayslake Forest Preserve is a smaller hole. Recently I saw that it had been entered and dug at, but I couldn’t tell by what. Then, after last week’s second snow I saw the following.

The diameter of this burrow entrance is in the 4-6-inch range, typical of skunks’ dens in our area.

The animal which left these tracks was a rodent, larger than a mouse but smaller than a tree squirrel. I followed its trail, which extended from the elevated vicinity of the (now former) friary nearly all the way down to May’s Lake. My immediate thought was chipmunk, and that was an oddity because one seldom sees them out between November and March.

As I followed the tracks it occurred to me that flying squirrels are the same size, and I have seen them at Fullersburg Woods Forest Preserve not too far away to the east. However, this animal never left any sign of side flanges of skin connecting the feet, and it clearly was focused on the ground. Though it went to the bases of trees a few times it never climbed them.

So, while I feel secure in my species ID, I still am left with the question, why did this chipmunk come out at this time of year, and why did it cover so much snow-covered ground? I hope its food cache was not destroyed by the friary demolition. This seems unlikely, but remains an open possiblility.

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