When I saw the first Canada Goose chicks on the pond Saturday (5/11), it struck me that another sign of renewal is late. The Eastern Chipmunk (Tamias striatus) has been scampering across my backyard for weeks, but I haven’t seen one here in Van Horn Park. These are dates from my notebooks for first chipmunk sightings past:
- 2012 April 30
- 2011 April 12
- 2010 March 17
- 2009 May 8
I walked today (5/13) and still no luck. It troubles me because 10 years ago my relationship with the park began as an enchantment with chipmunks.
In those early days, there was a man who came late in the afternoon, and walked at a leisurely pace with a bag on his shoulder and tossing its contents onto the ground as he neared a stand of rhododendrons. When I drew close enough to recognize the peanuts, something else made me gasp, – mind boggling numbers of chipmunks.
They swarmed from beneath the shrubbery, fearlessly, eagerly toward the man with the peanuts, – as if he were the Pied Piper of Hamlin. I was one of many who witnessed this delight. People instinctively hung back and kept quiet, so as not to frighten the animals and spoil the moment.
After a time, the peanut man stopped coming and I never again saw the spectacle, but every year, from spring through fall, I recorded an average of 4-5 chipmunks in the park every day.
I am afraid the Springfield Parks Department’s thoughtless and repeated onslaughts and wanton destruction of living trees and fallen ones under which chipmunks live. They intruded as recently as March – when pregnant females and this year’s young may have been killed by heavy machinery.