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winter is coming; squirrel with cone

Fall caching; squirrel on the move.

This is a cautionary tale.

A chipmunk spent its morning trying to pilfer any bit of food it could find from my campsite. The food was packed, hung, and covered. There were no bits lying around, no dirty dishes, no tossed veggie scraps. The chipmunk tried every angle, checked every stuff sack and container to no avail.

Meanwhile, a squirrel spent its morning dashing through the campsite. It collected cones in trees near the lake, ran through camp with a cone in its mouth, and then into the alders along the edge of the lake’s outflow meadow. A few minutes later, having stashed the cone in some secret place, it would run back to camp, stop to look at me over my pack or across the fire ring, and then continue on its path. It didn’t disturb any of my things or even sniff at the stuff sacks. Every five minutes it made another roundtrip through camp.

After a couple of hours, the chipmunk was still angling for something easy and free, although it seemed to have less enthusiasm at this point. It stopped to scold me occasionally as if to say, “How dare you! Where is my breakfast?” It would disappear for ten or twenty minutes and then reappear to once again check every item. Just in case.

The squirrel also scolded me but it was because I inadvertently stepped into its path when it was crossing camp. Halfway through the morning, the squirrel stopped for a snack – a cone he found near one of his supply trees – and then went back to work.

Returning to my briefly unguarded teacup, I found two tiny droplets on the rock next to it. Inside the rim of the cup, there were two little, wet paw prints. The cup was otherwise undisturbed, not knocked over, no floating debris, just two perfect paw prints.

I took this photo by predicting the squirrel’s movement along the same path through camp. It was reliable, as is his winter food supply. The chipmunk only got wet feet for his morning’s work.