Thursday, November 20, 2008

Hoarders’ top fall chore? Store!

Folks used to store homegrown foods for winter. Now, most depend on the local grocery store. Our wildlife neighbors aren’t so fortunate. Many of them hoard food to survive the winter.

Autumn provides more fruits, berries and seeds than any other season. But by late February this cornucopia is depleted. For weeks, I’ve watched some of my backyard neighbors storing food. Let’s take a peek at the food-caching habits of four mammals common to backyards across the Peach State.

One of the most fascinating is the flying squirrel, a nocturnal critter. Georgia has two species: The northern flying squirrel, with a range extending into the state’s northeast corner, and the southern flying squirrel, found in all 159 counties. Flying squirrels store a variety of seeds but prefer hickory nuts and acorns (particularly white oak). It is believed a flying squirrel can store several hundred acorns and other seeds in one night, and 15,000 or more in a year. They stuff them in their nests, tree cavities and crotches of limbs, and even bury some in the ground.

The white-footed mouse is another nocturnal hoarder. This attractive rodent is fond of cherry seeds but also likes hickory, conifer, basswood, raspberry, viburnum and jewelweed seeds. Beechnuts are another favorite. A biologist once found a white-footed mouse’s cache of almost a peck of beechnuts in a hollow tree. Other larders have been discovered in boots, milk bottles and teakettles.

Cartoons often depict gray squirrels storing nuts in hollow trees. While gray squirrels use tree cavities, they are scatter hoarders and usually bury their food – upwards of 25 nuts in a half-hour. Each squirrel maintains about 1,000 caches and stores about 10,000 seeds and nuts a year. Gray squirrels are most fond of acorns, but also store seeds including honey locust, pecan and chestnut. The catch: A squirrel typically relocates 50-85 percent of its hidden treasure.

Eastern Chipmunks are one our most energetic hoarders. They store food throughout the year, but activity peaks in late summer and fall. Any chipmunks you spot now likely will be scampering toward a burrow, its cheek pouches bulging grotesquely. Chipmunks can carry as many as 32 beechnuts, 31 kernels of corn, seven acorns or 70 sunflower seeds at a time in these elastic pouches!

It’s not unusual for a chipmunk to store 900 acorns in a day. And if you could peer into their burrows in winter you would often find them atop a half-bushel or more of acorns, cherry pits, hickory nuts and other seeds. They might sleep through winter’s coldest days, but chipmunks have no trouble finding dinner when they awake.

If you find the stores of one of these fascinating critters during fall, leave it alone. Without this bounty, the animal that spent countless hours gathering it may not make it through the long winter.

Terry Johnson is a former Nongame program manager with the Wildlife Resources Division, a noted backyard wildlife writer and expert, and executive director of TERN, the friends group for Wildlife Resources’ Nongame Conservation Section.


Anonymous said...

Order [url=]maxolon online[/url] here - Advantageous Offer arimidex online easy - Ultimate Chance

Anonymous said...

Hi Guys
Do not miss your chance to get a free ipad. Visit

Anonymous said...

CQQQEM atacand canadian vOJyBh atarax get EAteJX atarax generic SxqQuY ativan order avHHhD ativan 10mg uQFSdq atrovent cheap fkaIUZ atrovent canadian

Anonymous said...

ckSj260VU Cf Online Casino Roller yzMLYCX6J Play At Online Casino 6uR3jQBxGz No Deposit Ho9Pz0cE4 Las Vegas Hotel Casino P8TKrh1aXl Avis Casino 5e6nAq4ljb Taj Mahal Casino t1WIAhiySR Casino 3d GYSly5h4e Horseshoe Casino