The Great Escape – Part 2
Eutamias (Siberian chipmunk – sp. Eutamias sibiricus)
Recently Britchy of Bitchin’ in the Kitchen asked if l had any experience with Chipmunks and l can honestly say hands upon heart that l truly do!
The 30th June 2001 was a truly beautifully sunny day, it was absolutely glorious – l remember it vividly. Upon waking and lcould already feel the warmth of the day as it streaked through the crack in the curtains. It was going to be a busy day for me with the animals, l had 101 jobs needing to be carried out, and had set the alarm early so as to be up at the portacabins just before 8am. It didn’t take that long to walk up to the farm from the house, usually about 20 minutes, so l made myself some lunch and set off just after half seven.
I was in a pretty good mood despite being in a relatively dark place, sadly it was the early days of the depression and breakdown, and so my business whilst being marginally stressful was actually serving more as a sanctuary for mindfulness and wellbeing. Working with animals is supposedly a great way to unwind …
I made good time with my walking, l had an early transport arriving at 11am and had to make ready 400 Mongolian gerbils for the order out, next to a few hundred assorted rats, mice and hamsters, but more importantly a requirement for 20 9 week old young chipmunks.
Upon arriving, l ensured that l fed my two Tom cats Bob and Bob, who l did notice at the time were somewhat restless and antsy, but just figured they were eager to get back to the hunting. They were big Toms, and despite being remarkable hunters, they were worked together as the brothers they were and used to tackle relatively large game like two lions, such as huge rats and hare. But the true beauty of the two Bobs was they never NOt once ever attacked any of my animals, and in truth if anything acted like a pair of guard dogs or in this case ‘cats’.
Most days upon arrival, l would feed the cats, then perform a quick perimetre check on the livestock and then start my day according to the day’s agenda. So that morning, l fed the two Bobs, let them out and then proceeded to walk around the buildings saying good morning to everyone – as the animals always appreciated that. So rabbits, guinea pigs, smaller rodents and then the chipmunks.
I had to start with the chipmunks first, because despite being remarkably friendly they were little buggers when it came to capturing them, especially in the microenvironment, so they had to be the first part of the order to deal with.
As l approached their cabin, l noticed the two Bobs were seemingly in a trance like state, they looked like they had been hypnotized – they were just staring at something underneath the cabins. You see these particular cabins were sitting on railway sleepers and so under each unit was a gap of around 12″ and my two toms were mesmerised by something under this particular cabin. As l approached they both started to miow to me, and l should have listened to them and asked them what was up.
But l didn’t, perhaps had l had done, l would have been alerted to the problem quicker. But l didn’t, instead l unlocked the door andwalked into the building. Normally l would have been greeted by the beautiful chirrupping of the chips. The smaller enclosure greeted me, but the bigger unit was incredibly quiet. In truth, there was very little movement, especially considering that this particular enclosure held over 30 adults and l knew there to be close to 30 perhaps 40 youngsters, so for something which had around 70 animals, it was remarkably quiet …………. too quiet!!?
What gave the game away?
Well it might’ve been the two Bobs who were trying to tell their dad something at the doorway or, or, or it may have been the chipmunk who suddenly landed upon my shoulder suddenly out of nowhere! Scaring the crap out of me, and started to nuzzle into my neck! I think if anything, it was THAT!!
Suddenly l was on a form of heightened panic mode, had there been some kind of break out from the actual environment? I quickly and softly hed the adult female and placed her as a precautionary measure into a temporary cage and started to scour the remaining space outside the two units, where upon l found three more adult females and 3 youngsters. With now 4 adults and 3 young, l knew that of the population inside the larger enclosure that maybe just maybe, the breakout was in fact confined ONLy to the building, but no amount of searching high and low produced any more animals.
the next step was to check the smaller enclosure and found all the animals accounted for there, which could only mean the problem was in the larger unit. Checking everything ouside in so far as frame work proved that it was still secure. So grabbing a couple of transport cages l went into the enclosure to start a serious audit. it was at that point that l saw the break – the main window had a massive hole, the trunk leaning against it was actually sticking out through the glass in comparison to simply resting against it!
“Oh SHIT!!” I said in alarm, this was NOT good news, not good at all. I fought back my panic and taking deep breaths, started the slow and weary process in as fast a mode as l could of capturing the internal stocks to see what was missing. After about twenty minutes l had caught, 15 adult females and around 25 youngsters. So l could deduce that what was missing was my 8 adult males, 9 adult females and roughly 12 youngsters!
Now, l knew the real stress mode would kick in. Ensuring the captured stocks were placed together into a larger but totally secure temporary cage, l grabbed some wooden transport boxes and both a keep net and a livestock net and ventured outside with the heaviest gloves l could conjure up.
There are a couple of things about any squirrel species, that not many people may know about. I have worked with many squirrel species since 2001, and my knowledge of the antics of the species overall is pretty sound, but back then the only species l had worked with were chipmunks and a few flying squirrels, although l did have experience with Sugar gliders. The two most significant behaviours of squirrels is 1] their outstanding speed and 2] their painful ability to bite and draw blood. So having thick gloves was absolutely essential.
Playing with the chips inside familiar surroundings is one thing, but totally different to trying to capture them in an outside environment with a trillion and one natural hiding areas!
This was NOT going to be easy nor fun! I had to try and capture potentially 25 animals in a seriously large space, that was occupied by farm machinery, portacabins, haulage trucks and worse than that – acres and acres of ground, farm land! I was quite impressed at how calm l was, considering the mammoth task l had ahead of me!
I think it is safe for the reader to assume this wasn’t going to last …
Final episode tomorrow!