Nature Notes

Vol. IV March 1, 1927 No. 17


Recently one of the winter crew at Paradise Inn found a "dead" chipmonk in the unused bake shop. The little fellow had found a protecting corner and curling himself into a tight little ball of fur had "stepped off". He did not look exactly like a dead animal but he was stiff and cold and showed none of the ordinary signs of life so they decided he was dead. Had they taken him into the warm living room and left him for a time before the fire they would very quickly have had an exceedingly lively little chipmunk in the place of the cold rigid one, for Chippy was only asleep. True it was no ordinary afternoon nap for he had been asleep for several months but still it was normal sleep. Like the bear, the marmot, and the ground squirrels, the chipmunk has solved the problem of food shortage which always accompanies winter by resorting to the long sleep called hibernation. Rather I would say, they do not solve the problem, they ignore it.


On the calendar of the Pacific Northwest, February might be called the Pussy willow month. March would be the Skunk Cabbage month and would be followed by the month of red currents and flowering dogwoods, but on the Mountain the season is a month later. Pussy willows are just beginning to swell and skunk cabbages are appearing only in the swamps of the lowest valleys. At Longmire snow still lays three or more feet deep on the ground and in the high valleys it is in many places more than twenty feet deep. Even so the first varied thrush greeted us the other morning at daybreak with his old familiar whistle and that at least is a sign of spring. (Last night however it snowed).


A brief survey made recently of a small lava cave near the end of the Nisqually Glacier brought to light some interesting facts. The cavern extends some forty feet into the side of a perpendicular lava cliff. The entrance is perhaps ten feet in diameter and the rear of the cavern is quite dark even at mid-day. It is located at the top of a huge slide made up of fallen and broken basaltic columns, from the cliff above, on which vine maple, alder, and salmon berries grow. Everywhere on the rock slide at the mouth of the cave were signs of mountain beaver or sewell. Apparently a large colony of the tail-less rodents lived beneath the angular rocks; as small piles of herbage, indicating the entrance to a burrow, were common. Ground squirrels and chipmunks were also noted on the slide and a few fat marmots occupied the choicers dens.

At the entrance, and just inside, the cony or rock rabbits held forth and several haycocks gave evidence of their thrift and industry. Farther back were piles of sticks, bark, food plants, pebbles and other odds and ends that only a pack rat would consider of sufficient value to accumulate, and beyond the range of the rats on the sides of the wall in the darkest corners, the bats found shelter and protection.

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