Nature Notes

Mount Rainier National Park

Vol. IV July 28, 1927 No. 5

Issued weekly during the summer months; monthly during the winter months, by the Mount Rainier National Park Nature Guide Service.
By: F. W. Schmoe. Park Naturalist.


Every day is moving day, or so it seems about the camps of late. First it is a chipmonk moving her little onces-or a weasel moving them for her, or it is a cony changing his place of abode. In fact it seems almost every animal you see is carrying something or other.

But when it comes to wholesale packing Mrs. Citellus Columbianus and Co., are specialists in the field. They have the equipment for their work, fur lined side packs that are built-in features.

The Columbia Mantled Ground Squirrels (as the Citellus are better known locally) are about the size of a red squirrel; but, because they live in the ground rather than the trees, and so very little jumping they are equipped with shorter legs and less busy tails.

On several occasions of late we have noted mother ground squirrels carrying their half grown young from one den to another. Carrying them in spite of the fact that they were too heavy to carry and plenty able to walk on their own legs. The method of holding them is different from that employed by most animals including their cousins the chipmonks. Mother Ground Squirrel takes the little one by the loose skin of his belly, the baby wraps his tail and hind legs on the other side of her neck and hangs on with his front legs on the other side, then the mother runs away with a squirrel fur muff around her neck.

The reason for these hasty migrations is, nine times out of ten, weasels. Recently a park visitor reported seeing a weasel carrying its young from a hole. Investigation prooved that the weasel was carrying little squirrels out of their hole, one at a time.

sketch of ground squirrels This week however a weasel was caught in the act of moving her young, who by the way seemed fully as large as she was. Her method was to take the youngsters by the map of the neck and then toss them over her shoulder as a fox carries a goose. When intersepted and forced to drop the little one she boldly attacted the man, leaping repeatedly at his knees and actually forcing him to defend himself. A ten ounce animal fearlessly defending its young against a twenty-five hundred ounce enemy!

But what we started out to tell about was the remarkable capacity of the ground squirrels have for carrying food in its check pouches. The squirrels of the Paradise Camp have become so tame that they will readily eat out of the hand. Recently we tested-out their capacity. One squirrel placed slightly less than two ounces of salted peanuts, (which are rather bulky materials) in her side-pouches at one time. Occasionally during the loading process she would stop, and flattening herself on the ground she would slide her chin and neck along the surface. Apparently this was to push the load back and pack it in well. When not another peanut could be stored inside she would take one in her mouth and scamper away looking like a very serious case of mumps.

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