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So what's the deal with chipmunks?

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So what's the deal with chipmunks?

Old 07-02-18, 01:37 PM
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livedarklions
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So what's the deal with chipmunks?

This time of year, when I'm on a paved rail trail, the little buggers seem to always dart out from the right side of the path, run right in front of my speeding bike, and turn around about 1 inch in front of my front wheel and return to the right side of the path. They are about the only critters I've seen get run over by bikes in any large numbers.

This does not seem like adaptive behavior on their part, so they must be relating to the bikes as if it were some predator--any idea what it might be, and why they want to do the turn-around so close to it?

Last edited by livedarklions; 07-02-18 at 01:38 PM. Reason: typo
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Old 07-02-18, 01:46 PM
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They take lessons from squirrels.
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Old 07-02-18, 01:51 PM
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They make a bloody mess when they run through the wheels.
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Old 07-02-18, 01:53 PM
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Originally Posted by oldnslow2 View Post
They make a bloody mess when they run through the wheels.
"Alvin!!!!" Thwack!
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Old 07-02-18, 02:01 PM
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Guy is crossing the street and gets stuck in the median. Tries to venture out and the oncoming traffic, oddly spaced and rapid, repeatedly drives him back to the median. Finally things let up a bit and he sees only a bicycle coming with a squirrel riding it. He's just about to dart across but pauses again and the squirrel says, "Not as easy as it looks, is it?"
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Old 07-02-18, 02:08 PM
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I've never seen so many chipmunks as I have this year. Bring on the coyotes and foxes and fishers. I saw a red tailed hawk eat one. Nature, red in tooth and claw.
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Old 07-02-18, 02:17 PM
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In Bend OR the chipmunks have annual ‘chicken’ awards for the ones that have come closest to the bike wheels the most often!
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Old 07-02-18, 02:20 PM
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The behavior of chipmunks and squirrels represents exquisite adaptation to the presence of their natural predators. The (usually much larger and heavier) predator approaches, stealthily or otherwise, and commits to a full-speed attack in a straight line aimed at the squirrel or chipmunk. The prey then streaks off at an angle that the predator didn't anticipate.

One of the best tips I've ever come across on this forum: to avoid hitting squirrels and chipmunks, ride straight toward them. They understand that. They don't understand any other approach behavior from predators (that's us, as far as they're concerned).
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Old 07-02-18, 02:32 PM
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Originally Posted by livedarklions View Post
This does not seem like adaptive behavior on their part, so they must be relating to the bikes as if it were some predator--any idea what it might be, and why they want to do the turn-around so close to it?
Another name for chipmunk is ground squirrel so the behavior is consistent, isn't it? I suspect they dart across because they see you coming and they want to get to their holes for safety. The ones that dart across happen to be on the opposite side from their holes when you suddenly appear. I passed quite close to two I did not see until the last minute this weekend and neither one moved a muscle. But both were sitting right on the edges of their holes. I think that the circling and doubling back behavior is adaptive. I suspect it is reasonably effective in allowing them to escape four footed predators that they cannot outrun in a straight line. It just does not work well when confronted by a fast moving wheeled vehicle that is piloted by a human with no intent to cause harm. They only have to move six inches to escape harm but of course they don't know that.

The bike trail I ride frequently has sections where you ride through a corridor formed by trees and shrubs on both sides. I find that birds will often try to outrun me by flying straight down the trail. They are faster than I at their maximum emergency speed but I have way more endurance than most of them so they end up fleeing and sometime flying in formation with me for quite a while before they wise up and just turn off to the side. Pretty much all wild animals recognize us as predators but predators with no interest in eating them are non-existent in their world views. They simply react to us the same way they react to any other predator.
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Old 07-02-18, 02:35 PM
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Count yourself lucky. I have that issue with ground hogs, they're much bigger of a thud than a silly little chipmunk.
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Old 07-02-18, 02:37 PM
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Originally Posted by ironwood View Post
I saw a red tailed hawk eat one. Nature, red in tooth and claw.
Cool, isn't it? Back in 2013 I did a cross-PA tour. The second evening I camped at a heavily wooded campground along the GAP trail. The sun was starting to set. I could hear an owl somewhere in the trees. Maybe 20 min. later, less than 20 ft. away from me, a small one pounced down on a chipmunk. Heard the poor thing squeal before the owl took off with it.
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Old 07-02-18, 02:43 PM
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Originally Posted by jefnvk View Post
I have that issue with ground hogs, they're much bigger of a thud than a silly little chipmunk.
Last month I had to yield to a small bear cub while riding back to my campsite after showering. Thought it was a giant groundhog when it first walked out of the bushes and across the campground road. No sign of mom. Hope the poor thing wasn't orphaned. Clearly born this spring and way too young to be on its own. Of course, it was then time to start sautéing the shallots and garlic in preparation for dinner. I kept my head on a swivel.
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Old 07-02-18, 02:47 PM
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Originally Posted by Trakhak View Post
... to avoid hitting squirrels and chipmunks, ride straight toward them. They understand that. They don't understand any other approach behavior from predators (that's us, as far as they're concerned).
That's exactly what I do -- aim right at 'em. They ALWAYS dart off one way or the other at the last second. If for any reason the little bugger doesn't make a dive for it, I'll hit it dead square and center and not some glancing blow likely to take me out. Haven't hit one yet. And yes, it does seem like there's a whole bunch of them by the Bay this year.


-Kedosto
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Old 07-02-18, 02:51 PM
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Originally Posted by ironwood View Post
I've never seen so many chipmunks as I have this year. Bring on the coyotes and foxes and fishers. I saw a red tailed hawk eat one. Nature, red in tooth and claw.

I was basically doing laps on the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail yesterday, and three of the damn things passed within an inch of my front wheel, the last one right when I was passing someone at speed, and I let out an involuntary yell of some sort.
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Old 07-02-18, 02:56 PM
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What I really hate running out in front of me are Komodo dragons ! Those bastages will knock your wheel out of true, every time !!
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Old 07-02-18, 03:20 PM
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Originally Posted by Trakhak View Post
One of the best tips I've ever come across on this forum: to avoid hitting squirrels and chipmunks, ride straight toward them. They understand that. They don't understand any other approach behavior from predators (that's us, as far as they're concerned).
Yep, 1000%, this is not a joke, it works.
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Old 07-02-18, 03:36 PM
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Let's hope they don't disrupt this years Pan Mass Challenge ride.
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Old 07-02-18, 03:37 PM
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I stopped swerving or braking for these type of critters years ago. I've hit two squirrels, a baby goose and another feathery critter committed suicide in my RD. I hardly felt the squirrels or the baby goose, and am pretty sure they all survived. Most importantly, I continued on my ride un injured.
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Old 07-02-18, 03:43 PM
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Thread title sounds like the setup to a standup comedian's routine. So *what* is the deal with chipmunks, amirite?

And how about that airline food?
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Old 07-02-18, 04:02 PM
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Never had issues with chipmunks.

But, there are lots of smashed snakes around here. I've stopped and shooed a couple off of the road.

I think the snakes can move quickly if they want to, but they either freeze halfway across the road as a response to what they consider as predators, or they choose to take a nap on the warm pavement and under the sun. And, they take up half the lane.

Fortunately, I don't think there are any local rattlers. The common gopher snakes (related to bull snakes) look a bit like rattlers, but are harmless.

As far as chipmunks, they may have a sense of humor.

Mom's dog loves chasing squirrels and chipmunks. We had lunch at the coast a couple of weeks ago, and a chipmunk sat on a branch directly above the dog, and chewed up a pinecone, dropping pieces on the dog.
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Old 07-02-18, 04:29 PM
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Originally Posted by 55murray View Post
Yep, 1000%, this is not a joke, it works.
Not always. I ran over a squirrel last week while keeping a straight riding course.
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Old 07-02-18, 04:39 PM
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I've seen the same behaviour from young prairie dogs.
A week ago I was positive I was going to hit one.
I think my tire must have brushed his fur.
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Old 07-02-18, 05:23 PM
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Originally Posted by Brocephus View Post
What I really hate running out in front of me are Komodo dragons ! Those bastages will knock your wheel out of true, every time !!


Wow, i hope you’re joking.
But I agree about the surplus chipmunks. I’m certain I’ve never see. So many as i have this year in New England, anyway.
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Old 07-02-18, 05:43 PM
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I've seen rabbits do this a lot around here, although I don't recall ever hitting one
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Old 07-02-18, 06:49 PM
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Originally Posted by ironwood View Post
I've never seen so many chipmunks as I have this year. Bring on the coyotes and foxes and fishers. I saw a red tailed hawk eat one. Nature, red in tooth and claw.
I saw an Egret eating one.

It was having a hard time choking it down, but hey... heck of meal if it can catch one!

This particular egret has been hanging out on edge of the bike trail. I think she laid her eggs in the nearby irrigation ditch, and thus has to hunt different prey. Lizards seemed to be her preferred prey until I saw her spear a small field mouse, and later the chipmunk... who might have been hit by a cyclist, who knows?
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