Chipmunks, Black Walnuts, and Record Breaking Snow

photo by Flickr user Alan Wolf

Many snow-hearty New Englanders are ready to give up their badge of honor after the winter they’ve weathered this season. Who knew this much white stuff would descend in such a swift succession?

Our little neighbors — that’s who! You know, those little pesky critters that just insist on sharing your property and everything that comes with it — including the food? I think they knew, and here’s why.

It’s late summer. An annual gathering of chipmunks come together to strategize about how they will capture their food for the winter. One or two agree to knock the nuts down from the tree; the others tow them off to some secret location.

I’d always marvel at how coordinated their efforts were — watching the tree branches shake, then the thump of a few black walnuts landing after spiraling toward the ground, and then off they would go with a nut almost as big as themselves, scurrying across the yard to find their hiding spot.

But where they would go, we didn’t know. Until this year.

While checking on my husband to see how the late summer clean up was going, instead I found him carting out wheelbarrels full of nuts, then boxes, then recycle bins. Easily, over a thousand nuts had been harvested and conveniently stockpiled in just about every nook and cranny of our storage room, strategically placed in upside down chairs, half empty boxes, under tables — anywhere real estate availed itself.

Immediately I began to wonder what would necessitate such a mad dash to gather as much food as possible. And then an epiphany: “I think they know something we don’t know. We’re in for a brutal winter!”

I’ve always been keen to notice off-kilter patterns of some of nature’s inhabitants. If something is out of the norm with them, then something is out of the norm in nature. The intuitive capacity never fails!

The Great Escape

In December of 2004, the devastating tsunami that hit Thailand, killing in excess of 200,000 people dominated the headlines for many days afterward. Though not as headline making as the disaster itself, it was also reported that many of the area’s wildlife displayed odd behavior prior to the tsunami. Many were able to escape its wrath by heading to higher ground prior to the tsunami hitting the shoreline.

In an article by Rupert Sheldrake entitled, “Why did so many animals escape December’s tsunami?” Sheldrake illustrates how animals, particularly those still in a natural habitat, have an acute sense of environment, and any alteration it may present. Acting with swiftness, they take cover, seek higher ground, and store copious amounts of food.

Sheldrake says, “With very few exceptions, the ability of animals to anticipate disasters has been ignored by Western scientists who dismiss stories of animal anticipations as anecdotal or superstitious. By contrast, since the 1970s, in earthquake-prone areas of China, the authorities have encouraged people to report unusual animal behavior, and Chinese scientists have an impressive track record in predicting earthquakes. In several cases they issued warnings that enabled cities to be evacuated hours before devastating earthquakes struck, saving tens of thousands of lives.”

For all the pounds of walnuts those little creatures saw fit to store, and the opportunity for us to glean a message that no measure of manmade technology could deliver, will there ever be a time when us humans will recognize the value in paying attention to those who might have something to show us?

Alexis Brooks is an alternative journalist and #1 best-selling author of Conscious Musings – Contemplations to Transform Life and Realize Potential. She hosts “Conscious Inquiry with Alexis Brooks,” an online broadcast covering metaphysics, spirituality and current events from an alternative perspective. Visit Alexis at:

See also:
Book Review: Animal Wisdom, Learning from the Spiritual Lives of Animals
Enter the Peaceable Kingdom