Summer

This summer, keep an eye out for these changes in the animals living around you.

Look-alikes?

Chipmunk

People often confuse chipmunks with ground squirrels. But chipmunks are smaller, reddish, and have stripes on their faces and backs, including one that extends onto their heads. Thirteen-lined ground squirrels don't have stripes on their heads.

Thirteen-lined ground squirrel

Both chipmunks and thirteen-lined ground squirrels live in hidden burrows underground, with no mounds around the entrances. Both are active during the day, and you're apt to see thirteen-lined ground squirrels on roads, roadsides, and near burrow entrances. From late July until October, chipmunks collect and store seeds-as much as eight pounds!-to eat during the winter.


Mound builders

Pocket Gopher

Since pocket gophers and eastern moles live almost entirely underground, the mounds they make as they tunnel might be the only sign that they're living in your yard.

Pocket gophers eat plant material-mostly underground roots and tubers. Burrow systems may include as much as 800 feet of tunnels, some 4-8 inches below the surface, but some as deep as 6 feet. A single gopher may move as much as three tons of soil before completing its burrow.

Mole

Eastern moles' tunnel systems feature deep, permanent passageways, and temporary surface runways for collecting food. And they collect a lot of food: moles eat 25-100% of their own weight in food each day-mostly earthworms, but also insects and insect larvae and some plants.

Though they're often considered pests, pocket gophers and moles help to aerate soil and improve drainage.


Trail blazers

Vole

Voles create burrows but also aboveground "runways"-they chew through grass stems to clear a trail, then trample it down. They deposit feces and food waste along these trails. What are they eating? Fresh grass and other plants, grains and seeds, bark, roots, and tubers, snails, insects, and fruit. Like moles, voles eat almost their own weight daily.

Voles consume large quantities of grass and recycle grass nutrients through their droppings. But they're also major consumers of agricultural crops, eating millions of dollars worth of alfalfa, clover, and grains worldwide.


Stop and smell the flowers

By late June, wild columbines are in full bloom or already going to seed.

Showy and fragrant wild roses bloom from June through late summer. The fruits-called "hips"-resemble small apples and appear in late summer. They're an important food source for wildlife. And Native Americans and pioneers ate the hips, flowers, and leaves of wild roses when food was scarce.


A bad rap

Oehlenschlager says, "People often blame their hay fever on goldenrod pollen, but ragweed's the real culprit. Ragweeds have small green flowers that unleash huge amounts of pollen from late summer to early fall. Interestingly enough, hay fever sufferers often find relief in northeastern Minnesota, where goldenrods grow, but not ragweeds."


Family values

Raccoon families (except Dad) share a close bond: mothers and young stay together into the fall. By early June, young raccoons are old enough to accompany their mothers on foraging trips-including ventures into trashcans and dog food containers!

Cottontail rabbits have a different lifestyle. They breed through the late spring and summer. To avoid drawing the attention of predators, mothers stay away from the dens once the babies are born. They return only for a few minutes each night to nurse. Young rabbits grow quickly: they're weaned at 3 or 4 weeks, and completely on their own by the time they're 5 weeks old. At six inches long, their only defenses from predators are to remain perfectly still, hoping to avoid being seen, or to run for cover.


Timing is everything

Some songbirds, like cedar waxwings and goldfinches, nest in early summer. Their life cycles are timed to match the plant resources they depend on. Goldfinches use thistle down to line their nests, and the eggs hatch as seeds ripen. Cedar waxwing eggs hatch as fruit is ripening on trees and bushes.


Keeping track of the seasons

Dick began tracking seasonal events in the environment when he was twelve years old. By the age of fifteen, he was making observations of bird behavior, nesting dates, and migrations on "data cards." Later, he broadened his studies to include the plants and other animals of Wadena County, an area he still studies today.