Let me explain. When I first moved into my home I evicted a family of groundhogs from under the deck. I did this humanely waiting until the end of summer when any offspring would be out and about on their own and then I fed them cantaloupe and spinach leaves until I got them into the Havaheart trap and took them onto the island in the river near me, not too near as to risk them finding their way back. After I had them relocated I took ¼ in wire mesh screening material and skirted the perimeter of the deck, being sure to bury it deep enough that any subsequent groundhogs would not be able to dig under it.
I know that this has been successful because I began to notice my local chipmunk crossing over the top of the deck and not passing underneath as would surely be his preference. We have spent the intervening years watching the chipmunks, squirrels, bunnies, cats, and yes, new groundhogs crossing over and perching on our porch.
But this year in an effort to enjoy the deck more we added a gazebo with mosquito netting onto the center of the smallish wooden deck. I have been enjoying the shade and the respite from the gnats and other annoyances that come with spending time outside. I go out there and write or read or just enjoy watching my small yard as it evolves during nature's course.
Now at first I notice that our little chipmunk would tentatively pass under the mosquito netting and travel across the inside along his (please understand that I am assuming the gender as he/she has not expressed their preferred pronouns to me) usual route. But in the last couple of days he has been taking the long way around the outside of the screened in area. My question is why?
This new route is longer, makes more work for him and exposes him to greater risk being exposed to the sky. Which rock dwelling chipmunks are loath to do. In business we know the adage “work smarter not harder” something I certainly wouldn’t apply to a chipmunk but I am weaving an allegory here so bear with me.
He knows that he is vulnerable to predators whenever he is under the open sky. He will take the precaution of staying near the walls or sticking between the rocks or moving around under cover.
Well, by sticking to the places that make him comfortable and doing things in the way he has always done he will generally be safe. But he will certainly miss out on opportunities. The thing about my yard is that the anchor of the ecosystem is a tremendous grandaddy oak tree which regularly drops acorns on the roof and they roll down the peak and often land on the deck. Now an enterprising young squirrel collects them on the roof before they fall and stores them in the rain gutter. Which is kind of a pain for me because I constantly have to remove them lest my gutters overflow in the rain. (The life of a homeowner am I right?) But those acorns that don’t make it to the gutter are a source of agony for bare feet on my deck, and are easy pickins for the chipmunk to grab up in cheek pockets or eat right there on the spot.
I guess what I am trying to say is that with great risk comes great reward and that by stumbling outside the comfort zone you may find a boon that you did not know existed.