As the weather warms and the snow melts, it has become apparent that the graduate students are not the only tenants of the cabins.
This afternoon, I stepped out onto the porch of my cabin to find a uinta ground squirrel standing on each porch of the three cabins next to mine. The three ground squirrels looked at me inquisitively, lost interest, and continued to sun themselves on my neighbor’s porches and call to each other. I couldn’t help but laugh, and I went back inside to grab my camera to take pictures of my new neighbors.
Right now, these ground squirrels have two things on their mind: eating and mating. When you are only awake for three months out of the year, it makes sense that you would have your priorities straight. In mid July, these squirrels will be back in their dens and they will not wake up until April next year.
As I was contemplating what it would be like to only be awake for a quarter of the year, I noticed that the uinta ground squirrel on the furthest porch away from me had disappeared. As I waited for him to return to his post, a pine martin appeared from under the porch with a ground squirrel dangling from its mouth.
Members of the weasel family are some of the most efficient hunters of the animal kingdom. Needless to say, I was excited to see this predator at work, even if it came at the expense of one of my new neighbors.
Normally, pine martins hunt in forested areas; however, the promise of a fat ground squirrel has drawn this martin away from its regular hunting grounds.
I ran after the pine martin to try to get a closer look. I caught up to the martin just as it disappeared into a hole beneath the porch of a building, leaving behind a trail of blood.
I waited near the hole and listened to the martin rustle beneath the porch, enjoying its meal. After a while, the martin poked its head out of the hole, looked at me, and then retreated under the porch once again.
In the time that I spent waiting for the pine martin to appear from the hole, a new neighbor had taken up the post of the deceased uinta ground squirrel, eager to claim the prime real estate.
I wondered if the new tenant knew what had happened just moments before.