For 50 years I have recorded in my nature notes when the first active eastern chipmunk appeared above ground in Carver County.

Observations of that happening have come from our Waconia yard, Victoria, Lowry Nature Center in Carver Park, and the University of Minnesota's Landscape Arboretum. All in the same county.

Many friends have helped with the long list of dates, so the results are a real team effort. The big day for the first eastern chipmunk seen above ground is usually close to the last week in February or first week in March, the beginning of their mating season.

In 2020 it was March 1; in 2019, March 8. On average the past 10 years, the day was Feb. 26, and this year it was Feb. 23, when Julie Brophy and Bill Lutz saw a chipmunk arrive at a feeding station at their Victoria home.

Eastern chipmunks are hibernators, yet unlike the 13-lined ground squirrels and woodchucks, chipmunks do not put on much pre-hibernation fat. They awaken each week during winter to feed on acorns and other seeds stored underground.

Each male and female constructs and maintains their own burrows, which are narrow and can run as much as 10 feet and 5 feet deep, with chambers for sleeping, food storage, and waste.

Jim Gilbert taught and worked as a naturalist for 50 years.