Local History by Ron Patch: Stonewall panthers

I have an abundance of stonewall panthers this summer, aka chipmunks. This is something new at my place. I’ve always had dozens of snakes. The snakes kept the panther population in check, but in recent years my snakes have disappeared, allowing panthers to multiply. I miss the snakes.

Scarface in Lee's hand. Something else bit Lee's thumb off. Photo provided
Scarface in Lee’s hand. Something else bit Lee’s thumb off. Photo provided

This year I have three panther families. It was neat watching the babies mature. The young didn’t have any fear of me at all. I told Danny Clemons I wanted to buy some peanuts.

This day Danny and I were running the trap line in North Walpole. The trap line is Mr. G’s, Pete’s Stand, Ocean State, which Henry calls Rhode Island, and of course the liquor store. We always take the Up Down road at the railroad underpass.

At Rhode Island, Danny located peanuts. “Over here, Ron, are peanuts. Do you want plain or salted?”

“Geez Danny, if we buy salted peanuts, the panthers will want a beer to go with them.”

Danny says, “You don’t want drunken panthers terrorizing the neighborhood.” We looked over the peanut selection and decided on peanuts in shells.

Two of these panthers I can identify. One I named Virgil, the other Catherine. Catherine has a narrow face and her tail tapers toward the tip. Virgil has a fuller face and a more typical tail.

I put out peanuts and wait. Catherine stuffs a couple peanuts with shells in her mouth and runs down the wall and disappears. Virgil sits and shucks the peanuts while packing the peanuts in his mouth. He’ll sit there shucking peanuts until his cheeks are full. Then he disappears down the wall. He’s created quite a sawdust pile. In a few minutes they return.

I began placing the peanuts closer and closer. Catherine will now take peanuts from my hand. Catherine hears when I unlock the front door and comes running. She knows it’s feeding time.

Sometimes I make the sound as if you were calling a cat. “Tcht, tcht, tcht.” Both panthers know this sound and come running. Remember these are wild animals that will bite, so don’t touch them.

This story is from Lee Decatur: Old Scarface the Chipmunk

“Years ago at the family camp in Northwood, New Hampshire as kids one of our favorite activities was to hand feed the chipmunks. About ten years ago I was reminiscing about that time when I decided to try it again. There was only one chipmunk around the place at that time who we named ‘Scarface’ because there was a scar under one eye.

“On the Southside of the camp is a detached deck with a seat rail lake side. I started by putting a handful of black oil sunflower seeds on the seat. It didn’t take Scarface long to discover and remove those seeds. Every hour, or so, I would put out more seeds for him. The next day I put some seeds in a bowl on the seat. That worked just fine.

“I then was able to sit there while he took some 50 or 60 seeds from near my feet which were on the seat. The next job was to put a trail of seeds up one leg to a small pile on my bathing suit. I think he thought that he was in seed heaven.

“After a few trips like that I put seeds in my hand and put my hand near to my bathing suit. This was fun for a while, but now for a challenge, I put seeds in my shirt pocket. It didn’t take him anytime to find those, and every time that I came to the deck to sit old Scarface would jump to my lap and check out my pocket for seeds, which I made sure I had plenty of.

“And now for the fun part; my next younger brother and his wife are the next to occupy the camp. His wife, my sister-in-law has some medical issues; one seems to be that she can’t help him when they move into camp for their two week stay, so when they arrive she goes to the deck while he unpacks the car. You can see where this is going, can’t you? Yup, you are right, she goes to the deck, sits down and soon Scarface thinks food, comes up to the seat rail and jumps in her lap.

“The neighbors told me that you could hear her screaming all over the lake.”

This week’s old saying: “If you believe all you hear, you can eat everything you see.”

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