Did you ever notice that chipmunks all look the same? I suppose if you hung out with them for a long time you would begin to notice differences between them. Think Jane Goodall studying chimpanzees. She got to know each of them so well, she even gave them endearing names. The chipmunks in my yard are so fast moving that I can’t get a good look at any one of them. For all I know, there’s only one and he has a fantastic underground trailway system because I see him go down a hole in the middle of the grass and pop up somewhere else. So, I wonder if I’m a bigot. You know, the kind of person who sees someone different from himself and labels him on the spot…‘they all look alike.’ I try not to be like that. But we’re all programmed to notice difference. It’s buried in our genes. My ancient ancestors only survived because they could spot the enemy and run before they got clobbered. Call it survival of the flittest.
So, here’s the problem, if I want to trap these critters (one strategy in my more PETA moments) and transport them to a new location (not an immediate terminal one), how do I know if I’m catching the same guy over and over? I mean, it’s hard to tell one from the other. I like to think they’re all individuals—not lump them under a single stereotyped label. But really, how can I tell one from the other when they zoom through my field of vision like floaters in my eyes these days. I want to be politically correct with these suburban rodents and not paint them with the same generic brush. But when I can’t distinguish Chip from Dale…as Disney apparently could…wait a minute. Paint them. There’s an idea. What if when I catch one of those critters in a live trap, I could spray paint his butt and the tip of his high-flying tail…like a team flag on a fan’s radio antenna. Say, day-glo orange. Then when I let him go in the park a mile from my house, I can recognize him if/when he shows up in my trap again. And at least, that way, I can’t be faulted as a politically incorrect critter bigot.