Can animal behavior predict weather?

Moles and voles and squirrels, oh my – something is up at the Gardens at James Ranch and it’s more than just the colorful fall pumpkins and squashes.

Rodents are more abundant in the fields than usual. Jennifer Wheeling, who owns and runs the Gardens with her husband, Joe, noticed 75-100 new gopher mounds every day last week. She saw birds flying into the hoop houses to eat the grapes and tomatoes. And the usual suspects, squirrels, are around in record numbers.

“We’ve never had this happen before,” she said.

Still, her winter squashes are coming in well, kale and Swiss chard are ready and carrots, beets and potatoes are coming on strong.

Wheeling says she’s not sure what the strange animal behavior means.

“I don’t want to think we’ll have an open winter,” she said, referring to a season without snow. “Mother Nature willing, it will turn out OK.”