Chipmunks are rodents that are a type of squirrel. These small, furry animals are identified by their stubby legs, bushy tails and the white, black and brown stripes that run down their backs.
Chipmunks are the smallest members of the squirrel family, according toNational Geographic. The biggest species of chipmunk is the Eastern chipmunk. It grows to 11 inches (28 centimeters) and weighs up to 4.4 ounces (125 grams).
Chipmunks typically grow to around 4 to 7 inches (10 to 18 cm) and weigh 1 to 5 ounces (28 to 142 g). Their tails can grow as long as 3 to 5 inches (8 to 13 cm).
There are 25 species of chipmunk, according to National Geographic. Only one of those species, called the Siberian chipmunk, lives outside of North America. The Siberian chipmunk lives in Asia and is expanding into parts of Europe, according to theInternational Union for Conservation of Nature(IUCN). In North America, chipmunks can be found almost anywhere there are trees.
Chipmunks make homes for themselves by creating burrows that consist of an underground tunnel system or by making nests in logs or bushes. Their tunnel systems can be 10 to 30 feet (3 to 9.1 m) long.
Though you may see chipmunks around each other, they are not social animals. They like to keep to themselves and only interact during mating season, which is in the spring.
They are most active at dusk and dawn. Chipmunks spend most of their days foraging. A single chipmunk can gather up to 165 acorns in a day, according toNational Geographic Kids.
Chipmunks hibernate, but they don't store fat to see them through long winters like bears do. During the warm months, chipmunks will stuff extra food into their cheek pouches. These cheeks are massive grocery bags. They can stretch to be three times larger than the chipmunk's head, according to Connecticut'sDepartment of Energy and Environmental Protection. When they have a full load, they carry the food to their home and store it. During the winter, they eat from their food cache for energy.
During hibernation, chipmunks can seem like they are dead. Their heart rates can drop from 350 beats per minute to around 4 beats per minute, and their body temperature can drop from 94 degrees Fahrenheit (34.4 Celsius) to as cold as 40 F (4.44 C), according to theNational Wildlife Federation (NWF).
Chipmunks are omnivores, and they aren't picky about what they eat. Part of their diet consists of vegetation such as mushrooms, berries, nuts, seeds and grains. Chipmunks also eat other creatures such as insects, baby birds, frogs and bird eggs, according to theWildlife Hotline.
Like other rodents, chipmunks have live births after carrying their young for a gestation period of around 30 days, according to National Geographic. Female chipmunks usually give birth to two to eight young at one time and give birth one to two times per year, once in the late spring and sometimes again in the fall. Their young are called pups. A group of pups that are born to the same mother, at the same time, is called a litter.
Pups are hairless, blind, pink creatures the size of a jelly bean. Mothers are very protective of their young and if one goes missing, she will search frantically for it, according to the Wildlife Hotline.
The protection doesn't last for long, though. Pups only stay with their parents for around two months. Then, they build their own home and start gathering food to last them throughout the coming winter.
According to the Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS), thetaxonomy of the chipmunkis:
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Subkingdom: Bilateria
- Infrakingdom: Deuterostomia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Subphylum: Vertebrata
- Infraphylum: Gnathostomata
- Superclass: Tetrapoda
- Class: Mammalia
- Subclass: Theria
- Infraclass: Eutheria
- Order: Rodentia
- Suborder: Sciuromorpha
- Family: Sciuridae
- Subfamily: Xerinae
- Tribe: Marmotini
- Subgenera:Tamias(Eastern chipmunk);Eutamias(Siberian chipmunk, with nine subspecies);Neotamias, (Western chipmunks, with 23 subspecies). Some studies have suggested that these should be separate genera.
According to the IUCN's Red List, only one chipmunk species is endangered. ThePalmer's chipmunk,Tamias (Neotamias) palmeri, is found only on one small mountain range, the Spring Mountains in southwestern Nevada. Their population decline is due mostly to the invasion of humans in their habitat and domestic cats killing chipmunks in large numbers.
TheBuller's chipmunk,Tamias (Neotamias) bulleri, is the only species listed as vulnerable. This classification is due to population decline and distribution fragmenting. The Buller's chipmunk is only found in Sierra Madre in south Durango, west Zacatecas and north Jalisco, Mexico.
Chipmunks make various sounds to communicate. There are three recognized chipmunk calls, according to the NWF. The three calls are called the chip, the deeper chuck and the startle call. The BBC has a recording of achipmunk's sound.
According toNew Hampshire Public Television, the name "chipmunk" comes from the "chip-chip" sound the creature makes.
Chipmunks require colder temperatures to hibernate. As the temperatures warm due to global warming, they may no longer hibernate.
- Ohio State University: The Eastern Chipmunk (Tamias striatus) in the Home, Yard and Garden
- Animal Diversity Web (University of Michigan):Eastern Chipmunk,Least Chipmunk,Yellow-Pine Chipmunk
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More about land mammals
Chipmunks are excellent tree climbers and swimmers who live in a variety of habitats, including plains, mountains, forests, and deserts. Chipmunks like to live alone in holes or burrows called dens. Chipmunks hibernate in cold weather, which means they spend most of the winter sleeping in their dens.What are 2 facts about a chipmunk? ›
Chipmunks have several calls, such as a high speed trill and a low clicking sound. Chipmunks eat a variety of foods like bird eggs, mushrooms, plants, bulbs and seeds, nuts and more. Predators of chipmunks include hawks, owls, snakes, domestic cats, raccoons, foxes and more.How intelligent are chipmunks? ›
When we compare a chipmunk and a squirrel, we find the chipmunk to be smarter than a squirrel. This might come as a surprise, but it is a fact observed from their nature. Both animals are smart and intelligent, but the chipmunk is a bit smarter than the squirrel.Do chipmunks have teeth? ›
Chipmunks, like most squirrels, have 20-22 teeth.How destructive are chipmunks? ›
Chipmunks don't usually damage property, but they may injure ornamental plants when they harvest fruits and nuts. Occasionally chipmunks dig up and eat spring flowering bulbs and burrow in flower beds or under sidewalks and porches. But there are no documented cases of a chipmunk burrow causing structural damage.What makes chipmunks happy? ›
Chipmunks need their space
As avid burrowers, chipmunks like plenty to dig and burrow in at all times. A deep layer of bedding material in their home to burrow and forage in will help keep your chipmunks happy and give them the chance to play and explore.
When chipmunks are in fear mode, they often rely on their running skills, which are extremely strong. They are small but swift animals. If something menacing is headed their way, they immediately flee the scene by running, hopefully to find secure hiding spots in between thick plants or stones.What is chipmunks favorite food? ›
They love nuts, berries, seeds, and fruits… but more than anything they like food that's easy to find. If chipmunks seem particularly prevalent around your home, it's probably because they've found a reliable food source. Chipmunks love exploiting bird feeders, feed bags, pet food, or garbage.Are chipmunks aggressive? ›
While all wild animals are capable of biting when threatened, chipmunks are rarely aggressive and will most often run away from threats. When cornered or handled, however, they may scratch or bite to defend themselves.How friendly are chipmunks? ›
Although chipmunks are not aggressive creatures, they will bite or scratch if they are cornered or feel threatened. Since they are known to carry diseases such as plague and rabies, among other things, it is never a good idea to try to remove a chipmunk, or any other wild animal, on your own.
Chipmunks are usually solitary and do not mate for life.Are chipmunks good to have around the house? ›
While chipmunks prefer to live outside, they will enter homes and when they do, they commonly damage soffits, porches, decks, and crawlspaces. But these damages are not the biggest threat that chipmunks pose. The real threat comes with their ability to carry and transmit diseases.Do chipmunks have personalities? ›
“Chipmunks forage under a constant threat of predation,” says Couchoux. “Every day they're faced with the trade-off: Eat, and risk being eaten. But individuals have distinct personalities and don't all react the same way, even when facing exactly the same situation.”Why do chipmunks have high voices? ›
When the tape was played back at normal speed, they would sound a full octave higher in pitch, at normal tempo. The technique was by no means new to the Chipmunks. For example, the high- and low-pitched characters in The Wizard of Oz were achieved by speeding up and slowing down vocal recordings.