Order: Rodentia (Rodentia information)
Species: Tamias Striatus (Eastern Chipmunk)
Species: Neo-Tamias (Western Chipmunk)
This article contains basic information (identification, food sources,
nesting and breeding habits, etc.) about chipmunks. If there is a need to
control chipmunks, the behavior and food preferences (along with other
information in this article) will come into play. Chipmunk
control page will give information on how to get rid of nuisance
animals. For trapping, go to chipmunk trap
information page. Chipmunk
Chipmunk Information Chipmunk
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Eastern Chipmunk, Tamias Striatus Western
Chipmunks are often confused with the Thirteen-Lined Ground
Squirrel. From the same family of animals as tree
squirrels, chipmunks are identified differently because of the stripes above and below their eyes.
There are two kinds of chipmunks in North America: the Eastern Chipmunk and the
Western Chipmunk. The name “chipmunk” comes from the two types of chattering calls they make to mate and to communicate between each other. One
sound is a thrilling chip-chip-chip repeated rapidly while the other is a lower pitched chuck-chuck-chuck. The main predator of the chipmunk is the long-tailed weasel; however they are also preyed upon by hawks,
foxes, bobcats and house cats.
The Eastern Chipmunk has only one species of its kind (Western Chipmunk has several different species)
and is usually found from Southeastern Canada to the Northeastern United States, east of the Mississippi River to Virginia and west to North Dakota and Oklahoma. They are found near woods, brush and occasionally in yards near stone walls, under walkways, patios and in gardens.
This ground-dwelling squirrel is identified by its reddish brown fur, white belly and black and white stripes. The back of the Eastern Chipmunk has a white stripe boarded by two black stripes on each side as well as a black stripe down the center of its back and light stripes above and below its eyes. Its tail, brown on the tip and edged in black, sticks straight up when running.
Growing up to be eleven inches long, the Eastern Chipmunk has four toes on it front feet and five toes on its back feet. Its pouched cheeks, which once filled can stretch as large as its head, can hold nine large nuts, two on each side and one between the teeth.
The Eastern Chipmunk prefers nuts, acorns, seeds, mushrooms, fruits, berries, corn, and sunflower seeds. It also eats insects, bird eggs, snails and small mammals like baby mice. They collect most of their food from the ground; however they will scale trees to gather acorns and other nuts when they are ripe. When eating, they will sit upright and hold their food with their front feet. The Eastern Chipmunk uses its teeth to grind nuts down to size to stuff in their cheek pouches. This grinding sound is very loud and can be heard from several feet away.
The Eastern Chipmunk doesn’t truly hibernate but rather wakes every few weeks during the winter months to eat.
The burrow systems of the Eastern Chipmunk are quite vast and have many entrances.
Chipmunks create tunnels up to ten feet long and three feet deep. There are separate tunnels for storing food, sleeping, and keeping empty shells and feces. The Eastern Chipmunk will defend up to fifty feet around its den and has been known to burrow in stone walls and rotting logs. When together in a group, they can cause damage to stone walls, patios, stairs and foundations by burrowing under them.
This type of damage as well as damage that is sometimes done to gardens and
landscaping are reasons why chipmunks are often considered a pest (nuisance
Twice a year when the female adult Eastern Chipmunk is ready to mate, she produces a series of calls called chips. These sounds entice the males who gather and compete for a chance to mate.
Females will often mate with several males. After mating, the males have no further contact with the female or the babies that are produced. Three to five young are delivered in the nesting burrows and are born blind and hairless. They open their eyes after thirty days and emerge from their burrow after six weeks.
There are 21 species of the Western Chipmunk found in North America. With various shades of grey, brown, reddish, white and buff fur, they are smaller and have more stripes than their eastern cousins. Their stripes can range from black to pale gray and buff.
In dryer regions, the Western Chipmunk is more grayish with dark tan stripes, while in moist regions it is more of a reddish color with black stripes. The Townsend’s Chipmunk has an overall warm brown color, while the Red-Tailed Chipmunk is the most brightly colored of the species. The near threatened Grey Footed Chipmunk and the Gray Collared Chipmunk, known for its pale grey collar, are the only chipmunks to have grey cheeks. All the subspecies of the Western Chipmunk are about the same size as the
Southern Flying Squirrel.
Found in Central and Western Canada south through Northwestern United States and into Mexico, each subspecies of the Western Chipmunk prefers different habitats. The Least Chipmunk, which is the most common, prefers mixed deciduous forests while the smallest and palest of all chipmunks, the Alpine, nests in crevices between rocks.
The Western Chipmunk lives in extensive burrows in the ground near rocks, bushes and fallen logs. They gather their food from the ground, rarely climbing trees for anything. Types of food they prefer depends on the climate, altitude and region each species is living in. The main preference of food for the Western Chipmunk is seeds, berries, acorns and other nuts. They also eat insects and dig up and eat flowering bulbs from gardens.
Holding its food between its front feet, the Western Chipmunk uses its tongue to remove seeds from their pods moving them back and forth and eventually pushing them into their cheek pouches. The seeds are then taken back to the nest or are buried in the ground for storage until spring. After emerging from their burrows, the Western Chipmunk will scour the ground looking for buried seeds. Though most are found, some seeds are regenerated and eventually sprout.
Adult Western Chipmunk males and females go through the same mating process as the
Eastern Chipmunk. The female usually lets the male know she is ready to mate by calling to him with a rapid series of calls and sounds. The males then compete with each other to breed with her.
The male and female Western Chipmunk breeds only once a year and produces one litter of four to five babies around May to July. Born blind and hairless, they gain their eyesight around four weeks and emerge with their mother from their burrow after six weeks. After eight weeks, babies are mature enough to venture out on their own and leave the nest.
The Western Chipmunk has been known to carry the Rocky Mountain spotted fever, the plague, tularemia, and relapsing fevers. They also spread
ticks and fleas.
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