This is our friendly backyard chipmunk Jimmy (we don’t actually know if it’s a male though). Chipmunks can range from 4 to 7 inches in size with 3 to 5-inch tails, weighing 1 to 5 oz. in total (2). Jimmy comes to see us daily, usually during the afternoon, for seeds. It runs right up to our feet, completely fearless and extremely adorable. Once having stuffed its massive cheeks, it then scurries off to its burrow through a golf-sized hole in the ground. Chipmunks are not particularly selective with their habitat choice, nesting in burrows, bushes, logs, fence lines, and more throughout Canada to Mexico (2). There are three chipmunk genera, two of which can be found in North America: Tamias, which is the eastern chipmunk with 2 species, and the western chipmunk, Neotamias, with 23 existing species. Of these populations, only one chipmunk species in Nevada called the Palmer’s chipmunk is endangered (1). The last grouping is called Eutamias, comprising Siberian chipmunks found throughout Russia and Northern Asia. Thus, chipmunk territory can consist of deciduous or boreal forests, prairies, deserts, and even mountains. However, the range that they cover is no more than one third of a mile from where their burrow is situated (3).
Chipmunks are omnivores, frequently foraging for nuts, seeds, plant roots, berries, mushrooms, and insects, especially during dusk and dawn. They begin to stockpile their food during the late summer for their winter hibernation, and their large cheek pouches facilitate quick gathering by allowing them to bring more food through less trips (3). This also helps them avoid predation encounters by hawks, snakes, foxes, coyotes, and weasels (2). Instead of storing fat, chipmunks hibernate by periodically waking to eat from their food stash. In their hibernating state, a chipmunk’s heartbeat can drop from 350 beats per minute to only 4 beats per minute, as their body temperature falls to as cold as 4.44 °C (1). In terms of socialization, chipmunks are relatively solitary creatures, only paying attention to one another during mating season in the spring. Females have high pitched mating calls; whereas males are mostly silent, only chirping when attacked or under stress (3). After a 30-day gestation period, females will give birth to a litter of two to eight jelly-bean sized pups, which will stay with her for two months. Female chipmunks are very protective over their young and have a variety of different vocal calls to communicate with them (1). Female chipmunks can also breed again in the summer.
Here is another picture that I took of Jimmy, which I happen to love very much. These little critters are actually very difficult to photograph, since they do not sit still for very long, resulting in blurry shots from their rapid darting around. Sadly, chipmunks only live for 2 to 5 years, so hopefully Jimmy has at least another year with us. Chipmunks are a well-known species in Hollywood productions, often animated for their adorable features. Jimmy is definitely a star in our backyard.
1. Bradford, Alina. “Chipmunk Facts.” Live Science. Purch, 9 June. 2015. Web. Accessed: 1 August 2017. URL: https://www.easybib.com/guides/citation-guides/mla-format/how-to-cite-a-website-mla/
2. Sartore, Joel. “Chipmunks.” Animals. National Geographic Society Photo Ark. Web. Accessed: 1 August 2017. URL: http://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/group/chipmunks/
3. Unknown, Author. “Chipmunks.” HAVAHART. Woodstream Corporation. Web. Accessed: 2 August 2017. URL: http://www.havahart.com/chipmunk-facts