Eastern Chipmunk

Chipmunk

Photo by: Camp Crazy Photography 

Scientific name:Tamias striatus

Status: common

Description: Chipmunks are small rodents (20-30 cm in length) with distinct stripe patterns. Chipmunks have a dark strip running from the back of their head all the way to where their tail meets their body. On either side of this dark strip are pale stripes, either grey or similar to their body colouring. This lighter stripe is then followed by another dark strip, creamy yellowish stripe and then another, shorter, dark stripe. HOLY STRIPES. The main body colour of the eastern chipmunks is different depending on where they are in Ontario. The body colour ranges from a light oak brown to a dark walnut. The underbelly of a chipmunk is nearly white, and provides a great contrast from the rest of their body. They have short busy tails and round prominent ears.

Habitat: Chipmunks are common in forests as well as urban areas. They live in burrows at the edge of forests. They prefer areas with lots of bushes, logs and rocks, which are great for providing shelter from predators as they go about their daily activities. A chipmunk burrow is constructed from tunnels and chambers in the ground. Chipmunk dens consist of one or more passageways with a single storage chamber (for food), and one den chamber. They will have multiple, well hidden, entrances. Sometimes, chipmunks will choose to create nests inside a tree hollow instead of underground. Chipmunks will live just as comfortably in a backyard or park as they do in forests.  

Breeding: Chipmunk breeding season is in early spring. Males emerge first from hibernation; with females emerge 1-2 weeks after males. Males will compete for a female, and may mate with several females during one breeding season. Females give birth after 30 days of pregnancy, and the female will rear (raise and looking after) the young without the males help. Litter size ranges from 3-6 young, and females will usually only produce one litter a year. Baby chipmunks are naked and blind at birth and require a lot of attention from their mothers. By the time baby chipmunks are one month old, they look like adults and will start to leave the burrow to find food (forage).

Diet: The eastern chipmunk is a great gatherer. They are constantly looking for food and will store food in their dens storage chamber. Chipmunks enjoy a wide diet, including berries, nuts, seeds, mushrooms, slugs, insects and, of course, any food that humans leave around. When out foraging for food, they chipmunk will put food for storage between its teeth and cheeks so they can continue to collect food without having to go back to their dens. The amount of food a chipmunk can hold in their cheeks will increase with age. Once their cheek pouches reach capacity, the chipmunk will return to its nest, and put their food in the storage chamber. Food storage is crucial for surviving winter. Chipmunks do hibernate during the winter, but there will be periods of wakefulness where they will consume their stored food.

Threats to species: Being a small rodent, the chipmunk is dinner to white a few predators and needs to remain vigilant about avoiding detection. Common predator species are hawks, weasels, coyotes, martens, foxes and snakes. Other threats to chipmunks include wounds received while fighting for mates, food shortages and disease, including botfly larvae, fleas, and mites. As with most of Ontario’s wildlife, chipmunks are commonly hit by cars, which is usually lethal given their size and tendency to dash across a road without any warning.

Threat to humans: The only threat a chipmunk possess to humans is a threat of being too cute!

Fun facts: Chipmunks are quite bold, and will willingly eat from a humans’ hand, making them a favourite for campers.

The saying, chipmunk cheeks, refers to the size a chipmunks cheeks get when its full of food they want to store.

 

Sources:

Hinterland Who’s Who- http://www.hww.ca/en/species/mammals/chipmunk.html

Eder, Tamara, and Kennedy, Gregory. 2011. Mammals of Canada. Lorne Pine Publishing. Edmonton, Alberta.

 

 

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