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Eastern Chipmunk - (Tamias striatus)


March 8, 2009 - We spotted 5 separate chipmunks stuffing their cheeks today.  I'm relatively sure there are many more around (even before breeding takes place). The underground tunnel system must be awesome and too scary to think about. 


Little chipmunk scurry, flurry
Over leaves, under trees
Always in a big, big hurry.

Chipmunk busy stuffing , puffing
In the seeds, next to weeds
Cheekful chewing sounds like chuffing.

Chipmunk's nuts and seeds for hording, storing
In cheeks, for later weeks
Not much time for just exploring.

-- CF

Some believe the chipmunk got his name from the two sounds he makes (chip, chuck).  Another group suggests his name is derived from the word chetamnon, the name the Chippewa Indians used for the chipmunk. Possibly this tribe also used a word that mimicked the sounds he uses to communicate with his friends and scold those not his friends.




Head and Body Length: 5-6 in

Tail Length: 3-4 in Weight: 2-5 oz


Male: Reddish brown fur on upper body; thin, black stripe down backbone; each side (from backbone stripe down) has wider grayish stripe, thin black, thin white and thin black stripes; underside white; bright reddish brown rump; white stripe above and below eyes; top of tail grizzled blackish red with orange underside; cheek pouches for storing and carrying food
Female: Same as male
Juvenile: Same as adult except 2/3 the size when first appearing above ground; called pup


Open forests, woods, parks and backyards; uses cover of decaying logs, stone wall, rock piles and buildings


Seeds, nuts, fruit, bulbs, acorns, mushrooms, berries, corn, insects and bird eggs; frequents areas around bird feeders and picnic places; although a good climber, forages mostly on the ground (will climb for nuts and berries)

Family Behavior:

Mating Habits: Solitary except during courtship; mate early spring, March to start of April, and early June to mid July; female may mate with more than one male; only female cares for young

Nests: Chamber in burrow lined with dry leaves and grasses; used for sleeping, birth and winter stay
Young: Litter of 1-8 born blind and hairless between March and May or July and August; weight .1 oz; 2.5 inches; hair at 2 weeks; eyes open at 4 weeks and weaning begins; short trips out of burrow with mom at 6 weeks; independent at 8 weeks (start to build own tunnel)


Digging burrow: Main tunnel 20-30 feet; dug below frost line; separate side rooms built for nesting, nursery activities in female burrows, body waste and food waste, and several more for food storage (seems to store different types of food in separate rooms); entrance hole 1.5-2 inches; tunnels out of one chamber and uses that dirt to plug original entrance hole; new entrance has no tell-tale dirt and is usually located near some structure ( rocks, stone walls, or piles of logs); enter burrows late October and emerge March or April

Storing food: spend summer and fall gathering food to store for the winter; expandable cheek pouches are pockets that are stuffed for later but still allow for eating before caching that food in burrow; stores only food (nuts and pine cones) that will not spoil or mold

Surviving winter: Not true hibernators; body temperature drops and heart rate slows, but wakes every few days or weeks to eat from stored food and to use toilet chamber; called restless hibernation with little activity

Predators and Dangers:

Weasels, foxes, large snakes, hawks and domestic cats (The stray orange cat, who frequents our yard, was seen carrying off a chipmunk recently)


High pitched chip-chip-chip and low pitched chuck-chuck-chuck; very vocal; lots of chattering


2-4 years in the wild; captivity 5-8 years


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