The sound of a chirping chipmunk announcing the presence of our cat Neko was crystal clear. I sneaked to the back door and looked out to see it perched on top of the wood pile. It’s entire, small body reflected each chirp as it announced the presence of the seemingly dangerous predator. If it knew Neko’s age, 19, it wouldn’t have bothered. I’m certain with their quickness; any chipmunk could run circles around Neko.
Chipmunks are cute and amazingly loud for their size. There are around 20 species of chipmunk in the U.S. with just the “Eastern” living in Ohio. Chipmunks are a type of rodent with five black stripes on its back, four toes on the front feet and five on the rear feet. They have great hearing, eyesight and sense of smell. Their teeth grow constantly, as with all rodents. They typically mate twice a year, spring and late summer with up to five offspring born hairless and blind. Young are usually out of the den at six weeks old.
Chipmunks dig tunnel systems which contain several chambers for living and caching food. A chipmunk will eat from its cache during the winter months when it wakes. Food caches typically contain nuts and seeds, despite the fact that chipmunks eat far more than these items. In warm months, a chipmunk’s diet can include things such as snails, mice, berries, bird eggs, insects, and even carrion. Of course they can take advantage of what humans offer too, eating from bird feeders and gardens.
One of my favorite things about chipmunks is their cheeks. Wild Birds in MI posted a bit about them. I’ve read several observations about the number of nuts they can stuff in their pouches. I’m guessing it depends on the size of the chipmunk and the size of what it’s carrying. It seems they can carry a lot. I have watched chipmunks empty their pouch by pushing the outside of the cheek inward. The little paw was very dexterous in pushing sunflower seeds out to rearrange them.
They seem a bit more frantic this time of year; no doubt preparing for the cold months ahead. Have you seen anything interesting lately?
*Remember we’re in prime mating season for Whitetail Deer. Be careful on roadways, especially at dawn and dusk!
From: Elliot, L. 1978. Social behavior and foraging ecology of the eastern chipmunk (Tamias striatus) in the Adirondack Mountains. Smithsonian Contributions in Zoology, 265:1-107.