Eastern Chipmunk

Common Name: Eastern Chipmunk.

Scientific Name: Tamias Striatus.

What to look for?  Remember “Alvin” from Alvin and the Chipmunks in the 1960’s? Eastern Chipmunks have reddish-brown fur on its back and sides. They have white fur on their stomach. The Eastern Chipmunk has two white stripes bordered by black on its sides and one black stripe on the center of its back. Their blunt heads also have white stripes that run above and below their eyes. And they have pouched cheeks that they use to store and carry food. Eastern Chipmunks have brown feet with five toes on each hind foot and four toes on each forefoot. Their tails are flattened and furry.

Where can they be found at Carillon Stonegate Pond? You will see Eastern Chipmunks scurrying across your backyards, patios and decks. They may be gathering up seed below your bird feeders.

How big are they? The Eastern Chipmunk is about eight inches in total length. And they weigh about three to four ounces.

How else do they behave? Eastern Chipmunks spend the majority of their time during the day in spring, summer, and fall gathering and storing food for the winter. Chipmunks generally gather food on the ground. Chipmunks are solitary creatures and normally ignore one another except during the spring, when mating takes place.

What’s for dinner? Chipmunks are omnivorous. They feed on insects, nuts, berries, seeds, fruit, and grain which they stuff into their generous cheek pouches and carry to their burrow or nest to store.

Where do they take up residence? The Eastern Chipmunk is found throughout the middle and eastern U.S. with its range extending northward into southern Canada and south into Mexico. The typical habitats for the Eastern Chipmunk are open deciduous woodlands containing abundant stumps and logs. Chipmunks are seldom found in swampy areas or in marshlands. Chipmunks construct expansive burrows which can be more than 11 feet in length with several well-concealed entrances. Most burrows have several sleeping areas, food storage areas and refuse tunnels. The sleeping area, or nest, is enlarged and filled shredded leaves to make a comfortable bed. The sleeping quarters are kept clean.

When and where do they breed and nest? There are two breeding cycles per year with one in March or April and the other in July or August. They “nest” in a breeding burrow. Females raise their litters alone. No pair bonding between individuals takes place. The young are on their own after two months and begin to gather their own provisions for the winter ahead.

Where do they migrate? No. Eastern Chipmunks are not true hibernators and accumulate little body fat prior to winter. While they do not truly hibernate, they do spend a lot of time sleeping. They may wake up every few weeks to eat the food it has stored. The Eastern Chipmunk will winter in its burrow from about mid-November until around March, depending upon snow depth and temperatures.

Do they make any interesting sounds? Eastern Chipmunks are also very vocal and can be heard chattering as they gather food. In fact, they get their name chipmunk from the "chip-chip" sound that they make! Here is a link to the sounds of Eastern Chipmunks.

Interesting Facts About Eastern Chipmunks:

  • The Eastern Chipmunk got its name from the "chip-chip" sound it makes.

  • They are generally solitary animals.

  • These animals spend the majority of their time during the day in spring, summer, and fall gathering and storing food for the winter.

  • They live in underground burrows which can be very elaborate.

  • Bobcats, hawks, raccoons, foxes, snakes, lynx, and domestic cats are all predators of this animal.

  • The average life span of the Eastern Chipmunk is three years.

  • In suburban areas, chipmunk population can get out of control due to the abundance of food from numerous sources including bird feeders. In these areas they can be considered a pest because their burrows can damage gardens.

  • Chipmunks are very talkative creatures, and they boast a distinct and unique way of talking to each other, often making bird-like noises.

  • A chipmunk's cheeks can expand to three times the size of its head and they have pouches in their cheeks where they hold their food until they get back to store it in their burrows

  • Chipmunks burrow tunnels in the ground where they give birth to their young in one part and sleep in another part. Chipmunks also store their food in another part of their tunnel ready for when they go into hibernation.

  • A single chipmunk can store up to 8 lbs. of food in a burrow.

For more information on Eastern Chipmunks and sources of information used in this blog (these are several of the sources that I am using to learn as I blog), please visit National Geographic, Penn State University and Nature Works.

The Carillon at Stonegate community is very fortunate to have a variety of wetland, forest and prairie environments conducive to a variety of birds and other wildlife, insects and plants. Our community and the Kane County Forest Preserve do an exceptional job in maintaining this natural environment – both for the benefit of the birds and wildlife and for our residents to enjoy.

 

Take a hike and see what you can find – and identify!