Chipmunk Facts

Chipmunks, though often seen as different creatures, are actually small squirrels. There are three general genera of these squirrels-Tamias, Eutamias and Neotamias. The only species falling within these genera that lives outside of North America is the Siberian chipmunk, which is part of the Eutamias genera.

Diet

Chipmunks are omnivorous, despite the popular image of them snacking away on fruits and berries. They do dine on plant life like fruits, berries and nuts, but they need to eat like carnivores as well for a balanced diet. They will eat worms, frogs, insects and bird eggs. They are equipped with cheek pouches so they can take their food back to their burrows for storage.

Life Cycle

Chipmunks mate once or twice a year depending on the species and produce four pups per litter. The pups spend the first six weeks of their lives in the burrow and are independent at about eight weeks old.

Chipmunks will sleep relatively long hours, up to 15 hours, particularly in captivity. They can survive up to nine years in captivity, while in the wild they only live an average of three years.

When it comes to mating, chipmunks only do it to reproduce. They do not mate for life. Instead, they live mainly solitary lives. They will live in their burrows alone all winter, waking up to eat intermittently, which is why they do not store fat.

Habitat

Climate has little effect on the lives of chipmunks. They can survive in a number of different climates and environments. They are found from Canada all the way down to Mexico and in environments from forests to arroyo deserts.

The burrows of chipmunks can be up to 11 feet long and consist of several tunnels. They often have more than one entrance, which is where the chipmunk pulls up the dirt leftover from digging. Unlike many other burrowing animals, chipmunks carry this dirt away in their cheek pouches, possibly to keep their burrows hidden.

When chipmunks are hibernating, they store their food waste and body waste in different areas from where they sleep. After they eat, they will carry off the parts of their stores that they cannot eat. This keeps their burrows neat.

Appearance

Chipmunks are about half as large as most squirrels and significantly smaller than the groundhog. Their tails, which are perky and stay upright when they are moving, are shorter than those of many squirrels, with the exception of some ground squirrels. These little creatures top out at 8.5 inches and weigh no more than 1.8 ounces.

Chipmunks are set apart from other squirrels by the prominence of their stripes, which run from nose to tail. Their base color may be red, brown or gray. Their stripes can be any variation of these colors or black and white.

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