Eastern Chipmunk Facts | Anatomy, Diet, Habitat, Behavior

The eastern chipmunk (Tamias striatus) is the largest of the chipmunks and is typically found in the eastern North America. It is the only living species belong to the subgenus Tamias. Eastern chipmunks are also known as the ‘chipping squirrel’. Over the years they have adapted to living in fragmented forests.

Eastern Chipmunk Facts

Anatomy

  • Adult chipmunks reach a length of about 8.9–10.6 in (22.5–26.8 cm) with the weight averaging 2.8–4.4 oz (80–125 g).
  • The long bushy tail also adds 93 mm (3.7 in) to the chipmunk’s overall length.
  • They are mainly recognized by their reddish brown to greyish body with dominant stripes that run along its back from neck to the base of the tail. There is a creamy-colored stripe that separates two black stripes.
  • They have got large pouches in cheeks which play a vital role in carrying food.
  • Males and females are nearly of the same size and shape.

Geographic Range

  • Eastern chipmunks occur in the Nova Scotia, ranging from south Manitoba to as far as Gulf of Mexico and James Bay.
  • They are some of the most familiar squirrels in the suburban backyards of the eastern United States.
eastern chipmunk facts
Eastern Chipmunk ©www.rondeauprovincialpark.ca

Habitat

  • They are likely to be found in the deciduous forests primarily because these habitats provide them cover in the form of rocks, logs, brush piles, stumps, banks, and bushes.
  • Eastern chipmunks fancy living in open busy areas. They are thought to construct extensive burrows to seek cover from predators.
  • They are found in the wooded habitats of southern Canada and eastern United States. Eastern chipmunks cover burrows with materials such as leaves, sticks, rocks and vegetation and do inasmuch as they can to protect it.
  • Eastern chipmunks mainly occur at an altitude of 1220 m (4000 ft).

Behavior

  • The eastern chipmunk is thought to be almost entirely solitary except outside the breeding season when the young are present with mother.
  • Home ranges of chipmunks is 0.07 to 1.0 acre (0.03–0.40 ha). Ranges do overlap but males actively defend the territory and often end up chasing the intruder to run it down.
  • Studies show that about 26% of females prefer to stay within their range.
  • Eastern chipmunks produce low-pitched bird-like calls that seem more like clicking or chattering sounds. Often do they generate cuk-cuk-cuk sound or simply chipping sounds.
  • When the day is too hot or windy for the squirrel it may remain in its burrow spending hours.
  • They may bite the intruder sometimes on its tail while mostly on the ears.
  • Chipmunks dig tunnels that may be as deep as 45-91 cm (18-36 in) down the ground. A chamber averages 15-25 cm (6-10 in) in diameter.
  • When threatened they may go either underground or climb up the trees.

Feeding Ecology & Diet

  • Eastern chipmunks consume vegetation, nuts, bulbs, and seeds as do all ground squirrels. The largest chipmunk’s diet also consists of amphibians, birds, fungi (false truffles), green plants, worms, mushrooms, fruits, insects, invertebrates, and small mammals.
  • They remain active all day long and like to spend much of their time foraging.
  • In winter, chipmunks hibernate but they don’t get fatty to survive hibernation period. In fact eastern chipmunks store large amount of nuts and seeds from different trees such as maple, beech, and oak and that chipmunks eat these foods when they wake up spontaneously from hibernation to forage.
  • Eastern chipmunks may collect as much as 165 acorns each day. They may accumulate acorns far more than are required during hibernation. The peak months during which they hoard large amounts of acorns are early September to late October. Acorns needed during hibernation are hoarded only in two days while the rest of acorns are surplus. However they use the excess food during reproduction.
Eastern Chipmunk facts
Eastern Chipmunk ©www.rodplanck.com

Reproductive Biology

  • The breeding occurs two times a year; first they mate from February to April and again from late June to early July.
  • The gestation period lasts about 31 – 32 days and a female gives birth to 4 – 5 live young.
  • Young chipmunks show up from their burrows after 35 – 49 days. They reach adulthood in about 90 days. However they may become mature at least after passing first winter hibernation.
  • At birth young chipmunks average 64 mm (2.5 in) in length while they weigh up to 2-3 g (0.1 oz).
  • The average lifespan of the eastern chipmunk is 3 years in the wild but the captive animal may live up to 8 years.
  • Predators of eastern chipmunks are weasels, bobcats, domestic cats, foxes, lynx, snakes, hawks, martens, owls, and raccoons.
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