Eastern Chipmunk

EASTERN CHIPMUNK

Photo Credit: Lee Conaway

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Tamias striatus

Description: The eastern chipmunk is one of the largest members of the chipmunk family. It is approximately 8 to 10 inches in length with 3 or 4 inches being the tail. This animal is reddish brown in color on its back with five obvious black stripes separated by white or grey stripes. Its belly is white or crème in color. Its face also has light and dark striping around the eyes which helps distinguish it from similar mammals in its range.

Distribution: Tamius striatus ranges over much of the eastern part of North America. It also has populations in southeastern Canada, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa.

Habitat: The ideal habitat for the eastern chipmunk is an open hardwood or mixed pine hardwood forest, edge habitat, or forested areas that are rocky. They also can be found in parks and residential neighborhoods. It constructs a complex burrow system that has multiple entrances, one main chamber lined with leaf litter, and a few smaller chambers in which food or excess dirt from tunnel excavation is stored.

Feeding Habits: The primary foods of Tamias striatus are nuts, fruits and seeds of a variety of plants.   However, they also eat some animal matter, insects, and bone. As the chipmunk finds suitable food, it will stuff the food into the cheek pouches on both sides of its mouth. Once pouches are full, the chipmunk returns to the burrow to store the food.

Life History: The eastern chipmunk has two breeding seasons per year, but not all will be successful or attempt it twice. The first breeding cycle begins in February or March and ends in April.   The second cycle starts in June and lasts until August when the young are born. After a female chipmunk has been bred, she will give birth to two to seven young in about 31 days. The average litter size is 4 to 5. The young will remain in the burrow for about six weeks after birth. At approximately two months of age the young are weaned and independent. Male and female chipmunks reach sexual maturity around one year of age.  

Some of the known predators of the eastern chipmunk are foxes, snakes, hawks and other birds of prey, and weasels. When predators are spotted, the chipmunk quickly returns to its burrow to escape danger.

References:

Anderson, R. and J. Stephens. 2002. “Tamias striatus” (online), Animal Diversity Web.  Accessed May 22, 2006 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Tamias_Striatus.html

“Eastern Chipmunk” (online). Georgia Wildlife Web. Accessed May 22, 2006 at http://museum.nhm.uga.edu/gawildlife/mammals/rodentia/sciuridae/tstriatus.html.

Hall, E. R. and K. R. Kelsom. 1959. The Mammals of North America. The Ronald Press Company. New York, N.Y. 292-293.

Author: Griff Johnson, Wildlife Biologist, Division of Wildlife & Freshwater Fisheries


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