Cute Chipmunks

Posted in Wildlife A-Z | April 1, 2010 | Comment Now

Chipmunks are members of the squirrel family. They are lively and speedy critters. They have pudgy cheeks and large, glossy eyes. In addition to this, they have wonderful stripes and bushy tails. These characteristics have attracted animators from Hollywood. Chipmunks have played quite a few substantial roles in Hollywood movies.

There are nearly 25 species of chipmunks. Of these, all except one have been found in North America. Asia’s Tamias sibiricus is the only exception. Chipmunks have been found from Canada to Mexico. They generally scamper through the undergrowth of a number of environments from alpine forests to shrubby deserts. Many chipmunks dig burrows for their homes. Some of these burrows are complete with tunnels and chambers. Others build their homes in nests, bushes, and logs.

The color pattern varies across species. Most of them are gray to reddish-brown. They have contrasting dark and light stripes on their faces, backs, and tails. The smallest chipmunks stands at 7.2 to 8.5 inches long and weighs about 32 to 50 grams. The Eastern chipmunks is the largest and grows up to 11 inches. It can weigh as much as 125 grams.

Chipmunks tend to gather food from regions rich in underbrush, rocks, and logs. This helps them to hide from predators such as hawks, foxes, coyotes, snakes, and weasels. Chipmunks tend to gorge on insects, nuts, berries, seeds, fruit and grains. They store some of the food in their generous cheek pouches. They store this food in the burrow or nest. They hibernate during winter. However, instead of storing fat, they gorge on nuts and seeds during winter.

They utter a shrill birdlike chirp in the face of danger. It also serves as a mating call for females. Chipmunks are solitary animals and generally ignore company for most of the year, except spring, which is the mating period. A litter of two to eight chipmunks are born after a 30-day gestation. The young chipmunks stay with their parents for nearly two months. They then gather provisions for the upcoming winter.

Chipmunks are not endangered species, though they are susceptible to forest fragmentation. Of all the species, the Palmer’s chipmunk is considered the most vulnerable.

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