Eastern chipmunk

Tamias striatus

TAXONOMY

Sciuris striatus (Linnaeus, 1758), Upper Savannah River, South Carolina, United States. Eleven subspecies.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

English: Chipping squirrel; French: Suisse, tamia rayé, tamia strié; German: Ostliches Chipmunk.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Largest chipmunk. 8.9-10.6 in (22.5-26.8 cm); 2.8-4.4 oz (80-125 g). Grayish to reddish brown with five black stripes from neck to base of tail. Two lateral black stripes are separated by a cream-colored stripe while the median stripe is bordered on each side by a grayish to reddish orange stripe.

DISTRIBUTION

Ranges from southern Manitoba east to Nova Scotia and from James Bay south to the states bordering on the gulf of Mexico.

HABITAT

Mainly lives in deciduous forests with cover provided by rocks, stumps, logs, banks, bushes, and brush piles, but will live in more open bushy areas. Extensive burrow systems are constructed below ground.

BEHAVIOR

A solitary chipmunk with only one individual in a burrow system except when offspring are present. Home ranges, 0.07 to 1.0 acre (0.03-0.40 ha), overlap but core areas are defended by their owner with short chases of the intruder. Natal dispersal is male biased such that only 15% of juvenile males settle near their mothers while 26% of females settle within one home range of their mothers.

I Ammospermophilus harrisii I Spermophilus columbianus I Tamias striatus

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Diet consists mainly of seeds, nuts, and vegetation but will also eat fungi, invertebrates, amphibians, snakes, birds, and other small mammals. Although chipmunks hibernate, they do not store energy for hibernation as fat, but instead they hoard large quantities of seeds and nuts from oak, beech, and maple from which they will forage from intermittently during the winter. Chipmunks can accumulate up to 165 acorns per day and they store far more acorns then is required for hibernation. At peak hoarding periods during late September to early October, the entire hibernation energy budget equivalent in acorns can be accumulated in only one to two days. This surplus food may be important for many reasons, such as insurance against spoilage or pilfering, or as a supplemental source of food during reproduction or possibly a subsequent hibernation period.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Breeding occurs between late February and April and again from late June to early July. Gestation is 31-32 days with litter size averages of four to five. Juveniles emerge from their natal burrows 5-7 weeks after birth. Adult size is reached within three months. Reproductive maturity is usually not obtained until after their first winter hibernation, however, some early born females can breed in the same year.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Not threatened. Responses of chipmunks to forest fragmentation are mixed however, studies showing negative responses point out the importance of maintaining or creating movement corridors.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS None known. ♦

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