Georgia Wildlife Web

Home Glossary Classification Conservation Status Regions of Georgia Fishes of Georgia Make a Donation

Species Description

Eastern Chipmunk

Tamias striatus


Species Image

Classification

Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Rodentia
Family: Sciuridae

Description

The fur on the back is reddish brown, with 5 conspicuous black stripes that run down the back and sides and end at a reddish rump. The belly and sides are buff to white, and the tail is blackish above and rusty below. Stripes on the face distinguish this species from all other mammals over most of its range. The Eastern Chipmunk is 20.3 - 25.4 cm (8 - 10 in) in total length including its tail, which is just 7.6 - 10.2 cm (3 - 4 in) long. This is a small, ground-dwelling squirrel whose sharp chattering chuck-chuck-chuck is often heard before the animal is seen. Ears are short, rounded, and held erect. The short, bushy tail is held straight up when the animal runs.

Life Cycle

A mature Eastern Chipmunk can breed twice a year, beginning in March, with the first litter of 2-7 (usually 4-5) young being born in April after a 31-day gestation period. A second litter is born in July or August. Young open their eyes at 30 days and are weaned at 2 months of age. At this time they become independent of the female.

Natural History

The preferred habitat for this species is deciduous forests, forest edges, and wooded rocky ravines. The Eastern Chipmunk is basically a ground dweller, but will readily climb trees. It digs a burrow system which is a complex of tunnels with two or three burrow entrances hidden under a rock, log, or bank. The main nest chamber is about 25.4 cm (10 in) in diameter and is lined with dried leaves. The nest may be as much as 0.9 m (3 ft) below the soil surface and 1.8 - 3.7 m (6 - 12 ft) away from the burrow entrance. Other chambers are dug for food storage and for disposal of excess soil from tunnel building. The Eastern Chipmunk is diurnal, except during long periods of freezing or extreme winter weather, when it becomes inactive and remains in the nest. It eats acorns, hickory nuts, pecans, berries, seeds, and insects such as grasshoppers, beetles, katydids, and cicadas. As it forages, it crams food into pouches in its cheeks. Once these pouches are full, the Chipmunk returns to its burrow and stores the food in underground chambers to eat during the winter months when food may be scarce. It may also bury food in shallow excavations on the forest floor. This habit of burying seeds and nuts helps in the dispersal of many forest trees. The Eastern Chipmunk is eaten by predators such as foxes, hawks, and snakes.

Range

Eastern Chipmunk Region Map The Eastern Chipmunk is found in forests of the Piedmont and mountains of northern Georgia, and ranges over the forested eastern half of the United States, except on the southeastern Coastal Plains.

Conservation Status

The Eastern chipmunk is common, and is frequently seen in suburban habitats.

Similar Species

No other member of the squirrel family in Georgia has stripes on its back or head like the Eastern Chipmunk.