An eastern chipmunk (Tamias striatus) photographed at New York State Zoo in Watertown
An eastern chipmunk (Tamias striatus) photographed at New York State Zoo in Watertown
Photograph by Joel Sartore, National Geographic Photo Ark

Chipmunks

Common Name:
Chipmunks
Scientific Name:
Tamias
Type:
Mammals
Diet:
Omnivore
Average Life Span In The Wild:
2 to 3 years
Size:
4 to 7 inches; tail: 3 to 5 inches
Weight:
1 to 5 ounces

Lively and speedy critters, chipmunks are small members of the squirrel family. Their pudgy cheeks, large, glossy eyes, stripes, and bushy tails have made them a favorite among animators, and landed them a series of starring roles in Hollywood.

Chipmunk Species

Of the 25 species of chipmunks, all but one, Asia’s Eutamias sibiricus, is found in North America. Ranging from Canada to Mexico, they are generally seen scampering through the undergrowth of a variety of environments from alpine forests to shrubby deserts. Some dig burrows to live in, complete with tunnels and chambers, while others make their homes in nests, bushes, or logs.

Depending on species, chipmunks can be gray to reddish-brown in color with contrasting dark and light stripes on the sides of their face and across their back and tail. They range in size from the least chipmunk, which, at 7.2 to 8.5 inches and 1.1 to 1.8 ounces, is the smallest chipmunk, to the eastern chipmunk, which grows up to 11 inches and weighs as much as 4.4 ounces.

Behavior

Chipmunks generally gather food on the ground in areas with underbrush, rocks, and logs, where they can hide from predators like hawks, foxes, coyotes, weasels, and snakes. They feed on insects, nuts, berries, seeds, fruit, and grain which they stuff into their generous cheek pouches and carry to their burrow or nest to store. Chipmunks hibernate, but instead of storing fat, they periodically dip into their cache of nuts and seeds throughout the winter.

Their shrill, repeated, birdlike chirp is usually made upon sensing a threat but is also thought to be used as a mating call by females. Chipmunks are solitary creatures and normally ignore one another except during the spring, when mating takes place. After a 30-day gestation, a litter of two to eight is born. The young stay with their parents for two months before they begin to gather their own provisions for the winter ahead.

For the most part, chipmunks, although susceptible to forest fragmentation, are not currently at-risk.

This photo was submitted to Your Shot, our photo community on Instagram. Follow us on Instagram at @natgeoyourshot or visit us at natgeo.com/yourshot for the latest submissions and news about the community.
This photo was submitted to Your Shot, our photo community on Instagram. Follow us on Instagram at @natgeoyourshot or visit us at natgeo.com/yourshot for the latest submissions and news about the community.
Photograph by FRANK ROSSI, National Geographic Your Shot

Go Further

Subscriber Exclusive Content

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet