Eastern chipmunk

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Eastern chipmunk
Eastern chipmunk (Tamias striatus)
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Rodentia
Family: Sciuridae
Genus: Tamias
T. striatus
Binomial name
Tamias striatus
  • T. s. striatus
  • T. s. doorsiensis
  • T. s. fisheri
  • T. s. griseus
  • T. s. lysteri
  • T. s. ohioensis
  • T. s. peninsulae
  • T. s. pipilans
  • T. s. quebecensis
  • T. s. rufescens
  • T. s. venustus
  • Sciurus striatus Linnaeus, 1758

The eastern chipmunk (Tamias striatus) is a chipmunk species found in eastern North America. It is the only living member of the genus Tamias.[4][5][6][7][8]


The name "chipmunk" comes from the Ojibwe word ᐊᒋᑕᒨ ajidamoo (or possibly ajidamoonh, the same word in the Ottawa dialect of Ojibwe), which translates literally as "one who descends trees headlong."[9] First described by Mark Catesby in his 1743 The Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands, the chipmunk was eventually classified as Sciurus striatus by Linnaeus, meaning "striped squirrel" in Latin.[10][11] The scientific name was changed to Tamias striatus, meaning "striped steward," by Johann Illiger in 1811.[12]


A small species, it reaches about 30 cm (12 in) in length including the tail, and a weight of 66–150 g (2.3–5.3 oz).[13] It has reddish-brown fur on its upper body and five dark brown stripes contrasting with light brown stripes along its back, ending in a dark tail. It has lighter fur on the lower part of its body. It has a tawny stripe that runs from its whiskers to below its ears, and light stripes over its eyes. It has two fewer teeth than other chipmunks and four toes each on the front legs, but five toes on the hind legs.[14] The chipmunk's appearance "remains consistent throughout life. There is no external difference in appearance between the sexes except the obvious anatomical characteristics of the genitalia during periods of fertility. Molt occurs once or twice annually, during May or June and sometimes again in October. Both albino and melanistic specimens have been observed, but without geographical regularity."[12]


The eastern chipmunk lives in deciduous wooded areas and urban parks throughout the eastern United States and southern Canada. It prefers locations with rocky areas, brush or log piles, and shrubs to provide cover.[15]


The eastern chipmunk can climb trees well, but constructs underground nests with extensive tunnel systems, often with several entrances. To hide the construction of its burrow, the eastern chipmunk is argued by some to carry soil to a different location in its cheek pouches.[16] However, recorded observations of chipmunks carrying soil in their cheek pouches are extremely limited. John Burroughs is noted as having written that "I used to think that the chipmunk carried away the soil in his cheek pouches, and have so-stated in one of my books [Riverby, 1894], but I am now certain that he does not—only his food stores are thus carried."[17] Chipmunks also line their burrows with leaves, rocks, sticks, and other material, making the burrows even harder to see.[16] "The vocal repertoire of the chipmunk consists of five more or less stereotyped sounds: the chip, the chuck, the trills, the whistle or squeal, and chatter."[18] The chipmunks' trill has been measured to occur at the rate of 130 vibrations per minute.[14]


Eastern chipmunk eating under a log pile in Bedford, NY

The chipmunk is mainly active during the day, spending most of its day foraging. It prefers bulbs, seeds, fruits, nuts, green plants, mushrooms, insects, worms, and bird eggs. It commonly transports food in pouches in its cheeks.


The eastern chipmunk defends its burrow and lives a solitary life, except during mating season. In fact, the chipmunk's solitary existence has been noted as "one of the most characteristic behavioral features of the chipmunk," whereas "social interaction of a relatively peaceful nature occurs only during the brief period of courtship and mating, and during the six to eight weeks that the young spend with the mother after birth."[19] Females usually produce one or two litters of three to five young.[14] The two breeding seasons are from February to April and from June to August. During the winter, the chipmunk may enter long periods of hibernation.[20]

Predators of the eastern chipmunk include hawks, owls, foxes, raccoons, snakes, weasels, coyotes, bobcats, lynx, domestic dogs and domestic cats. On average, eastern chipmunks live three or more years in the wild, but in captivity they may live as long as eight years.[14]

Eastern chipmunks are known to be one of many hosts for the parasitic larvae of Cuterebra botflies.[21]



  1. ^ Cassola, F. (2017) [errata version of 2016 assessment]. "Tamias striatus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2016: e.T42583A115191543. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T42583A22268905.en.
  2. ^ Thorington, R.W. Jr; Hoffman, R.S. (2005). "Tamias (Tamias) striatus". In Wilson, D.E.; Reeder, D.M (eds.). Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 817. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
  3. ^ "Tamias striatus". Global Biodiversity Information Facility. Retrieved 30 April 2022.
  4. ^ Patterson, Bruce D.; Norris, Ryan W. (2016). "Towards a uniform nomenclature for ground squirrels: the status of the Holarctic chipmunks" (PDF). Mammalia. 80 (3): 241–251. doi:10.1515/mammalia-2015-0004. S2CID 9955150. Retrieved 8 June 2019.
  5. ^ Wilson, D. E.; D. M. Reeder (2005). "Mammal Species of the World". Archived from the original on 23 June 2007. Retrieved 27 June 2007.
  6. ^ Piaggio, A. J.; Spicer, G. S. (2001). "Molecular phylogeny of the chipmunks inferred from mitochondrial cytochrome b and cytochrome oxidase II gene sequences" (PDF). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 20 (3): 335–350. CiteSeerX doi:10.1006/mpev.2001.0975. PMID 11527462.
  7. ^ Piaggio, Antoinette J.; Spicer, Greg S. (2000). "Molecular Phylogeny of the Chipmunk Genus Tamias Based on the Mitochondrial Cytochrome Oxidase Subunit II Gene" (PDF). Journal of Mammalian Evolution. 7 (3): 147–166. doi:10.1023/a:1009484302799. S2CID 7623018.
  8. ^ Musser, G. G.; Durden, L. A.; Holden, M. E.; Light, J. E. (2010). "Systematic review of endemic Sulawesi squirrels (Rodentia, Sciuridae), with descriptions of new species of associated sucking lice (Insecta, Anoplura), and phylogenetic and zoogeographic assessments of sciurid lice" (PDF). Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History. 339 (339): 1–260. doi:10.1206/695.1. hdl:2246/6067. S2CID 82712592.
  9. ^ Chipmunk, Online Etymology Dictionary
  10. ^ Lewis, Charlton T.; Short, Charles (1879). "sciurus". Charlton T. Lewis, Charles Short, A Latin Dictionary, scĭūrus. A Latin Dictionary. Clarendon Press. Archived from the original on 27 October 2021.
  11. ^ Lewis, Charlton T.; Short, Charles (1879). "strio". Charlton T. Lewis, Charles Short, A Latin Dictionary, S , strēnŭē , strĭo. A Latin Dictionary. Clarendon Press. Archived from the original on 27 October 2021.
  12. ^ a b Wishner page 113
  13. ^ "Eastern chipmunk videos, photos and facts – Tamias striatus – ARKive". Archived from the original on 3 December 2013. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
  14. ^ a b c d Eastern Chipmunk Archived 8 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine, West Virginia Wildlife Series
  15. ^ Long, John L. (14 August 2003). Introduced Mammals of the World: Their History, Distribution and Influence. Csiro Publishing. ISBN 978-0-643-09916-6.
  16. ^ a b "Chipmunks" (PDF). Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management. p. B-14. Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 August 2018.
  17. ^ Wishner page 100
  18. ^ Wishner page 117
  19. ^ Wishner page 116-117
  20. ^ Ian Popple (26 April 2012). "The mother of all hangovers". Archived from the original on 5 March 2016.
  21. ^ Paquette, Chelsey; Garant, Dany; Savage, Jade; Réale, Denis; Bergeron, Patrick (May 2020). "Individual and environmental determinants of Cuterebra bot fly parasitism in the eastern chipmunk (Tamias striatus)". Oecologia. 193 (2): 359–370. Bibcode:2020Oecol.193..359P. doi:10.1007/s00442-020-04685-x. PMID 32566968. S2CID 219958543.


  • Wishner, Lawrence. Eastern Chipmunks: Secrets of Their Solitary Lives, United States of America, 1982. ISBN 978-0874749625
  • Long, John L. Introduced Mammals of the World: Their History, Distribution and Influence, 2003. ISBN 978-0-643-09916-6

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