Wildlife Portfolio of the Western National Parks
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THE LITTLE STRIPED CHIPMUNK is a dainty, frisky squirrellike rodent characterized by a slender body and a flat tail which is less than half the total length of the animal. Its outstanding field character is the striped back, consisting of five dark and four light stripes extending from the shoulders to the base of the tail. In chipmunks, the head is striped as well as the body, while in ground squirrels only the body is striped. The belly is whitish. The ears are narrow and erect. There are many varieties of striped chipmunks in the mountains of the western United States.

Seeds, buds, fruits, and insects form their chief articles of diet, but bird eggs are considered a delicacy. Chipmunks, being good climbers, ascend trees readily and have been watched as they actually raided the nests and carried off the eggs.

The striped chipmunks are welcome visitors at the woodsman's or vacationist's camp in the mountains. They soon learn that discarded table scraps are their special bounty and are usually on hand promptly at meal time.

One time, when I was having great difficulty in procuring a photograph I wanted of a chipmunk climbing a pine tree. I was just about to give up in dispair when a pigeon hawk came flying through the woods in search of food. As the hawk flew by on the side of the tree opposite to me, the chipmunk scurried around the tree in great haste, flattened itself out on my side of the tree and remained motionless to escape the hawk, enabling me to obtain the desired photograph.

On April 14, 1935, at Lodgepole, Sequoia National Park, I found chipmunks out of hibernation and active, although the snow still lay from 3 to 3-1/2 feet deep on the level.

The breeding season starts a few weeks after the chipmunks come out of hibernation and then they begin building their nests. These nests, in which the young are born, are often located in cracks between rocks or in old woodpecker holes or other tree cavities. Usually they are lined with fine strips of bark or plant stems which have been cut into shreds by the chipmunks.

At Tower Falls, in Yellowstone National Park, where these chipmunks are numerous they may be seen harvesting grass seeds which they strip and gather with their front paws. Some of these seeds are eaten immediately; others are deftly stowed in the cheek pouches inside the mouth. These cheek pouches, which serve as pockets, are exceedingly helpful in aiding these animals to gather, transport, and store their reserve food supply of seeds.

The average chipmunk family consists of the parents and four young. A relatively high rate of reproduction is necessary to maintain their numbers, because these rodents are preyed upon by weasels, hawks, pine martens, and other enemies.


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Last Updated: 01-Jul-2010