NPS Photo by Bob Hirschy
The least chipmunk is a common resident of Wind Cave National Park. The least chipmunk is the smallest of all chipmunks and similar in appearance to the eastern chipmunk. Both chipmunks are characterized by having black stripes that run down the middle and sides of their back. The least chipmunk's outside black stripes on each side of its body are complimented by white stripes. White stripes also run from nose to ear above and below the eye. The tail is carried straight up when the animal runs.
Least chipmunks range over most of western North America occupying the widest geographic and altitudinal range of any chipmunk. The least chipmunk is found in the arid badlands and in mixed forests. They are active during daylight hours only and retire to burrows during the night.
Living quarters of the least chipmunks are generally found underground. Here, a chamber contains a nest and a store of seeds for the winter. In the badlands, burrows are commonly found within the crevices and cracks of sandstone and rock outcroppings. These living quarters also provide an area for chipmunks to hibernate.
Individuals may actually burrow out from hibernation through late-lying snow in the spring. Breeding peaks by April. Females produce one litter per year of 5-6 young. By mid-June, young chipmunks are seen outside the burrow. In two months, they are nearly full grown and independent.
Favorite foods of the least chipmunk include wild berries and seeds from coniferous trees. Cactus fruit is eaten when available. Insects are also frequently preyed upon, especially beetles, grasshoppers, and caterpillars. Least chipmunks fall prey to red-tailed and other hawks, weasels, mink, and feral domestic cats.