Least Chimpmunk (Tamias minimus)

A chipmunk stops on the limb of a pine tree
Least Chipmunks are some of the most commonly seen animals at Jewel Cave National Monument.

NPS/Neal Herbert

A close up Chipmunk eats a seed with its cheek pouches full
Chipmunks at Jewel Cave National Monument work hard throughout the summer and fall to stash away enough food to make it through winter. When a food source is found, they will stuff their cheek pouches full and carry it back to their midden.

NPS Photo

Least Chipmunk
Tamias minimus
  • The least chipmunk is the smallest and most widespread member of the chipmunk family.
  • The genus Tamias comes from Latin meaning “storer” because of the chipmunk family tendency to stash food for later in midden piles and the species name minimus means it is the smallest member of its family.

Size and Description
  • These tiny rodents average 7-9 inches in length including its tail a may weigh 1.6 ounces or less.
  • The Least Chipmunk has a dark central stripe running from the base of its skull to the base of its tail and alternating gray and black stripes along its sides.
  • It has a white underbelly and is all buff brown on top aside from its stripes.

  • This species does not truly hibernate, they go into a state called “torpor” which is extended deep sleep throughout the winter, while still waking occasionally to eat.
  • Breeding begins at the beginning of spring, usually late March until mid-May.
  • A female will have one litter of 5–6 young per year.
  • Little is known about their vocalizations, but they do have “chipping” (which may be an alarm) and “clucking” calls.
  • Can be identified by quick darting movements and it seems to carry its tail vertically when moving.

  • They feed on insects, nuts, berries, seeds, fruit, and grain which they stuff into their large cheek pouches and carry to their nest to store for winter.
  • Once an area has no more food to forage, Least chipmunks will mark that area with urine and do not return to that area again until it has resupplied.

Interactions with other animals
  • Given the opportunity, everything will eat a chipmunk. In the black hills their most common predators are gray and red foxes, coyotes, long-tailed weasels, mink, owls, harriers, and other birds of prey.

Last updated: July 28, 2023

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