Peak Nuisance Period: Spring through Fall
Common Nuisance Situations:
- The most serious economic damage is caused by their burrowing under porches, stairs, patios,or into foundations. They may undermine the structure.
- They gnaw on the tubes used to collect maple syrup.
- Chipmunks raid bird feeders and stashes of pet food.
- They dig in flower beds and vegetable gardens, uprooting plants. They eat flower bulbs, seeds, seedlings.
- Their loud warning chirps in the morning may disturb some people’s sleep.
- Disease risks: minimal. They are host to a variety of parasites, including fleas, lice, mites, worms, and botflies.
Description: The Eastern chipmunk is a small, brownish, ground-dwelling squirrel (Figure 1). It is typically 5-6 inches long and weighs about 3 ounces. Chipmunks are easy to distinguish. They have short, pointy heads marked with two white stripes, one above and one below the eye. They also have five black lines with white striping down the back. They sit upright and hold food with their front feet.
Chipmunks are diurnal. They do not hibernate. However, they will stay in their burrows for days at a time during the winter, in a sleepy state. Chipmunks rely on their food caches during the winter. They may come out on warm days, often to travel to another food cache.
Diet: Opportunists, primarily herbivores. Their favorite foods are nuts, seeds, and fruits. Chipmunks eat nuts (acorns, hazel nuts, beechnuts), seeds (from many ornamental trees, wildflowers, clover, ragweed, and sunflowers, and birdseed), flower bulbs, berries (such as raspberries, strawberries, black berries, and chokecherries), fruit (watermelon, apples, pears, peaches, cantaloupe, cherries), and wild mushrooms. They will occasionally eat corn, wheat, oats, grass seed, insects, worms, snails, slugs, bird eggs, nestlings, mice, moles, frogs, salamanders, small snakes, and carrion. Although they spend most of their time on the ground, they will climb trees to take nuts, fruits, and seeds.
Habitat: They adapt to a variety of habitats, but are usually found in areas with at least a few mature trees. Common in rural, suburban, and urban areas (yards), gardens, campgrounds, parks, urban lots). Chipmunks often burrow under old stone walls bordering pastures or woods; under piles of brush, rocks, or garbage; among a tree’s roots, or near buildings. The only places you’re not likely to find them are marshy areas with very dense undergrowth.
Breeding: They mate 2x/year in April and July. They have 2 litters per year in May and August. Their typical litter size ranges from 2 to 7 young.