Eastern Chipmunk (Tamias striatus)
The eastern chipmunk has a similar silhouette to the red squirrel, except for its tail, which is only a third as long its body. The light brown body, striped on the back by five black lines, is about half the size of a red squirrel. Due to the small size and quickness, chipmunks have a more harried manner.
Chipmunks often live at the edges of woodlands, in areas dry enough to make digging an easy task. They live in burrows with entrance tunnels up to 3 metres (3.3′) long. For this reason, they are sometimes called ground squirrels, since they not only store food underground but live there as well.
The diet of a chipmunk varies througout the year. During summer, they eat a wide range of fruit, including raspberries, chokecherries and blueberries. They also eat frogs, insects and occasionally bird eggs. In the fall, they concentrate on nuts and seeds, particularly those of beech, beaked hazelnut and oak. Chipmunks are known for their ability to carry large amounts of seeds and nuts at once in very puffed-out cheeks. The food stores are essential to survival through the winter and spring until a new season’s food becomes available. Chipmunks are the only one of our squirrels to have a form of hibernation during the winter months, waking often to feed on the summer stores in the sleep chamber.
Chipmunks enjoy some benefit from land clearing, as they tend to live on the edges of forests. On the other hand, as more houses are built in rural areas, they become easy prey for cats. They can be pests in gardens, but have a fairly large range and so are not usually present in large enough numbers to cause serious problems. Planting red oak, beaked hazelnut and American beech will provide welcome food sources for chipmunks.