We have some chipmunks living around our home, and they provide us with some good entertainment. They are pretty tame, so I am hoping they don’t try to take up residence in our garage or worse yet, our house.
According to Robert Seabloom’s Mammals of North Dakota two species of chipmunks are native to North Dakota, the least chipmunk, and the eastern chipmunk. Both species are native to Turtle Mountain and the Pembina Hills. However, the least chipmunk also can be found southwest of the Missouri River, while the eastern chipmunk can also be found in the Red River Valley. As you might suspect, the least chipmunk occupies a variety of habitats and is the species observed in Theodore Roosevelt National Park. The eastern chipmunk is largely a species of the deciduous forest where acorns are an important food item.
These two species are fairly easy to differentiate. The least chipmunk is smaller and tends to run with its tail straight up as opposed to the eastern chipmunk which is noticeably larger and holds its tail straight back while running. It is the least chipmunk that has been entertaining us this summer.
Chipmunks feed largely on fruits, seeds, and vegetation. But they also consume insects as well as some other invertebrates. Several sources of information on chipmunks list the importance of chipmunks to humans as predators of some insect pests and dispersers of native plant seeds.
The mating system of these chipmunks has not been well document, but they are both probably polygynous. The mating season in our region begins in the spring, resulting in litters of around three to seven young being born in early summer. That is when the real entertainment begins.
A few chipmunks have made the big time! Most of us have seen Chip and Dale cartoons over the years. And if you are into your 60’s no doubt you can recall Alvin and the Chipmunks! Alvin, Simon, and Theodore were big Hollywood hits and famous singers on the 1950’s and 1960’s, particularly around Christmas with their hit “The Chipmunk Song” (“Christmas Don’t Be Late”). It still gets some airtime around Christmas. But of course we will have to wait a few months to hear that again!