Chipmunks | Prairie Public Broadcasting

Chipmunks

May 29, 2021

 

We have some chipmunks around our yard that are providing us with some great entertainment.  They have been busy scurrying around, often cleaning up spilled sunflower seeds from our bird feeders. And of course, they occasionally crawl up to a platform feeder to gather sunflower seeds until their cheek pouches look like they are going to burst before heading out to stash them for later use.  

Chipmunks generally construct burrows underground, perhaps by a rock, log, among tree roots, and the like.  It looks like one family has found a spot under our deck to their liking.  They will likely cache the sunflower seeds there.  I have read that the cache may consist of up to a bushel of seeds and nuts. 

Two species of chipmunks are native to North Dakota.  The eastern chipmunk can be found in Turtle Mountain, Pembina Hills, and the Red River Valley, while the least chipmunk can be found largely southwest of the Missouri River, along with Turtle Mountain and the Pembina Hills.  They are rather easy to differentiate.  The eastern chipmunk is about ten inches long, including about four inches of tail.  As the name implies, the least chipmunk is a little smaller.  It is a couple inches shorter and weights about half that of the eastern chipmunk.  An easier way to differentiate the two species, particularly where their ranges overlap such as Turtle Mountain and Pembina Hills, is by how they hold their tail when they run.  Eastern chipmunks typically run with their tails held straight back.  But if you see one running with its tail straight up, it is a least chipmunk.  What we have been watching mostly least chipmunks.  

The chipmunks should start having their young soon.  That will take their entertainment value to a new level.  Speaking of chipmunks and entertainment, no doubt some of you have watched Chip and Dale cartoons over the years.  And in the 1960’s Alvin and the Chipmunks were all over the TV and radio waves with their hits the “Witch Doctor” and “The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)."  Alvin and the Chipmunks are still on television.  And somewhere in our house, tucked away with my other LP’s is “The Chipmunks Sing the Beatles Hits,” a Christmas gift from my childhood.  Such were the '60s!

-Chuck Lura