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Eastern chipmunks (Tamias striatus) are a diurnal rodent that is usually found in residential yards, flower or vegetable gardens, parks and other wooded areas with low level vegetation. They have an average lifespan of up to 3 years in the wild. They are approximately 5-6 inches long with a 3” tail and weigh less than 3 ounces. They have a litter of two to seven young each year in both May & August. The young wean within about six weeks and then learn to forage by eight weeks of age. This is when they will leave their birth den to find a home of their own.
Chipmunks are subterranean den dwellers that excavate dirt to make extensive tunnel networks under rocks, garbage piles, buildings or tree root systems. Their dens have about a 2 inch mound-less opening and are usually less than 3 feet deep and can be up to 30 feet long. Their home ranges may overlap and can range from a quarter acre up to about three acres in size. However, they rarely travel beyond 200 feet from their den while foraging. They are extremely territorial animals and will “fiercely” defend about a 50 foot radius from their burrow entrance. Adults are most often seen during the day while they are out foraging and frequenting their den to store food in a special food cache area inside their tunnel network. They have keen eyesight and when startled they emit a sharp one to two second repetitive chirp to alert others of danger.
They are primarily herbivores that feed on fruits, berries, nuts, flower bulbs, ornamental plants, garden crops and will sometimes eat corn, grass seed, insects, slugs, worms, snails, mice, moles, small snakes and carrion. Occasionally they chew on decks, siding and outdoor furniture when they are wearing down their teeth or scenting their territory. Their teeth never stop growing from time of birth, so they have an instinctual need to chew on items to wear them down. But their most serious economic damage is from their burrow networks which can undermine porches, patios, stairs and even home or building foundations causing sinking or even collapse.