Do Chipmunks Hibernate in the Winter?

do chipmunks hibernate
Chipmunks hibernate during winter but occasionally wake to eat and use the bathroom. They usually sleep for days at a time. However, since they are partly active in cold months, Chipmunks are not true hibernators.

Do Chipmunks Hibernate?

Chipmunks enter a state of torpor or winter rest. Chipmunks are not true hibernators since they occasionally awaken to eat, relieve themselves, and elevate their body temperature.

However, their body metabolism slows down, as it does in other hibernators. Chipmunks hibernate for several weeks to several months, depending on the weather in their location.

Do Chipmunks Prepare for Winter?

Chipmunks are different from other hibernating animals because they do not increase their body fat before winter. Most animals eat extreme amounts of food to increase their body fat for winter hibernation.

This stored energy is used to survive without getting up for food. Chipmunks don’t do this. Instead, chipmunks hoard food in their burrows to eat during the winter.

They begin this preparation around late summer or in the fall. They keep food stored in multiple burrows in case another animal steals their food. They use complex, underground burrows to hibernate. 

Chipmunks sometimes forget where their other hoard is, though. Chipmunks use their cheek pouches to carry significant amounts of food to their burrow in preparation for winter.

They do also use their cheek pouches to store food as they sleep. Some of the food chipmunks hoard for cold months include nuts, seeds, and fungi. 

chipmunk munching on food near a rock den

What happens to a Chipmunk during Hibernation?

Chipmunks may not fully hibernate like other animals, but their bodies adjust to allow them to go into a deep sleep during months of cold weather. Here’s what happens to their body:

  • Heart rate, respiration rate, and body temperature reduce.
  • Heart rate goes from 350 beat per minute to just 4 beats per minute. 
  • Respiration rate declines from 60 breath per minute to 20 breaths per minute. 
  • Body temperature reduces from 100 degrees Fahrenheit to 40 degrees Fahrenheit. 

As chipmunks hibernate, they sleep coiled in a ball shape. If you were to find a hibernating chipmunk, it would be very cold to the touch, and its eyes would be closed. It would appear to be dead.

chipmunk at the entrance to a burrow

For How Long Do Chipmunks Hibernate?

The months and the amount of time that chipmunks hibernate depends on the weather in their location. The very most common species of chipmunk found in North America is the Eastern Chipmunk.

Eastern chipmunks in northern areas hibernate for several months, while eastern chipmunks in southern regions can hibernate for only a few weeks. Some locations have warm winters, and chipmunks living in these areas may not hibernate at all. 

Chipmunks that live farther north hibernate from late October to around March. Chipmunks that live farther South hibernate around December to around late January. 

Where do chipmunks go when they hibernate?

Chipmunks hibernate in burrows, which are underground dens. Chipmunks begin a burrow by digging a hole and creating tunnels underground.

This burrow system has tunnels leading to different sections with specific uses. The crevices are used for going to the bathroom, giving birth, and storing food.

Over time, their burrows expand and can become up to thirty feet long. Chipmunk burrows provide adequate shelter from predators and weather. They create their burrows near buildings for extra protection.

The burrows also keep them warm underground. Even though chipmunks frequently wake up during hibernation, they aren’t likely to leave their den since their den has everything they need. 

Chipmunks live alone in their burrows. The only time they aren’t alone is when a female chipmunk is with her babies. 

chipmunk with full cheek pouches poking its head out of a burrow

Do Chipmunks enter houses?

Sometimes chipmunks may seek shelter in human homes. It is more common for other small animals, such as mice and squirrels, to come into homes than for chipmunks to enter into homes.

In preparation for the winter months, a chipmunk may create a den in an attic or the walls of a house. To avoid this, homeowners must ensure all their entry points are sealed, with no cracks or holes that small critters can use to get inside.


Whitney is a graduate of Georgetown College and a current graduate student at the University of the Cumberlands. She resides in the beautiful state of Kentucky, which she has always appreciated and endeavors to maintain the land's well-being. A lover of animals and the earth, Whitney strives to communicate accurate information that will help readers learn new information, ideas, and become informed stewards of the natural world.

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