Chipmunks overview: lifespan, diet, sleep, nesting, and pictures of chipmunks

picture of a chipmunk
Chipmunks are found primarily in North America and Asia. They belong to the squirrel family and have brown colored fur with light and dark stripes on their backs. Chipmunks usually grow up to six inches and weigh about 3 ounces. 

Here are 9 chipmunk facts you should know:

  • Chipmunks are part of the squirrel family, scientifically known as the Sciuridae.
  • Chipmunks have pouches inside their cheeks where they store food.
  • Male chipmunks are called bucks.
  • Female chipmunks are called does.
  • One chipmunk can collect around one hundred and sixty acorns in a day.
  • Newborn chipmunks are bumblebee sized. 
  • There are twenty-five species of chipmunks.
  • A group of chipmunks is referred to as a scurry. 
  • Chipmunks are vocal, and their noises are often mistaken for birds.
chipmunk on a half-eaten sunflower

Where do chipmunks live?

All species of chipmunks live in North America except for the Siberian chipmunk. The Siberian chipmunk can exclusively be found in Asia, Russia, and Japan.

As the name suggests, eastern chipmunks live throughout the eastern parts of the United States and southeastern Canada like Ontario. However they can also be found in Western Canada in places like Alberta.

Likewise, western chipmunks are primarily found in the western states, like Colorado, and in abundance in places like Yellowstone National Park. A chipmunk’s habitat is any covered, enclosed area.

Ideally, chipmunks reside in forests and woodlands. Chipmunks will make homes out of logs, trees, tree branches, tree stumps, shrubs, and rocks. They will also burrow in man-made items such as fences, parks, and houses.

Chipmunks seek covered areas for protection against predators. Chipmunk habitats also include deserts and rocky mountains. Chipmunks create deep burrows underneath or around a covered surface.

Their burrows may be shallow and only be used for hiding and sleeping. Usually, a chipmunk’s burrow is deep and complex, and use this burrow to store food, nest, and stay warm during the winter months.

Despite the size of small chipmunks, they can create burrows as deep as three feet underground and thirty feet long. They usually make their burrows on a slope to allow for water drainage. 

chipmunk seated on rocks

Where do chipmunks go in the winter?

Chipmunks do hibernate in their burrows during the winter months . However, they don’t sleep the entire time as some creatures do.

Chipmunks will wake every few days to raise their body temperature, feed on stored food, and excrete. Chipmunks will prepare for hibernation in the fall by collecting and storing food and digging deep burrows. 

What do chipmunks eat?

Chipmunks are omnivores, meaning they eat plants and meats. Chipmunks tend to eat any food they find on the ground. Chipmunks stuff their cheek pouches with things to eat like:

  • Mushrooms
  • Nuts
  • Insects
  • Berries
  • Corn
  • Baby birds
  • Seeds, like sunflower seeds
  • Plant roots
  • Bulbs
  • Bird eggs

When and where do chipmunks have babies?

Chipmunks breed twice per year. They breed when the weather is warm, mainly in spring and summer. They typically mate between February to May.

If the weather is warm in autumn, some chipmunks will mate again. Female chipmunks give live birth in the safety of their burrows after a thirty-day gestation period.

Chipmunks tend to give birth to four to five babies at a time. Baby chipmunks are born blind and hairless. The young chipmunks will leave the burrow at around four to six weeks old. 

chipmunk sitting on mossy ground with dried pine needles

How long do chipmunks live?

On average, a chipmunk in the wild will live about two to three years. Chipmunks in captivity can live up to eleven years. This is because of protection against predators and consistent food.

Because chipmunks are small mammals, they have many predators and are often killed for a meal. Many chipmunks suffer from dental issues.

Most chipmunks don’t eat enough calcium, resulting in tooth loss and overgrown teeth. This can lead to an inability to eat and, therefore, starvation. 

What to do if you find a chipmunk?

If you find a lone chipmunk—especially a baby chipmunk—look for signs of injury. You can call a wildlife rehabilitation center for help if it is injured. If it does not appear to be injured, you should leave it alone. 

Wild chipmunks should not be kept as pets. If you need to take it to a humane society or wildlife rehabilitation center, gently place it in a small box while wearing gloves. Make sure the container has small holes in it so the chipmunk can breathe. 

If you see a chipmunk on your property, you may want to take action, as chipmunks can be a nuisance to homeowners. Pruning and trimming your trees will help prevent the chipmunk from getting into your home and will prevent them from burrowing near the trees.

You can set a live trap to catch the chipmunk and relocate it. Another step you can take is to purchase and apply rodent repellent. You can also make your own out of garlic or hot peppers.

Bird feeders will attract chipmunks, so make sure your feeders are in an open area and are critter-proof. You can purchase a squirrel-resistant bird feeder to help prevent chipmunks and ground squirrels from eating on it.

pictures of chipmunks

Are chipmunks dangerous to humans or pets?

Chipmunks are not aggressive creatures but will bite and scratch if they feel cornered or threatened. These critters will usually scurry away when approached, but if trapped, they may try to defend themselves with their claws and sharp teeth.

Chipmunks can carry diseases, including rabies. The diseases they carry can be transmitted to humans and pets. It would be best if you did not handle a chipmunk because of the risk of injury. Pets such as cats and dogs may chase a chipmunk, and usually, the chipmunk will run away.

Dogs and cats can catch chipmunks, though; if they do, they may also catch a disease. You should seek veterinary care if your pet has interacted with a chipmunk. You should also seek medical attention if a chipmunk has bitten or scratched you.


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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