It’s springtime and animals are coming out of hibernation! Rodents, specifically, are some of the first mammal species to emerge and dig up their food caches from the winter. Of the rodent population, there are 15 species of native chipmunks in North America, with the Least Chipmunk (Eutamias minimas) found in the Canada, Rocky Mountains, the Great Basin, and parts of the upper Midwest. They are the smallest of chipmunks, typically 3 ⅔ to 4 ½ inches (9 to 11 cm) long and weighing 1-2 ounces (35 to 70 kg). They can often be confused with some squirrels, like the Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel (Spermophilus tridecemlineatus) and Red Squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus), but Least Chipmunks are yellowish-gray with tawny dark stripes down its back. They inhabit low sagebrush deserts, high mountain coniferous forests, and northern mixed hardwood forests, and live in burrows nearby different objects or buildings. Their burrows are inconspicuous and hard to see because they carry the dirt in its cheek pouches and scatter it away from the burrow entrances to evade predators. During the winter, chipmunks enter a restless hibernation and rely on food caches, ranging from berries to insects, they bring to their burrows at the onset of winter, as opposed to squirrels that enter a deep hibernation. You may start to see them coming out of hibernation as early as the beginning of March! Palmer's Chipmunks (Tamias palmeri), endemic to Nevada, are state-protected due to their extreme limited distribution in the Spring Mountains. Human activity, such as woodcutting, water diversion, and predation by dogs and cats have been ongoing threats to this species. The Nevada Department of Wildlife is continuing to monitor this species, but to help chipmunks residents can build rodent-proof structures to exclude them from entering gardens and store food items, like bird seed and dog food, in rodent-proof containers.
Nevada Department of Wildlife Palmer’s Chipmunks- http://www.ndow.org/Species/Furbearer/Palmer_s_Chipmunk/
University of Nebraska-Lincoln: Chipmunks- http://agri.nv.gov/uploadedFiles/agrinvgov/Content/Protection/Resource_Protection/Chipmunk.pdf
This blog is managed by the staff and volunteers of Galena Creek Visitor Center. We write about parts of the natural world that we find fascinating and want to teach others about, as well as keeping you updated on the Visitor Center and park. If you want to learn more, please sign up for our monthly newsletter, where we share upcoming events, updates on the ecology of the park, and highlights from each month.