Monday, June 5, 2017

Mammal Monday -- Chipmunks!

There's been a bumper crop of chipmunks in my neighborhood this year.  They're not endangered (yay!), so let's learn a few fun facts about chipmunks:

  • They come in many shapes and sizes!  There are 25 chipmunk species in the world, with only one of those species found outside of North America (that would be Asia's Eutamias sibiricus). The largest species is the eastern chipmunk, which can get to 11 inches and weigh up to 4.4 ounces.  (From National Geographic)
  • They're solitary, but then they're not!  Chipmunks usually live alone, unless it's time to breed.  Gestation takes about 30 days and offspring stay with the mother for about 2 months.  The females are in heat for about 6-7 hours and mate with several males during this time.  They produce litters of between 2-9 young, and they can give birth twice per season -- once in April to June and once in August to September.  (From SUNY-ESF)
  • Unlike their cousins the grey squirrel, they don't live in trees!  Nope, these little guys live in burrows underground.  They hibernate in these burrows from late Fall until Spring and they store food for the winter in these burrows, rather than hibernating and living off body fat. (SUNY-ESF and National Geographic)
  • They play an important role in the ecosystem!  During their 8 years of life (although most don't live past 2 or 3 years), chipmunks have an important role to play (what scientists call their "niche").  They're omnivores, eating both plant materials and insects, and they're a prey species for many organisms that eat higher on the food chain.  
And did I mention, they're cuuuute?!

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