There’s nuttin’ cuter than a chipmunk

Wildlife columnist Ann Brokelman can't get enough of chubby cheeked chipmunks. PHOTO: Ann Brokelman

It finally feels official: spring has sprung. The songbirds are calling before sunrise, the hibernating animals are coming out and looking for food, the swans are honking on the water, and my favorite red-tailed hawks are screaming and soaring through the air. The rain is falling, the flowers are sprouting, and the Maple Leafs are… not golfing!

 

Wildlife columnist Ann Brokelman can’t get enough of chubby cheeked chipmunks.

Earlier today, for the first time this season, I looked outside and saw chipmunks climbing up one of my bird feeders. Sometimes I get grouchy when the squirrels decimate the snacks I’ve put out for the chickadees and cardinals, but I can’t say I’ve ever been upset watching a chipmunk stuff its face with my birdseed. Am I wrong in saying that chipmunks have to be the cutest woodland residents?

 

Is it not a Canadian camping tradition to feed bag after bag of peanuts to these increasingly brazen mooches? They’d be waiting for you in your campsite when you arrived, and for the first few minutes they might tentatively take a nut or two — if you threw it close enough to them, and far enough away from you. Then, they would scurry away to hide their prize off in the forest somewhere. Minutes later, however, they’d be back, and this time, they’d come just a little bit closer. By the end of the first day, you’d have one or two chipmunks sitting on your leg, taking peanuts out of your hand and trying to stuff a third or fourth helping into their cavernous cheeks. Even today, in our 60s, my husband and I always pack shelled peanuts to take on our camping/cottage holidays.

I know I’m not the only one who loves these little critters. Why else would we have two different chipmunk-based kids shows? Does anyone remember Chip and Dale and the original Alvin and the Chipmunks?

The Eastern Chipmunk, Tamias striatus, is part of the Squirrel family Sciuridae which includes ground squirrels, prairie dogs and tree squirrels. The chipmunk only weighs one to five ounces and

Wildlife columnist Ann Brokelman can’t get enough of chubby cheeked chipmunks.

the black and white stripe on the back of their brown body makes them pretty easy to spot. They have two litters a year and the young are on their own at eight weeks. When the young disperse the adults will begin singing “Chip Chip Chip” from their burrows.

 

Where can you find them? Everywhere, really, but most likely at local parks, in forested areas and climbing birdfeeders. They eat seeds, fungus, fruit nuts, insects, worms, bird eggs, and even nestling birds and baby mice. Yes, those cute little chipmunks WILL eat meat. They do not hunt for food, but they will eat them when they find them.

Chipmunks make three types of call: the “chip”, a deeper “chuck”, and the startle call “trill”, which is an alarm of danger.

The chipmunk hibernates through the winter in their burrow. They do not sleep the whole time but wake up every few days to raise their body temperature to normal, have something to eat, and then go to the bathroom. They are so cute, and I love having them live around our house.

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