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MEET: Eastern Chipmunk

If you've spent any time outdoors in a campground, park or even your own back yard, you've likely seen these chirpy little fellows. They drive our dogs to distraction, eat all the birdseed and chatter and chirp at the slightest provocation. But when they stuff up their little cheeks, the are sure adorable.

The eastern chipmunk is by no means rare but they are interesting little rodents. They are found in wooded areas so you're unlikely to see them in fields, meadows or urban landscapes. They are also 100% solitary, except during mating season or when rearing their young. They dig their own burrows, often with several exits and hidden by logs, brush, rocks and leaves. The markings on males and females are exactly the same so you can't tell which gender they are by looking at them. And when they find an area they are suited to, they are numerous! One female can raise litters of three to five babies twice a year! When you think that they all live alone, in their own burrows, that's a lot of rodents. They also live 3 years on average in the wild so the little fella who begged from your picnic table at that campsite last year might be there next year too! Interestingly, one man, Lawrence Wishner, studied Chipmunks over six years on a 1.5 acre piece of land. His book, Eastern Chipmunks: Secrets of Their Solitary Lives is said to be a significant contribution to the knowledge about this little animal we often take for granted.

The forest gets a lot quieter in late fall because these little striped rodents stay in their den most of the winter. They don't technically hibernate, but they do enter a state very close to hibernation, the same as bears. They are quick on their feet all summer long though. They have to be to escape snakes, coyotes, hawks, owls, and cats. Lots of animals eat chipmunks but if they can escape to safety, they will let all the other forest animals know there is a predator around by chirping and squealing at it. While they do eat a lot of our birdseed and make a lot of noise all summer, we will miss their companionable noisy dashes over and under the logs as we refill birdfeeders this winter.

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