by Lisa Hart
A super charged ball of fur darts across the grass. It reappears on top of a nearby tree stump littered with shells. You recognize the bold stripes running down its back. The glossy, black eyes appear to be checking something out. Could it be you or your picnic lunch?
Chips, Chirps and Chucks
Chipmunk talk combines many different chips and chirps. Most of these get lost among the tweets and warbles of the birds they share backyards, parks and wild areas with. But one chipmunk sound stands out from the chorus. Trouble sets off a rapid fire of scolding chucks. Sounding something like a sharp cough the warning call seems to shake the chipmunk's whole body.
Chipmunks pack quite a pouch. Using their tongue they move seeds and nuts into position between the teeth and the skin of their cheeks. The older they get the more elastic this skin becomes. Fully loaded cheeks sometimes balloon out as big as their owner's head. Once in their den they squeeze the food back out by massaging the cheeks with their front paws.
Chipmunks tote more than food in their pouches. While digging a den they pack dirt in their cheeks. Clearing dirt away from their front door in this way helps to keep the site a secret.
Chipmunks store food not fat. Instead of settling in for a long winter's nap they sleep for a few days or weeks at a time. When the chipmunk wakes they snack on the food hidden under their bed of grasses, shredded leaves and fluffy seed heads.
Chipmunks often store away more food then they need for the winter. Under the ground uneaten seeds and nuts get a jump start on sprouting in the spring thanks to the chipmunk.
Did You Know?
A chipmunk may tunnel through three feet of snow to leave its den on a warm spring day.
Check It Out!
The chipmunk's bold stripes inspired folktales and Indian legends.
How Chipmunk Got Stripes
Why Striped Chipmunk is Proud of His Stripes