If you live in North America, there is a good chance you have seen a chipmunk. Chipmunks belong to the same family as squirrels and are small, with stubby legs and stripes running down their back. Chipmunks are lively and move about at a fast speed.
There are 24 species of chipmunks in North America, and they can be found in most states. Chipmunks have adapted to live in different habitats ranging from forests and suburban regions to tundra and deserts. They live in tunnels in burrows below the ground or on logs and bushes above ground.
Like any animal, chipmunks have their ideal habitat and places they nest. In this article, we look at where these are.
Where Do Chipmunks Live?
Out of the 25 known species of chipmunk globally, 24 can be found in North America. The Siberian chipmunk inhabits parts of Asia and is not found in North America, while the other species can be found throughout North America.
Chipmunks are native to North America and can be found in almost every region. They inhabit a vast area of North America, from Canada down to Mexico.
Chipmunks tend to live anywhere with a constant food supply and a low number of predators. Their habitats differ depending on the species.
The Panamint chipmunk is mainly spotted in urban and suburban areas. This particular species of chipmunk are not shy of humans.
Their lack of fear of humans allows them to live close to humans. In addition to living in urban areas, they also like the mountainous regions of North America.
The Panamint chipmunk is mainly found in Nevada and some parts of California. These regions have desert conditions. There are high temperatures most of the time, and the land is barren with little or no vegetation, but the Panamint chipmunk can survive in these conditions.
The red-tailed chipmunk inhabits southern parts of Alberta, northeast Washington, Idaho, and Western Montana. They prefer coniferous forests, woodlands, bushy regions, and forest edges.
The red-tailed chipmunk lives on the ground but is skilled at climbing trees, especially when looking for food. The red-tailed chipmunk prefers coniferous forests due to its diet. Their diet mainly consists of seeds from fir and pine trees.
Some other species, such as the Colorado chipmunk and the least chipmunk, inhabit diverse habitats, including woodland, montane shrublands, coniferous forests, and deciduous forests.
Colorado chipmunks can also be found in the alpine tundra region, with relatively few trees and freezing temperatures.
Species with a less diverse habitat include the California chipmunk, the Buller’s chipmunk, and the Sonoma chipmunk. These species can be mainly found in a few regions with woodland, bushes, and rocks that offer cover from predators and a place to nest.
Where do Chipmunks Make Their Nest?
Chipmunks make their nests in different locations. Some chipmunks will make their nests underground, while others build them in logs or bushes. Some will also take over abandoned nests from other animals.
Most chipmunks prefer to construct an underground burrow that will serve as a nest. The underground tunnels are made up of two levels.
First, there is a shallow burrow with a tunnel closer to the top of the ground. Below this, a deeper cave is dug in preparation for the cold winter.
The shallow, higher, underground burrow is used most of the time during the warm seasons. After foraging in the forest, the chipmunk comes back to the top shelter to sleep during the day.
The deeper and more complex underground burrow is strictly reserved for winter. The tunnels can be as long as 30 feet long and three feet into the ground.
A chipmunk burrow is a masterpiece of engineering and portrays how smart they are. Chipmunks spend most of their time building and furnishing their burrows in the warm months.
They dig the burrow in natural cover areas like bushes, rocks, or trees. The shelter itself comprises a long tunnel that consists of various entrances and chambers.
The chipmunk constructs various chambers in the underground tunnel, used as storage for the winter food. Many entrances offer easy access to the outside. Due to the burrows being built deep into the ground, these entrances give the chipmunk escape routes if predators gain entry to their shelters.
Chipmunks gather plant materials and use these to furnish their underground sleeping areas. The plants they favor are dandelion grasses or fallen leaves from trees.
The burrows are constructed on sloping ground to provide adequate drainage of water. Chipmunks try to hide their burrows from predators. Once the chipmunk has completed construction, they carry the soil away from the entrances, taking the dirt to a different location.
By doing this, they ensure that any predators cannot easily find their burrows. The burrow is usually lined with sticks, leaves, and rocks to make it even more challenging to locate.
Where do Chipmunks Live in Winter?
Like many animals in North America, chipmunks prepare in advance for the winter season. They collect abundant food and store it in the various tunnels in their underground burrows. Chipmunks spend all of the winter months in the deeper, warmer burrows.
The ground at these depths has a constant temperature, which helps keep them warm. Chipmunks do hibernate but will occasionally wake up to feed.
What is the Natural Habitat of a Chipmunk?
The natural habitat of a chipmunk includes woodland and deciduous and coniferous forests. Chipmunks prefer areas with lots of ground cover, including trees, shrubs, stumps, rocks, and logs.
This ground cover makes it easier for chipmunks to hide from predators. Some species of chipmunks build their burrows in rock crevices or next to large rocks.
Some species also reside in urban areas. They will look for cover in parks, houses, hedges, and fence lines. Chipmunks will also nest in our homes.
Why are there Chipmunks Living in my Home?
Chipmunks prefer to live in their natural habitats. However, if they discover a constant food supply and a safe area to nest, they will quickly settle anywhere.
Chipmunks can build nests in yards, gardens, attics, or beneath your home. While chipmunks are small creatures, they can be very destructive.
If the landscape in your home has a suitable terrain, chipmunks will find it enticing enough to use as shelter. Trees and shrubs that are around your home can also attract chipmunks. Chipmunks will construct their burrows in lawns, gardens, and under piles of wood and brushy areas.
Chipmunks get attracted to your home by food sources. If you have fruit trees in your garden, chipmunks will get accustomed to feeding on the fallen fruits and berries.
Seeds that fall from bird feeders may also be a great food source for chipmunks. Once they notice plenty of food around, they will start to build their burrows in your garden, yard, and under decking and staircases.
What Damage can Chipmunks Do?
Chipmunk infestation is a common problem in regions that have a high population. Chipmunks should not be encouraged to live in your home. Despite them being small creatures, they can wreak havoc on a property.
Chipmunks will dig an underground burrow as their nest. Since they prefer covered areas, they will most likely choose to do so near your home. They can make their homes under your patio, decking, garage, and at times the property’s foundation.
One chipmunk will multiply quite fast, and soon there may be many digging burrows in your home. This can cause damage to your house and weaken its structural integrity.
If chipmunks infest your garden, they can cause significant damage. They will gnaw and eat almost everything in your garden.
Chipmunks will eat fruits, vegetables, plants, and flowers and dig up seeds from the ground. They can mess up any garden and damage it with their burrows.
How can I Keep Chipmunks Away From my Home?
The fastest, cheapest, and most effective way to discourage chipmunks is by taking away any accessible food. Chipmunks like to nest in places close to food sources. If there is no food around your home, they will look elsewhere.
To keep chipmunks away, clean up any fruits, nuts, or seeds that fall from the trees. If you have bird feeders, clearing up all the seeds that fall from them will stop chipmunks from coming into your yard.
Chipmunks prefer long grass to hide in. Make sure to cut short any overgrown grasses, bushes, and shrubs. This will minimize the chances of chipmunks finding suitable hiding places in your yard.
You can also try a solar-powered animal repeller. These are not only good for chipmunks, but lots of other destructive animals, including raccoons, moles, skunks, and deer, away from your property. I use the Broox repeller. You can buy it from Amazon here.
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Bryan Harding is a member of the American Society of Mammalogists and a member of the American Birding Association. Bryan is especially fond of mammals and has studied and worked with them around the world. Bryan serves as owner, writer, and publisher of North American Nature.