If you live in North America, then at one point in time, you may have seen a chipmunk. Chipmunks belong to the same family as squirrels. They are typically small in size, with stubby legs and have stripes running down the back. Chipmunks are lively and move about at fast speed.
There are 24 species of chipmunk in North America, living in most states. Chipmunks have adapted to most environments, from forests to suburban regions, tundra and deserts.
I was curious to know where these little creatures live. Like any animal, they have their ideal habitat and places they nest. Well, here is what I found out after conducting some research.
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Where Do Chipmunks Live?
Out of the 25 known species of chipmunk, 24 are found in North America. The Siberian chipmunk inhabits parts of Asia, while the rest are found all over North America.
Chipmunks are native to North America and can be found in almost every region. They inhabit a vast area of North America right from Canada down to Mexico.
Chipmunks tend to live anywhere with a constant supply of food and a low amount of predators. Their habitats are different depending on the species. Each one of the species has its ideal habitat.
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 in such habitats. In addition to living in urban areas, this species likes the mountainous regions of North America.
The Panamint chipmunk is mainly found in Nevada and some parts of California. These regions are known to have desert conditions. There are high temperatures most of the time, and the land is mainly barren with little or no vegetation. However, the Panamint chipmunk is able to survive in these conditions.
The red-tailed chipmunk inhabits the southern parts of Alberta, northeast Washington, Idaho, and Western Montana. This species has a preference for the 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 the coniferous forests due to their diet. Their diet mainly consists of seeds from fir and pine trees.
Some other species such as the Colorado chipmunks and the least chipmunk inhabit diverse habitats ranging from woodlands, montane shrublands, coniferous forests, and deciduous forests.
Colorado chipmunks can also be found in the alpine tundra region that has relatively few trees, with freezing temperatures.
Species that have a less diverse habitat include the California chipmunk, the Buller’s chipmunk, and the Sonoma chipmunk. These species are mainly found in a few regions with woodlands, bushes, and rocks that offer cover from predators and places to nest.
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Where do Chipmunks Make Their Nest?
Chipmunks make their nests in different habitats. Some chipmunks will make their nests underground, while others build their nests in logs or bushes. Some chipmunks opt to take over abandoned nests from other animals.
Most chipmunks, however, 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 that is closer to the top of the ground. Below this, there there is a deeper burrow which is dug in preparation for the colder winter.
The shallow, higher, underground burrow is in use most of the time during the warm seasons. After foraging in the forest, the chipmunk comes back to this top burrow to sleep during the day.
The deeper and more complex underground burrow is strictly reserved for the winter season. This kind of tunnel can be as long as 30 feet long and can go down up to 3 feet deep into the ground.
A chipmunk burrow is a masterpiece of engineering and portrays how smart the chipmunk is. The chipmunks spend most of their time in the warm months building and furnishing their burrows.
They dig the burrow in areas that have some natural cover like bushes, rocks, or trees. The burrow itself is made up of a long tunnel that consists of various entrances and chambers.
The chipmunk constructs various chambers in its underground tunnel because they are used as storage systems for the winter food. Furthermore, many entrances are meant to offer easy access to the outside. Due to the burrows being so deep into the ground, these entrances give the chipmunk escape routes in the case of predators getting into their burrows.
Chipmunks gather plant materials and use these to furnish their underground sleeping areas. The plant materials they favor are mostly dandelion grasses or fallen leaves from trees.
The burrows are constructed on sloping ground to provide adequate drainage of water. The chipmunks try their best to hide their burrows from predators.
Once the chipmunk has completed construction of a burrow, they carry the soil away from the entrances. They then take 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 at times, rocks to make it even more challenging to locate by predators.
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Where do Chipmunks Live in Winter?
Similar to many animals in North America, chipmunks prepare in advance for the winter season. They collect an abundance of food and store it in the various tunnels in their underground burrows. Chipmunk spend all of their winter months in the deeper underground burrows, with no need to come out.
The chipmunks have a good reason why they live in the deep chambers of their burrows during winter. The ground at these depths have constant temperatures, and this helps to keep the small animals 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 mainly includes woodlands, as well as deciduous and coniferous forests. The chipmunks prefer areas that have lots of ground cover, such as trees, shrubs, stumps, rocks, and logs.
This ground cover makes it easier for the chipmunks to hide from their predators. Some species of chipmunks build their burrows in rock crevices or next to large rocks.
Some chipmunks also reside in urban areas. In such areas, they look for cover in parks, houses, hedges and fence lines. Chipmunks will also nest in peoples homes.
Why are there Chipmunks Living in my Home?
Chipmunks prefer to live in their natural habitats. However, if they discover a constant supply of food and a safe cover for them to dig burrows, they will quickly settle anywhere.
Chipmunks can build nests in yards, gardens, attics, or beneath your house. 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. The chipmunks will mostly construct their burrows in lawns, gardens, under piles of wood and brushy areas.
Chipmunks get attracted by food sources present in your home. 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 source of food for chipmunks. Once they notice there is plenty of food around, they will start to build their burrows right there 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. In spite of them being small creatures, they are capable of wreaking havoc on your property.
Chipmunks need to dig an underground burrow as its nest. Since it has a preference for covered areas, it most likely will choose to do so near your home. They will also decide to make their homes under your patio, decking, garage, and at times the foundation of the property.
One chipmunk will multiply quite fast, and soon there will be many of them digging burrows in your home. This not only causes damage to your house but can also weaken its structural integrity.
If they happen to infest your garden, they can cause significant damage. They will gnaw and eat almost everything in your garden.
They will eat fruits, vegetables, plants, flowers and dig up seeds from the ground. They can make a mess of any yard, 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 not seek shelter there and 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 it, will stop chipmunks 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.
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If you want further information on how to animal proof your home, I have written another article here with some great tips.