About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Nature up close: When do Chipmunks hibernate?

Eastern Chipmunks’ lifespan on average is only one year due to predators and man made dangers. They have two breeding seasons. The first begins in February and the second in June. They can have up to nine babies but average four.

Many people are frustrated by the amount of food they take away from bird feeding stations but chipmunks do have a purpose. They eat a lot of bugs and small rodents which humans can appreciate. And Mother Nature uses the chipmunks to spread plant seeds and fungi all around.

Eastern chipmunks live in shallow burrows made by digging and carrying away the dirt in their pouched mouths. These burrows can be up to 30 ft. in length with several different exits concealed with leaves and rocks.

The chipmunks’ cheek pouches also transfer food to their tunnels. They keep large stores of food in their burrows and build nests on top of this treasure. Eastern chipmunks, however, do not hibernate continuously through the winter, nor do they "fatten up" before retreating to their burrows. When the temperatures reach freezing, chipmunks go into their burrows to hibernate but wake up periodically to snack on their stored nuts and seeds.

Related Articles:
- When do bats hibernate? http://bit.ly/vvaTGn
- Do Voles Hibernate? http://bit.ly/rTcbQI
- Do opossums hibernate during winter? http://bit.ly/u4ORP6
- Migration vs. Hibernation http://bit.ly/sixWTH
- Feb. 2nd groundhogs end their hibernation http://bit.ly/vPHVtx
- Do skunks hibernate? http://bit.ly/xVKDXP

25 comments:

  1. Thank you for this interesting information! I have been feeding chipmunks in my yard for the last four years. They are adorable and fascinating to watch. I am curious to know how much food can they fit in their cheek pouches? I am sad to learn that Eastern Chipmunks’ lifespan on average is only one year...

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  2. I could find no volume measurements while researching the chipmunks. However I have personally observed our chipmunks carry five peanuts nuts in the shell at a time: four in each cheek pouch and one between its teeth. I have also watched him pack in 31 kernels of whole corn.

    A chipmunk spends much of its day collecting and storing seeds, which are its most important source of food. When preparing food for storage, the chipmunk uses its tongue to shift the seeds backwards and stuff them between its teeth and the extensible skin in the cheek area. The capacity of these cheek pouches increases with maturity. When the cheek pouches become full, the chipmunk deposits the seeds in its nest or buries them in shallow holes that it digs in the ground around his burrow and then covers with earth, leaves, and other litter.

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  3. I live in north central PA in a wooded development against state game forest land. Our property for the last 8 years was full of chipmunks scampering about and trilling to each other. Suddenly, they are all gone. I noticed this last fall but recently have become concerned. I don't even see squirrels. What might have happened to them? As much as they annoyed me by getting into my feeders, I now miss them and am worried.

    On the other hand, our property is now prolific with wild rabbits. Any suggestions? Thanks in advance.

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  4. We live in North GA and love our chipmunks! They keep our indoor cats mesmerized with their antics. We go on acorn and hickory nut patrol all fall, collecting them to feed to the chipmunks. They eat less birdseed this way. It has been astonishing to witness how much these munchkins can pack into their pouches. Our winter weather has arrived, and our chipmunks have disappeared, so I assume they have retreated to their burrows.

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  5. I live in Michigan and feed the chipmunks corn and sunflower seeds. I have trained one of these chipmunks to craw up my leg to receive a peanut. I'm sorry to learn that the only have one year to live on the average. Ken Jewell of Michigan.

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    1. Ken they can live 3-8 years if they are not taken as prey and have plenty of food stored up for winter

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    2. We live in New Brunswick, Canada and we have named our chipmunck Chippy because of a piece of his ear is missing so we know it is him. We have enjoyed him for 3 years now and hope to see him next spring.

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  6. Our little chipmunks have suddenly disappeared. It seems too early in the season for them to hibernate. Very sad :(

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    1. I have not seen my chipmunk in weeks and am very sad as well.... It was a little bright spot in my day!

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    2. I had a chipmunk that would come up in my lap and get her peanuts and she'd let me pet her, I haven't seen her for a couple of weeks now. It's only Oct. 22 isn't that too soon for them to hibernate ? I read that chipmunks don't hibernate all winter that they eat their stored food. I'm hoping she's still a live I have chased away from her hole several times, I hope that my little friend is still alive.

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    3. we have not seen our chipmunk in 2 weeks either, we are sad.

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  7. My cat presented me with a Chipmunk 3 days ago. The first day it got away and under my kitchen cabinets. The second day mycat who was sleeping on my lap suddenly jumped up and into the kitchen. wham! she had it in her mouth before I could intervine. I chased the cat into my office and then it got away again. Now I have a Chipmunk behind my bookshelves in my office. I have been trying to intice it out by leaving pieces of carrot and sunflower seed and water near where it ran in. I opened the window in the hopes it would climb out and escape. I have placed numerous objects for it to jump onto in order for it to reach the window. It slips out when I am not watching and eats the carrots then goes back behind the shelves again. How can I get it to leave??

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    1. i think u should nicely try to put the Chipmunk in a box with a blanket and put the box sideways so it could climb out of it while it is outside or if it is hurt or something is wrong with it take it to the dairy street hospital so they can make it get better. by the way i think u should take this into hand because we have brought baby bunnies there before because their mom never came back.also my nana loves nature and knows a lot about it this is why i know all this info. I may be only 11 but u never know i could be right. P.S. Like I said before please take this intol hand. P.P.S How many nuts can a Chipmunk fit in its cheeks?

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  8. If you live in a nieghborhood where there are lots of cats that could be what is happening to your Chipmunks. I know I used to have several in my front yard but they are all gone or have moved to the back. I have quite a few living in back now. The neighborhood is full of cats but they won't come into our back yard because we have a large dog. I let my cats out the back but only for a brief few minutes. However I fell asleep the other day in my chair and that is when they brought me the present of a live Chipmunk. We live in North West Georgia.

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  9. I'm in Michigan (Lansing) and there is a hawk that lives in my neighborhood- he has gotten a few sparrows but the chipmunk seems to know he is near and hides in my rain spout at any disturbance- so cute when he peaks out to make sure the coast is clear!

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  10. we live near georgian bay, Ontario(Canada) and have enjoyed the company of our outdoor pets (grey squirrels and 3 chipmunks) we have also noticed in the last two weeks that the chipmunks have dissappeared. really hoping that they have gone into hibernation and that we'll see them again next spring. the squirrels are still around

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  11. We have about four cute little chipmunks here in Knoxville, Tenn. and they have been around for about five years..........same ones. They live under rocks around our fishpond. They disappear after the first frost. Hopefully our little friends will come back around in the spring. Of course, there are lots of predators around......raccoons!!!! They ate four of our Koi fish, but now we have an electric fence and that has solved that problem. It is a DOG EAT DOG world!! :(

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  12. Two years ago I had one chipmunk that would "body slam" against the bottom of the cat door and come in and run off with dry cat food. It was funny to catch him/her run through the utility room and over to the cat door and slam his/her way out the door. Only had that one around for a summer season. No, the cat did/would not eat him. Too fat to chase him. He would just watch.

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  13. We had a chipmunk in our house for 12 days. I refused to use a kill trap. We bought a catch and release trap. He would eat the bait, "thank us" with some droppings and run off. I would find him sitting on the living room window sill but could never catch him and steer him out of the door. My husband finally cornered him in the garage and helped him outside using the leaf blower....he told me not to feed them any more but I didn't listen to him. I've thrown them peanuts, sunflower seeds and Cheerios. I recently gave them some Count Chocula when I ran out of food for them. I haven't seen them since. I hope it's because it has gotten much colder outside and not the junk cereal. I love those little guys!

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  14. We live in New Brunswick Canada, and we named our chipmunk Chippy because he has a piece of his right ear missing so we know it is him. He comes to the door and waits there until we feed him. He also climbs up our legs to sit in our hand to feed on peanuts..we have been feeding him for 3 years now and hope to see him again in the spring..

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  15. We have just found our "Chippy" sitting in the middle of the driveway. It was like he was sleeping. When I touched him he opened his eyes and moved a little. We have wrapped him in a cloth and put him out of the wind.... there appears to be no bite marks on him...... is he just cold ( he has a home under the deck ) or is he dying. He has been very active all summer and fall......

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  16. "Chippy" has now passed away....... we'll miss his "up the down spout antics."

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    1. I'm awfully sorry that Chippy passed away. I enjoyed reading about him, and it sounds like you did a lot to make his life wonderful. I hope you find another chipmunk like him soon!

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  17. A cat brought a chipmunk in our house. We havahart trapped it. Now what?? It's snowy and rainy outside. Should we release it by our compost where there is food? Should we try to make a burrow in the compost? It looks young. Seems like it should be hibernating by now.

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  18. Last year (2013) our yard, and neighborhood was over taken by a major influx in population. It was unbelievable! Dozens in our yard alone. They totally ruined a brick stairway structure from my driveway to my back yard with their burrowing. It is going to cost me big bucks to replace. I had to do something. I started trapping them. All tolled, I caught over forty in 4 months! While I also liked Chipmunks and think they are cute they were beginning to take over! Beware of their breeding! If the conditions are right, they can breed exponentially.

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