Least Chipmunk (Tamias minimus)


Class: Mammalia
Order: Rodentia
Family:    Sciurdae
Size:    Length: 3.5 to 4.5 inches (9 to 11 cm ) Tail: 3 to 4.5 inches (8 to 11 cm)
Weight: 1 to 3 ounces (28 to 85 g)
Diet: Nuts, seeds, bulbs, fruit, mushrooms, grain, insects and green vegetation
Distribution: North America
Young:  2 to 8, once per year
Animal Predators:  Hawks, weasels, coyotes, foxes, martens, owls, minks, snakes and domestic cats
IUCN Status: No special status
Terms: No special terms
Lifespan: 2 to 5 years in the wild and up to 8 years in captivity



·            A chipmunk can gather a whole bushel of nuts in three days.

·            The least chipmunk is the only kind of chipmunk found in the Yukon.

·            When filled, each cheek pouch can grow as large as a chipmunk’s entire head.

·            The word “chipmunk” is Algonkian for “head first” because of the way they descend trees.



Least chipmunks are the smallest of all chipmunks and the palest in colour of all the western chipmunks. They have pouches in their cheeks where they can store food to carry it away to their den. Their fur colour differs depending on their range, from yellowish grey to brownish grey above, with a light brown bushy tail and reddish-brown sides. Their undersides are light grey. Least chipmunks have black and white stripes running down their back and along their cheeks. 



Found throughout North America, least chipmunks range from Ontario, west through the Rocky Mountains and the western Great Plains. They can be found both in desert-like areas as well as north to the forests of the Yukon. Chipmunks occupy home areas of one to 10 acres, but as many as 15 individuals may share that range. Chipmunks live in wooded areas and can often be seen in campgrounds and parks, where they become unafraid of humans, sometimes even approaching to accept a piece of food.  


Feeding Habits

Chipmunks eat a large variety of foods including nuts, seeds, bulbs, fruit, mushrooms, grain, insects and green vegetation. 



Mating takes place in early spring, when chipmunks emerge from hibernation. The male joins the female in her den, and approximately one month later, the female gives birth to an average of five pink, hairless babies. They begin to explore the world outside the den in four to seven weeks. They remain with their parents, both of whom take care of them, until they are two months old, at which time they are weaned. They then go out on their own and build their own den, in preparation for the approaching winter. They are able to reproduce by the following spring.



From spring to autumn, chipmunks spend a great deal of time gathering and storing provisions. They build nests in trees for use in summer, but will also have an underground burrow, where they keep their large caches of food and sleep during in the winter. Throughout their lives, chipmunks keep adding tunnels to their main burrow, creating an extensive network of storage and sleeping chambers. During the winter, they wake up every week or so, in order to eat some of their cache as well as to make a brief appearance outside the burrow to relieve themselves. Although chipmunks live alone, they sometimes interact with each other, even occasionally entering another chipmunk’s burrow to steal some of its cache. During cooler portions of the day, chipmunks soak up heat from the sun’s rays while stretched along a tree branch, or while lying on a rock or log. They are quick to notice predators and will race away, making scolding noises.



Two subspecies are listed on the IUCN's red list. The New Mexico least chipmunk is Critically Endangered, while the Selkirk least chipmunk is listed as Vulnerable.