Virginia Professional Wildlife Removal Services, LLC
Telephone: (804) 457-2883
Virginia Professional Wildlife Removal Services provides nuisance chipmunk trapping, removal
and exclusion for Central and Eastern Virginia - including Albemarle, Goochland, Louisa, Powhatan,
Fluvanna, Orange, Hanover and Henrico Counties, as well as the cities of Charlottesville and
Richmond, and the towns of Mineral, Gordonsville, Earlysville, and Keswick.
Fifteen species of native chipmunks of the genus Eutamias and one of the genus Tamias are found
in North America. The eastern chipmunk (Tamias striatus) and the least chipmunk (Eutamias
minimas), are the two most widely distributed and notable species. Behavior and damage is similar
among all species of native chipmunks. Therefore, damage control recommendations are similar
for all species.
The eastern chipmunk is a small, brownish, ground-dwelling squirrel. It is typically 5 to 6 inches (13
to 15 cm) long and weighs about 3 ounces (90 g). It has two tan and five blackish longitudinal
stripes on its back, and two tan and two brownish stripes on each side of its face. The longitudinal
stripes end at the reddish rump. The tail is 3 to 4 inches (8 to 10 cm) long and hairy, but it is not
The least chipmunk is the smallest of the chipmunks. It is typically 3 2/3 to 4 1/2 inches (9 to 11 cm)
long and weighs 1 to 2 ounces (35 to 70 g). The color varies from a faint yellowish gray with tawny
dark stripes (Badlands, South Dakota) to a grayish tawny brown with black stripes (Wisconsin and
Michigan). The stripes, however, continue to the base of the tail on all least chipmunks.
Chipmunks are often confused with thirteen-lined ground squirrels (Spermophilus tridecemlineatus),
also called “striped gophers,” and red squirrels (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus). The thirteen-lined
ground squirrel is yellowish, lacks the facial stripes, and its tail is not as hairy as the chipmunk’s. As
this squirrel’s name implies, it has 13 stripes extending from the shoulder to the tail on each side
and on its back. When startled, a ground squirrel carries its tail horizontally along the ground; the
chipmunk carries its tail upright. The thirteen-lined ground squirrel’s call sounds like a high-pitched
squeak, whereas chipmunks have a rather sharp “chuck-chuck-chuck” call. The red squirrel is very
vocal and has a high-pitched chatter. It is larger than the chipmunk, has a bushier tail and lacks the
longitudinal stripes of the chipmunk. Red squirrels spend a great deal of time in trees, while
chipmunks spend most of their time on the ground, although they can climb trees.
Habitat and General Biology
Eastern chipmunks typically inhabit mature woodlands and woodlot edges, but they also inhabit
areas in and around suburban and rural homes. Chipmunks are generally solitary except during
courtship or when rearing young.
The least chipmunk inhabits low sagebrush deserts, high mountain coniferous forests, and northern
mixed hardwood forests.
The home range of a chipmunk may be up to 1/2 acre, but the adult only defends a territory about
50 feet (15.2 m) around the burrow entrance. Chipmunks are most active during the early morning
and late afternoon. Chipmunk burrows often are well-hidden near objects or buildings (for example,
stumps, wood piles or brush piles, basements, and garages). The burrow entrance is usually about
2 inches (5 cm) in diameter. There are no obvious mounds of dirt around the entrance because the
chipmunk carries the dirt in its cheek pouches and scatters it away from the burrow, making the
burrow entrance less conspicuous.
In most cases, the chipmunk’s main tunnel is 20 to 30 feet (6 m to 9 m) in length, but complex
burrow systems occur where cover is sparse. Burrow systems normally include a nesting chamber,
one or two food storage chambers, various side pockets connected to the main tunnel, and
separate escape tunnels.
With the onset of cold weather, chipmunks enter a restless hibernation and are relatively inactive
from late fall through the winter months. Chipmunks do not enter a deep hibernation as do ground
squirrels, but rely on the cache of food they have brought to their burrow. Some individuals become
active on warm, sunny days during the winter. Most chipmunks emerge from hibernation in early
Eastern chipmunks mate two times a year, during early spring and again during the summer or early
fall. There is a 31-day gestation period. Two to 5 young are born in April to May and again in August
to October. The young are sexually mature within 1 year. Adults may live up to 3 years.
Adult least chipmunks mate over a period of 4 to 6 weeks from April to mid-July. Least chipmunks
produce 1 litter of 2 to 7 young in May or June. Occasionally a second litter is produced in the fall.
Chipmunk pups appear above ground when they are 4 to 6 weeks old — 2/3 the size of an adult.
Young will leave the burrow at 6 to 8 weeks.
Population densities of chipmunks are typically 2 to 4 animals per acre. Eastern chipmunk
population densities may be as high as 10 animals per acre, however, if sufficient food and cover
are available. Home ranges often overlap among individuals.
Damage and Damage Identification
Throughout their North American range, chipmunks are considered minor agricultural pests. Most
conflicts with chipmunks are nuisance problems. When chipmunks are present in large numbers
they can cause structural damage by burrowing under patios, stairs, retention walls, or foundations.
They may also consume flower bulbs, seeds, or seedlings, as well as bird seed, grass seed, and
pet food that is not stored in rodent-proof storage containers. In New England, chipmunks and tree
squirrels cause considerable damage to maple sugar tubing systems by gnawing the tubes.
Avoid direct contact with chipmunks since there is a risk of disease transmission or being bitten.
(Source: Prevention and Control of Wildlife Damage, 1994)
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