Scientific Name: Genus Tamias
Chipmunk. Photo by Michael Seraphin/CPW.
Colorado is home to five species of chipmunks; Colorado chipmunk, Hopi chipmunk, Uinta chipmunk, cliff chipmunk and the least chipmunk. The most widespread chipmunk in Colorado is the least chipmunk. Chipmunks are not easy to distinguish from each other in the field. They differ from other striped squirrels (the golden-mantled and antelope ground squirrels) by having stripes on the face. The larger chipmunks are up to nine inches long and weigh about two ounces. They have cheek pouches in which they carry food to store in the burrow.
The least chipmunk lives over most of the central and western parts of state. The Colorado chipmunk lives in southern Colorado and northward along the foothills of the Eastern Slope nearly to Wyoming. The Hopi chipmunk occurs on the Colorado Plateau. The Uinta chipmunk is a species of the central mountains. The cliff chipmunk occurs in northwestern Colorado.
Chipmunks are lively and familiar animals, active by day and tolerant of people. In fact, they readily become beggars in picnic grounds. They can live in a variety of habitats.
Their native diet is seeds, berries, flowers and insects. Food is stored for winter, and the animals usually do not come above ground while the snow lies above their home.
Chipmunks have a single litter of five to eight tiny, naked young per year, born in early summer after a gestation period of about 30 days. The young are weaned 40 to 50 days old. Chipmunks are the smallest of ground squirrels, and Colorado is home to five species.
By David M. Armstrong Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology Environmental Studies Program, University Museum of Natural History University of Colorado-Boulder