Uinta Chipmunk

Uinta Chipmunk

Hidden forest chipmunk

Kingdom
Phylum
Subphylum
Class
Order
Family
Genus
SPECIES
Neotamias umbrinus
Population size
Unknown
Life Span
2 yrs
WEIGHT
51-74 g
LENGTH
20-24 cm

In some parts of its range, this medium-sized chipmunk is almost undistinguishable from other chipmunk species of the area. During the summer months, the Uinta chipmunk usually exhibits yellowish brown-grey to dark brown coloration with tingle; on its back, this rodent displays 3 wide, dark blackish-brown bands that stretch downwards and are alternated with 4 paler, grey to white colored bands; on both sides of its face, the chipmunk has 3 dark and 3 pale stripes. On the other hand, the winter coat of Uinta chipmunk is noticeably duller and more greyish with less prominent bands; the ears of the animal are black, while the under-parts are colored in very pale grey; the orange and black tail is fringed with paler hairs on the underside.

Distibution

This rodent is mainly found in the western U.S., namely, in Nevada, Utah, northern Arizona, eastern California, northwestern Colorado, western and southern Wyoming, eastern Idaho and southern Montana. Preferred habitat of the Uinta chipmunk is margins of pine and fir forest as well as clearings, particularly near rocky areas or steep slopes.

Geography

Continents
Countries

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

These solitary rodents typically don't tolerate conspecifics. Individuals have home ranges of 2 - 5 hectares on average, which they fiercely defend. Within their territories, Uinta chipmunks choose a suitable place to construct a den, usually giving preference to sheltered and secluded areas and often placing their dwellings under rocks or shrubs. Throughout the winter months, these animals generally remain in their dens. During the rest of the year, they are very arboreal, foraging and finding shelters from predators in trees. Uinta chipmunks are diurnal animals. They are known to undergo relatively short periods of hibernation or a state of torpor. Before winter, these rodents store food supply. After entering hibernation in October, they wake up every several days to eat the cached food, doing this until May, although hibernation period often depends on location and elevation. Uinta chipmunks communicate with each other through a wide variety of vocalizations. The most commonly heard call of this species is a long, sharp "chip" sound, which may continue for 15 minutes. They are also known to emit lower pitched "chuck" calls, alternated with trills, squeals and "chips". The latter is produced when the animal flees from a predator.

Group name

Diet and Nutrition

As omnivorous species, Uinta chipmunks consume a wide variety of food such as fruit, conifer mast, maple seeds, juniper and chokecherry, supplementing this diet with pollen, buds, insect larvae, eggs of various birds as well as fungi, which they find through digging.

Mating Habits

MATING BEHAVIOR
REPRODUCTION SEASON
starts in late April-early June
PREGNANCY DURATION
30 days
BABY CARRYING
4-5 pups
INDEPENDENT AGE
1-2 months
BABY NAME
pup, kit, kitten

There is little information on mating habits and behavior of this species. However, Uinta chipmunks are thought to be polygynandrous (promiscuous), which means that individuals of both sexes have multiple mates. Mating season begins in late April-early June, when these rodents wake up from their hibernation. Females produce a single litter per year. Gestation period lasts for 30 days, yielding 4 - 5 young that are nursed by their mother for the first 1 - 2 months of their lives, whereas the father takes no part in rearing its offspring. Young disperse prior to winter and are able to produce offspring of their own in the following spring.

Population

Population threats

The population of this species in general doesn't face any serious threats, although feeding wildlife seems to be a notable concern across national parks of the U.S., where Uinta chipmunks are hand-fed by humans.

Population number

According to IUCN, the Uinta chipmunk is locally common and widespread throughout its range but no overall population estimate is available. Today, this species’ numbers are stable and it is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List.

Ecological niche

Uinta chipmunks act as important seeds dispersers due to their habit of food caching, during which they carry goods to their dens, losing some on their way. In addition, they contribute to soil aeration through their habit of burrowing.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • A single chipmunk is able to collect as many as 100 acorns per day due to its cheek pouches, which are used to carry goods to later store them in their burrows.
  • The extensile pouches on their cheeks can expand as much as three times the size of their heads.
  • Uinta chipmunk is one of the 24 North American chipmunk species.
  • These rodents are excellent swimmers.
  • Probably, the most famous chipmunks of all times are Disney’s Chip N Dale as well as "Alvin and the Chipmunks’" Alvin, Simon and Theodore.
  • These animals are extremely curious by nature. If you plant bulbs or new transplants within the home range of a chipmunk, this animal will most likely dig them up, considering it an act of invasion to its territory.
  • A single burrow of a chipmunk can contain more than 30,000 nuts.
  • The incisors of this rodent never stop growing, providing the animal powerful gnawing tools, which are necessary for its seed pod and acorn diet.
  • These friendly and approachable animals make fast friends with humans. Moreover, they can even be hand-fed.

References

1. Uinta Chipmunk Wikipedia article - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uinta_chipmunk
2. Uinta Chipmunk on The IUCN Red List site - http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/42585/0

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