Least Chipmunk

Least Chipmunk

New Mexico least chipmunk, Peñasco least chipmunk, Selkirk least chipmunk

Tamias minimus
Population size
Life Span
2-6 yrs
7.7 km/h
25-66 g
15.7-25 cm

This tiny rodent is the smallest and most commonly found chipmunk throughout North America. The long and narrow tail of Least chipmunk is narrow but very bushy. Twice a year, the animal undergoes molting period, regaining its soft and dense fur. The fur of this chipmunk is brighter during the summer months and greyish in winter. The short ears are covered in short hairs. Least chipmunk has pouches on its cheeks, serving as food stores. Males of this species are a bit smaller than females. As compared to other chipmunks, this animal is considerably smaller, having longer tail. It is also distinguished by bands, stretching through its body towards the tail base. When running, Least chipmunk raises its tail, holding it vertically instead of extending it back.


Endemic to North America, these rodents are found in: Canada - from Yukon and British Columbia to Quebec; U.S. - New Mexico, Arizona and California in the south as well as Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota in the east. Preferred habitat of Least chipmunk is boreal and temperate forest, where the animal tends to inhabit open areas such as forest edges or openings. Other favorable types of habitat include open jack pine stands and areas, surrounding rock cliffs and river bluffs.

Least Chipmunk habitat map

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

Least chipmunks are generally solitary animals, socializing only when mating or raising offspring. They are diurnal animals that are most active in April and October. These highly territorial rodents are known to defend their nesting sites against intruders. Nests of Least chipmunks are constructed depending on a season of year. Thus, the summer nests are made out of leaves and bark and located in rotting logs or tree cavities. On the other hand, the winter nests are built of dried grass, bark, fur, feathers and soft plant material, situated in underground burrows. They spend their winter months in these burrows, being in a state of torpor until spring, while relying on food supplies that they collect in advance. As compared to other squirrels, these rodents may occasionally wake up during their hibernation period in order to eat. The primary forms of communication are auditory signals and body posture. Vocalizations are used to pronounce their presence on a territory as well as when looking for mates or threatened.

Group name
Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Least chipmunks are herbivores (granivores), they generally feed upon nuts, berries, fruits, grasses, fungi, snails, insects, probably supplementing this diet with occasional small mammals and birds.

Mating Habits

30 days
2-6 pups
60 days
pup, kit, kitten

There is very little information on reproductive system of this species, although males are known to wake up from hibernation earlier than females to compete for their mating rights. Hence, Least chipmunks could be either polygynous, where each male has multiple mates, or polygynandrous (promiscuous), where individuals of both genders have numerous mates. By April-May, females wake up from hibernation and the mating season begins. Gestation period lasts 30 days, yielding a litter of 2 - 6 babies. Females usually produce one litter per year. However, another one can be yield when the previous litter is lost. The newborn babies are pink in color. They are born naked and with closed eyes, which open only at 28 days old. The young chipmunks attain their complete fur at 40 days old. Mothers are very attentive to their offspring, protecting and caring for them, until the babies are weaned after 60 days old. The age of sexual maturity of this species is 10 months old.


Population threats

Least chipmunks are mainly threatened by loss of their natural habitat as a result of encroachment. In addition, the species is presently hunted and trapped.

Population number

According to IUCN, the Least chipmunk is common and widespread throughout its range but no overall population estimate is available. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) and its numbers remain stable.

Ecological niche

Due to their hoarding habit, these rodents carry seeds and nuts of various plants, thus acting as key seed dispersers of this species. In addition, they are prey items for local predators.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • As accomplished climbers, Least chipmunks often build their nests high off the ground.
  • When it gets cold, these rodents warm up themselves by climbing trees in the sun.
  • Least chipmunks communicate through a wide variety of vocalizations such as low ‘clucks’, trills and chatters. In order to alert conspecifics of potential threats, they usually use a rapidly repeated, high-pitched ‘chip-chip-chip’ sound.
  • The entrance to a chipmunk burrow is usually well hidden, and the dwelling is kept clean from the inside.
  • Least chipmunk has various nicknames such as 'ground squirrel', 'chipping squirrel' or 'hackee'.
  • Chipmunks belong to the family of ‘Sciuridae’, which includes medium and small sized rodents. Close relatives of chipmunks are prairie dogs, marmots as well as squirrels.


1. Least Chipmunk Wikipedia article - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Least_chipmunk
2. Least Chipmunk on The IUCN Red List site - http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/42572/0

More Fascinating Animals to Learn About