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Eastern Chipmunks Soon To Encounter Round the Clock Darkness and Periodic Torpor

11-6-15  eastern chipmunk IMG_0439Although Eastern Chipmunks are much in evidence during our current November heat wave, these lively rodents will soon retreat underground to their maze of interconnecting tunnels for the winter. This burrow system usually has one unobstructed entrance with the opening of other tunnels that lead to the surface plugged with leaves. A chipmunk may dig part of the burrow system using its forefeet and cheek pouches to loosen and transport soil, but the renovation of old root channels and existing burrows of other mammals is the primary method of burrow construction. The two-inch diameter tunnels are roughly 12 to 30 feet long and typically 18 to 36 inches deep. Off of these tunnels are several food galleries as well as a chamber six to ten inches in diameter which contains a nest of leaves.

Chipmunks reside in their subterranean environs from mid-November until early March – late April, with local snow depth and temperatures influencing the duration. They are not true hibernators and accumulate little body fat prior to winter. Throughout the winter chipmunks are aroused from their state of torpor every week or two and snack on their underground caches of food (up to 5,000 – 6,000 nuts per chipmunk, according to one source). During mid-winter thaws, some chipmunks may leave their burrows, even digging through several feet of snow to forage for seeds in nearby areas where the snow has melted and the forest floor is exposed.

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9 responses

  1. Susan Elliott

    Last year ‘our’ chipmunk appeared the first week in January for several days. Usually we see it mid-February and then it disappears for another month.

    November 6, 2015 at 7:10 am

  2. Mark Dindorf

    Curious if you’ve witnessed a recent November hatching oh little white flies that have a whitish blue fuzzy abdomen. We had a hatching this week in the White MountAins, thousands of them, they sort of look like snowflakes flying around. Any idea what they are and why they hatch on November? It was unseasonably warm this week, might have had something to do with it. Sorry but I don’t have a picture to go with my question. Love your blog, Mark Dindorf, Harts Location, NH

    Sent from my iPhone


    November 6, 2015 at 1:56 pm

    • Two other people have told me about these hatches(in Vermont). I haven’t seen one, but am trying to find out what they are!

      November 6, 2015 at 7:58 pm

    • A fellow Vermont naturalist, John Snell, observed these insects and suggested they might be smoky-winged ash aphids, Prociphilus americanus.

      November 6, 2015 at 8:03 pm

      • I observed a hatch here in Worcester, VT on Thursday. At first I thought they might be small seeds parachuting, but I got one to land on my finger. It was tiny and quite beautiful, with its bluish body. I showed it to my 4-year-old granddaughter and she declared them to certainly be fairies. She’s not crazy about flies, but she was very attracted to these tiny fliers, so I didn’t argue…

        November 7, 2015 at 7:32 pm

      • Rita Pitkin

        I also saw a huge hatch in the NEK, Craftsbury.

        November 8, 2015 at 12:22 pm

  3. micky mckinley

    Do they have a bathroom down there?

    November 6, 2015 at 3:42 pm

    • Yes, as a matter of fact, they do – a separate chamber they use as a latrine!

      November 6, 2015 at 8:01 pm

  4. Pingback: 20151029-1106 Late fall scenes close to home | Brtthome's Blog

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