Nursing a Baby Chipmunk
Chipmunks carry their offspring for about a month, and when they are born they are blind and hairless, like mice (they are rodents, after all).They stay in their burrow, underground, for about six to eight weeks, while mom takes care of them. So little has been written about chipmunks that it is difficult to say what role the father plays in their early life. My observations of the adults is that they are fairly solitary and will fight with another chipmunk over food, so I am not sure that they are one big happy family. The mother probably moves the babies by picking them up in her mouth while they are in the burrow, but when they come above ground the babies cling to her back and ride around on her while she looks for food. In five years I have only observed this behavior twice, and I am outside with the chipmunks every day.
The first time I saw the mother chipmunk carrying the babies on her back was very amusing. The new chipmunks were fully covered with fur and looked beautiful. Their fur was perfect, unblemished by any encounters with nasty burrs or clinging seedheads, or bites from bigger chipmunks. They made little soft peeping noises, constantly trying to get mom's attention, gently poking her in the side with their tiny hands while she was trying to get something to eat.
They were clinging to her back and she had obviously had about enough of them. While they were able to walk by themselves, they were used to her feeding them and taking care of them, and they liked it. She put up with it for a few minutes, and then she shook them off and started eating. They tried to climb back on her, but she turned her head and lightly scolded them, with little irritated noises. They paused for a moment and then more vigorously tried to get on her back. Now she had really had it with them. She wheeled around and faced them, practically shrieking. She ranted at them for about twenty seconds, and then she lunged at them, as if she was going to bite them. She seemed to be telling them to get a life and get off her back, permanently.
They started licking their hands and washing their faces, which is what a distressed or upset chipmunk does.
I have seen this behavior over and over. In times of stress, when you don't know what to do, clean your face. The mom continued eating, as if she hadn't had a really good meal in six weeks, and the young ones stayed near her until she was ready to go underground again.
The adult males and females only seem to get together for mating, but the young ones spend a lot of time playing in small groups of twos and threes, and will also happily eat side by side.
The adults all fight over food and will chase and even bite each other if one gets too close to the other while they are trying to eat. I have placed as many as six feeding stations on the deck at one time, about 12 inches apart, and fed the whole group at once. Most of the feeding is orderly, with only a few outbreaks of chasing.
I have read that chipmunks can live as long as six or seven years. I have also read that most wildlife is lucky if it lives over a year (without being eaten or have some other ill fortune occur).
Commonly called Sien Hoornik, Clasina Maria...
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