Speedy Chipmunk

Chipmunk (Tamias striatus)
Chipmunk (Tamias striatus)

I took this photo of an Eastern Chipmunk in November before they went into hibernation. I liked the way the stripes seemed to stream past in one fluid motion.

Chipmunk (Tamias striatus)
Chipmunk (Tamias striatus)

We have always been taught that Chipmunks hibernated. I found out this was not the case.

Chipmunks experience torpor, a period of deep sleep. Chipmunks alternate between periods of sleep and wakefulness. When they wake they eat stored food, urinate  and move around. Then they curl up into a ball and go back to sleep. This has been Eastern Chipmunk life from late October or November.

All the sleeping saves up to 85% of the energy Eastern Chipmunks need to survive the winter. And they don’t sustain themselves by using stored body fat like hibernators. Eastern Chipmunks eat the food they stored in their burrows.

In preparation for winter sleep, the chipmunks use soil and plant material to plug their burrow entrances. Deep inside their burrows, the temperature remains just above freezing and the chipmunks body temperature drops from 98.6°F to one or two degrees away from the temperature of the burrow.

Soon, the chipmunks will be out and about again. I like watching them. It’s like watching a storybook character come to life.

These quiet unassuming animals live their lives in harmony with the land and the rhythms of the Earth. sleeping away in their cozy burrows deep beneath the snow.

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