It is not a Chipmunk

By Dave Hanks

It's not a Chipmunk!

It’s a GOLDEN-MANTLED GROUND SQUIRREL! This particular one is so appealing that my wife named him “Cutie Pie”. He is coming to a seep, where we are in a blind, to drink. Chipmunks are only about half as large and have stripes on their faces. This squirrel has two bold white stripes, encased in black, across its back. The head is a solid golden-tan.

Seeds, especially conifer seeds & Pinyon Pine nuts, make up 1/3 of this guy’s diet. Fruits, green vegetation, insects, and even fungi are also eaten. Cheek pouches are handy to carry large quantities of food to the burrow to be eaten later or during hibernation. The burrow is shallow and can be up to 100 feet long. It is usually under a log, a boulder, or under tree roots. Hibernation lasts from October to May and the squirrel puts on a heavy layer of fat to survive it. They will also wake up periodically to eat and then return to sleep.

In spring, they will have one litter of 4 to 6 young after a gestation period of 26 to 33 days. For grooming, they will roll in the dust to remove parasites. They then will curl up, head to tail, and use their well-developed claws to pull through their fur to clean it.

If you are at a campsite in coniferous or mixed forest, you are sure to encounter them. They have no fear of people, and I have had them crawl up on my knee, had them on the bumper of our truck, and even in our camper’s side compartment. When trying to lure birds in by putting out seed, these fellows can become a real nuisance by either scaring off the birds or by consuming the lure – then their cheek pouches really become enlarged. Some individuals that frequent campsites can become quite obese.

(“Cutie-Pie” waiting his turn at the seep)