Chinchillas are rodents with incredibly soft fur, large ears and eyes and a long tail, native to the Andes Mountains in South America. Adults average about 12 inches in length and about a pound in weight. Chinchillas have been hunted to near extinction in the wild for their fur, but are now protected in their natural habitat. In the wild, snakes, owls, hawks, foxes and cougars prey on the chinchilla.
Fleeing and Hiding
Like most prey animals, the chinchilla will flee if it senses danger. In its natural habitat of the Andes Mountains, it will hide in rocky crevices, under bushes and logs or burrow underground, depending on what is chasing it. Chinchillas are agile and athletic, and can jump up to 6 feet high and cling to rocks and tree trunks to escape predators.
If a predator does manage to catch a chinchilla, it might still be able to escape by means of a fur slip. When this happens, a large patch of fur is released at the point of contact, leaving the predator with a mouthful of fur but no chinchilla. This is harmless to the chin, and the fur grows back. Tame chinchillas that are handled improperly might also exhibit this behavior.
Female chinchillas also spray urine when they are frightened or annoyed. They stand on their hind legs to do this, and the spray can reach 6 to 8 feet upwards. Both males and females release an odor from the anal gland. This tactic is often used as a warning that the chinchilla is about to spray urine or bite.
Biting occurs in extreme stress or fear and is usually a chinchilla’s last line of defense. The animal’s long front teeth are quite sharp, and its bite can be painful. Tame chinchillas will usually give you plenty of warning before resorting to a bite, including fleeing, fur slips, urine spray and even soft nips before they bite.
Leslie Darling has been a writer since 2003, writing regularly for "Mississippi Magazine" and "South Mississippi Living," specializing in food and wine, animals and pets, and all things Southern. She is a graduate of the University of New Orleans.