Chipmunks are the smallest members of the squirrel family. They live in North America, with the exception of one species native to Asia. North American chipmunks live all over the continent, with several species making their homes in the deserts of the southwestern United States.
The Panamint chipmunk (Tamias panamintinus) lives in the Sierra Nevada mountains and the desert regions of southwestern California and Nevada. His diet includes foraged vegetation and fruit, particularly juniper fruit and willow catkins. He makes his nest in rocky terrain and is diurnal, which means he is active during the day rather than at night like many dessert mammals. The Panamint chipmunk can grow up to 8.6 inches long; specimens vary in color from tawny browns and grays in the summer to yellow in the winter. The Panamint chipmunk has dark facial stripes and three stripes on his back.
Cliff chipmunks (Tamias dorsalis) mainly inhabit cliffs in the states of Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona, along with Northern Mexico. They prefer to live at elevations of 5,000 feet to 12,000 feet; like their cousin the Panamint chipmunks, cliff chipmunks are fond of juniper trees for both food and shelter. In addition to plant matter, cliff chipmunks sometimes eat insects, birds, eggs, reptiles and amphibians. These chipmunks are gray with darker stripes on their backs, and do not have the white cheek stripes that many other chipmunks display. They can grow up to 9.8 inches long.
The Hopi chipmunk (Tamias rufus) can be found in the Upper Sonoran desert in the states of Arizona, Utah and Colorado. This chipmunk also prefers the juniper bush as a source of food and shelter amongst the rocky earth of the desert. He can grow up to 9.25 inches long and ranges in color from tan to orange or red with gray patches, with black stripes on his back, and black and white stripes on his cheeks.
The least chipmunk (Tamias minimus) is the smallest of all chipmunk species, measuring up to only 8.5 long. He has five dark stripes on his back and two paler stripes on his face. This chipmunk occupies a large portion of the western United States, including sagebrush deserts of the Southwest.
- National Geographic: Chipmunks
- Index to California Vertebrates: Panamint Chipmunk
- Animal Diversity Web; Tamias dorsalis; Louise Venne
- Mammalian Species; Tamias rufus; Stephanie L. Burt, Troy L. Best
- Animal Diversity Web; Tamias Rufus; Jessica Morris
- National Diversity Information Source: Least Chipmunk
- Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History: Tamias panamintinus
- Animal Diversity Web; Tamias panamintinus; Molly Peters, Molly Wear
Margot Freeman has been a writer since 2009. She currently works in social media within the tech industry, and has been volunteering with acclaimed Austin, Texas animal shelter Austin Pets Alive! since 2010. Freeman holds a Bachelor of science in audio and media technology.