Thanks to their bushy tails and pudgy cheeks, chipmunks are by far one of the most favorite characters for animators to be starred in Hollywood films. These funny, speedy critters scamper through the dense shrubs and forests. Out of 25 species, North America is home to 21 of these. Some of them prefer forested areas and dig burrows, while others build homes within shrubs, logs and can also climb trees in search of young baby birds. They are solitary creatures and members of the squirrel family. Now let’s take a deep dive into what do chipmunks like to eat in the wild as well as in your garden.
What Do Chipmunks Eat In The Forest And In Captivity
Normally, they tend to forage for food on the ground within underbrush and logs, and for good reasons. Due to their smaller size, chipmunks have to be very wary of other animals and birds of prey. Oftentimes, they catch attention of predators like foxes, snakes and hawks.
Some of the favorite food items for chipmunks are nuts, seeds and berries. Besides, they also eat fruits and insects.
Chipmunks normally cache nuts (like acorns, hazelnuts and beechnuts) and berries into their cheek pouches and then they carry them to their larder inside burrows.
These tiny mammals also scarf fungi, shoots, mushrooms, buds, grains and even worms or small frogs. By doing so, they play a crucial role in the survival of forest ecosystem too. They tend to sow seeds for the regeneration of a wide variety of trees and flowers.
Since chipmunks are not at all picky eaters, they may feed on fledglings and even bird eggs. However, these do not form part of their preferred diet.
Being diurnal (active in daytime) creatures, they tend to gather food during fall and store them away for a winter supply, because they hibernate in winter.
Chipmunks do retreat to their burrows in winter months. However, unlike woodchucks, they don’t really sleep all the way and keep storing fat. Instead, they occasionally wake up every few days (to defacate) and dip into their stockpiled food, which they gather during fall. In this way, they bring their body temperature back to normal quite often.
Chipmunks’ Diet During Captivity
If chipmunks are one of your family pets, their diet must include a wide variety of cultivated nuts, cereals and vegetables. In order to keep these lively critters healthy, they also require adequate hydration. Therefore, you need to give them fresh drinking water from a bottle.
During captivity, at least half of the chipmunk’s diet must consist of cereals. These may include millet sprays, barley, wheat, oats and corn.
For adding variety to their food, you may also feed them chopped fruits and vegetables. However, these should be given in small amounts. Some of these fruits include bananas, apples, pears and oranges.
As far as fruits are concerned, some of them contain stones that are poisonous to chipmunks. For that reason, you must throw away these stones (before giving them) from fruits like plums and peaches. Besides, you must also avoid giving them seed-based rodent pellets.
Among vegetables, you can give them tomatoes, sweet potatoes and bean sprouts.
Among weeds and grasses, you may feed them seedling dock, chickweed and shepherd.
Chewing and gnawing are also quite beneficial for these little creatures which is why it is recommended to give them a clean cuttlefish bone. This process helps in wearing down their teeth and maintain the correct shape and length because their teeth grow constantly. This bone also provides a very good source of calcium for these tiny squirrels.
You may give chipmunks varied diet but sudden changes in their diet is not good because this could upset their digestive system.
Sources & Further Reading:
“Chipmunks“. 15 March, 2021
Di Silvestro, Roger. “NOT Alvin and the Chipmunks: 10 Facts You May Not Know about the Real Rodents“. National Wildlife Federation, 15 March, 2021
“A healthy diet for chipmunks“. RSPCA, 15 March, 2021
McFarland, Kent. “Backyard chipmunks living the good life“. Northern Woodlands, 15 March, 2021