Chipmunks are not protected by federal law, but may be protected by some state and provincial regulations. Most states allow landowners or tenants to take (capture and kill) chipmunks when they are causing or about to cause damage. Some states, (e.g., Georgia and Arkansas) require a permit to kill non-game animals. Other states are developing laws to protect all non-game species. Consult local and state regulations before enacting control.
Fifteen species of native chipmunks in the genus Eutamias and one in the genus Tamias are found in North America. The eastern chipmunk (Tamias striatus) and least chipmunk (Eutamias minimas) are the most widely distributed species.
Behavior and damage is similar among all species of native chipmunks, making recommendations for control similar for all species.
Chipmunk Eastern chipmunks are small, brown, ground-dwelling squirrels. They are 5 to 6 inches long and weigh 3 ounces. Two tan and 5 black longitudinal stripes occur on the back, and 2 tan and 2 brown stripes occur on each side of the face. The stripes end at the rump. The tail is 3 to 4 inches long and hairy.
Least chipmunks are the smallest of the chipmunks. Typically, they are 3 to 4½ inches long and weigh 1 to 2 ounces. Color varies from yellow-gray with tawny dark stripes (Badlands, South Dakota) to gray-tawny-brown with black stripes (Wisconsin and Michigan). The stripes continue to the base of the tail.
Chipmunks often are confused with 13-lined ground squirrels (Spermophilus tridecemlineatus) and red squirrels (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus). When startled, a ground squirrel carries its tail horizontally along the ground; chipmunks carry their tails upright. Red squirrels are larger than chipmunks, have bushier tails, and lack longitudinal stripes. Red squirrels spend a great deal of time in trees, while chipmunks spend most of their time on the ground, although they can climb trees.
The range of eastern chipmunks includes most of the eastern US, excluding the southeastern coast and Florida.
The range of least chipmunks includes most of Canada, the US Rocky Mountains, the Great Basin, and parts of the upper Midwest.
Voice and Sounds
Chipmunks vocalize a sharp “chuck-chuck-chuck” call. Their warning call is a high pitched “wee,” which commonly is heard when perceived danger approaches.
Tracks and Signs
It is rare to find tracks of chipmunks. Chipmunks usually are quite noticeable, as they are active during daylight hours.
Information on this species is based on the chapter in Prevention and Control of Wildlife Damage (Hygnstrom, Larson, Timm, ed. 1994), written by David E. Williams (USDA-APHIS-Animal Damage Control) and Robert M. Corrigan (Purdue University).