The Barefoot Photographer®

a photography blog

Friday, August 24, 2007


This entry to the blog has nothing to do with photography. As much as I like to take photos – I also like to observe wildlife in the back yard and woods behind the house. Not too long after we moved here I had the property certified as a wildlife habitat by the National Wildlife Federation. Anyone can do this. Here is a link for more information:

Recently I heard a caller on the Garden Show (WSB Radio) asking Walter Reeves about chipmunks. I learned then that they are a protected species in Georgia. After a little investigation I found that all non-game wildlife is protected in Georgia. This means that is it illegal to kill any species unless specified under hunting or fishing laws. The law does, however, speak to the rights of a homeowner to protect their property against wildlife causing damage. This call and the mention of the protection made me curious.

Chipmunks are cute. I love to watch them in the yard. They scurry around under the shrubbery in the back yard. I see them run from the woods to the flower beds near the house. When I have old grape tomatoes I toss them out in the yard for the birds and the chipmunks. Sometimes I find a half-eaten tomato on the flat rocks in the back yard. Especially important during this heat and drought, in the backyard I have two containers that hold water at ground level for the chipmunks and birds. Chipmunks stuff their cheeks with nuts and berries to carry back to their burrow to store for winter. I have piled a mound of sunflower seeds in the yard and watched from a window as the chipmunk stuffed its cheeks. It would run off – only be gone long enough to hide the seeds away in its burrow – and then it was back to do it again.

Chipmunks are often mistaken for ground squirrels and vice versa. The chipmunk has two tan and five blackish stripes on its back. It also has two tan and two brownish stripes on the sides of its face. The ground squirrel has thirteen lines on its back and does not have the facial lines. Chipmunks are the smallest member of the squirrel family – the chipmunk seen around here is the Eastern Chipmunk. This variety grows to 5 to 6 inches long and weighs about 3 ounces. When they run their tail is erect. When startled, a ground squirrel keeps its tail horizontal to the ground.

Chipmunks are ground dwellers and their burrow can be 30 feet or more in length. The entrance to the burrow is about 2 inches in diameter. The chipmunk's burrow entrance is usually near objects or buildings and it is not marked by any mound of dirt. The chipmunk will carry the dirt away in its mouth and scatter it to help keep the burrow secret. A chipmunk's territory may be as large as a half an acre – but it will only defend up to about 50 feet from the entrance to the burrow. You can find as many as 10 chipmunks on an acre – more if the food supply is plentiful. Except during courtship, chipmunks live a solitary life. They mate twice a year – in early spring and again in late summer or early fall. Chipmunks hibernate in winter but can and do become active on warm winter days.

A chipmunk most likely will not cause major damage around your home. They may burrow under a patio or retaining wall. They may damage and eat plants, seeds or flower bulbs. All the time they have been welcomed into my yard (they think it is their yard) I have not noticed any damage. Although for some reason those sunflower seeds I planted in the spring never came up! The chipmunks are not the pests in my yard – the pests here are the cats roaming free!

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