Posted in Animals

Chipmunks eating, planting and stockpiling

Squirrels and chipmunks both stockpile acorns, but it matters whether the acorns fell from a white oak or a red oak. The acorns dropped by white oaks sprout soon after landing on the ground, but the acorns of the red oak lie dormant all winter and sprout in the spring. Since the sprout consumes the energy that was stored in the acorn, rapid sprouting makes the acorns of the white oak a poor choice for stockpiling. So squirrels and chipmunks typically eat the acorns produced by white oak as soon as they fall, and they stockpile the acorns of the red oak since they’ll last till spring. However periodically white oaks have a mast year in which they produce an unusually large number of acorns. In mast years both squirrels and chipmunks would like to be able to set aside some of these extraordinarily abundant acorns. So they have a clever way of preserving them over the winter. They remove the portion of the acorn from which the sprout would emerge, or if it’s already present, they just remove the sprout. Once the sprout is gone, even white oak acorns can be stockpiled.

Eastern chipmunk (Tamias striatus)

In the short video below, a chipmunk shows how to stockpile sprouted acorns by removing the sprout.

The bird feeder in my backyard attracts both squirrels and chipmunks. At one point I switched over to safflower seeds to discourage their presence. But it turns out that the squirrels and chipmunks (at least the ones in my yard) love safflower seeds. They can’t get enough of them. But then one summer I began to find safflower plants sprouting in the mulch all around the foundation of my house. Even though my bird feeder is in the backyard, the sprouts were even showing up in the front of my house. I was convinced that squirrels were responsible for this until I watched a chipmunk “planting” safflower seeds in my mulch. Since the chipmunk was doing his planting in the summer, it wasn’t taking long for the seeds to sprout. It was almost like he was a little farmer doing what he could to insure a bumper crop of safflower seeds to be harvested in the fall.

Sadly this squirrel was unable to read the label
Sprouted safflower seeds that I pulled out of my mulch

Besides eating nuts and seeds, chipmunks also eat fruit. For that matter, chipmunks are opportunistic omnivores and will happily scarf down bird eggs, worms, bugs, and even small frogs.

An Eastern Chipmunk eating a berry — cute!
Photo courtesy of Kerry Wixted, license: CC BY 2.0

So this little frog could end up as chipmunk food?!?!?

Chipmunks also eat certain fungi, such as truffles. In fact truffles are unable to disperse their own spores, so they depend on chipmunks and other truffle-loving mammals to disperse their spores for them. Chipmunks do this much in the same way the chipmunks in my yard were growing safflower plants all over the place.

In the photo below, you can see that the dove is towering above the little chipmunk. What a tiny, little creature it is.

Big dove, little chipmunk

Chipmunks use their cheek pouches like shopping bags. Once they’ve stuffed their cheeks, they usually scamper back home to stash their goods. I’ve often seen them have so many nuts or seeds in their mouths that their mouths can’t close completely.

Cheek-stuffing in progress
Eastern chipmunk with the “mumps”

Despite being garden pests, I have to admit they’re cute. I’ll close with a couple more photos.

Hanging out on my deck
Surrounded by seed hulls.

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© Deborah Platt, Robert Platt and 2012 to 2021

17 thoughts on “Chipmunks eating, planting and stockpiling

    1. Thanks, marviiilous. Chipmunks are so small it’s possible that you missed them. However they tend to dig holes, and I suspect that you would have noticed the holes even if you didn’t see them yourself.

      How’s Rusty doing?

  1. I know they do some damage but they are so cute and they are only trying to survive like every one else, lol. I have tons around here, they dont seem to bother my tomatoes, green beans, garlic or peppers. once one got into a bucket full of water and couldnt get out when I found him I felt bad he had to die like that poor thing. so I make sure no bucket remains upright so it can’t catch the rainfall.

    1. Too bad about your bucket. I’m glad that they seem to leave your garden alone. I’ve been told that people who plant flowers with bulbs are often troubled with them chewing up the bulbs, plus the tend to did holes in their gardens.

  2. I learned something new again, and I have you to thank for that, Deb.Enjoyed the pictures. The chipmunks that we had at the cottage were very tame but the ones I see on the trail here are shy.

  3. Really interesting info!! Thanks so much… Such wonderful images. We don’t have chipmunks down here, but I’d be hard-pressed to call them pests — knowing me, I’d probably feed them. 🙂

    1. Thanks, FeyGirl (and I finally got around to looking up what “Fey” meant in the dictionary. :)). Apparently I am feeding chipmunks via my bird feeder, and other critters. I have a few photos of an opossum checking out the seeds at the base of the feeder, too.

      1. Hahahah! That’s great (RE: the word “Fey”). 🙂

        I care for a few abandoned kitties in our neighborhood, with some other souls (as well as feeding the birds, of course), and last night I saw an opossum and a happy raccoon family — momma, poppa, and baby!

    1. Thanks, Deb! I thought the one with the “mumps” was cute, too. Since I can’t distinguish among individual chipmunks, he may very well have been the one planting safflower seeds are around my house.

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