Outdoors

Chipmunk not shy when food’s around

Don’t be surprised if a yellow-pine chipmunk scurries around you, trying to help itself to your potato chips or whatever other goody you leave lying around during a break in your hike.

They’re not shy when food is around.

You’ll find them in coniferous forests, particularly those with yellow pine growing in them, as well as areas covered in brush in much of British Columbia down to northern California and east to Montana and Wyoming.

You’ll recognize them from the black and white stripes running the length of their heads and down their bodies. But you’ll need to look closely to distinguish the yellow-pine from its look-alike, the least chipmunk. Both have black and white stripes, although the least chipmunk is a bit smaller than the yellow-pine. But the fur of the yellow-pine is a bright golden or a cinnamon-brown above while it’s yellowish-gray for the least chipmunk.

The yellow-pine chipmunk also looks like it has a circle of whitish-fur around its eyes, complemented with a black line that seems to be passing right through the circle.

Their diet consists of seeds, which are their most important food, and flowers and truffles. They mate in April or May, producing one litter a year of four to seven young that are blind and naked.

They hibernate for about five months, although they do wake during that time to eat every two weeks. They live in underground burrows and are active during the day.

Sources: “An Uncommon Field Guide to Northwest Mountains,” by Patricia K. Lichen; Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture; eNature.com; “Field Guide to the Cascades & OIympics,” by Stephen R. Whitney and Rob Sandelin

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