Do Chipmunks Hibernate? And Other FAQs About Chipmunks

Monday, January 8, 2024
Eastern Chipmunk

Do Chipmunks hibernate?
Contrary to popular belief, chipmunks do not actually hibernate. Instead, they go into a state known as torpor. Torpor is an involuntary state of hibernation where an animal is able to lower its body temperature, heart rate, metabolic rate, and breathing rate, in order to expend less energy and survive the cold weather. Torpor is different from true hibernation in that it lasts short periods of time (typically days), and allows for the animals to wake, feed, and relieve itself in between. Emergence from a torpid state is triggered by ambient temperature and food availability, and takes approximately one hour to recover from. So, don't be surprised if you see a chipmunk bounding through the snow on a mild winter day!

What are their burrows like?
A chipmunk's burrow is made up of several tunnels, pockets, and chambers. There are several entrances to allow for a quick escape from a predator (such as a snake), collapse, or flooding, all of which are typically camouflaged under rocks or bushes. All entrances lead to the main nesting chamber, where the chipmunk sleeps, and spends much of its time during the winter months. The nesting chamber is lined with insulating materials like leaves, grasses, and thistledown, and often has a store of food underneath for easy access in cold weather. Along each tunnel are side pockets used to store food and empty shells, and are sometimes used for the chipmunk to easily turn around in narrow spots. Lastly, narrow drainage tunnels are dug at the bottom of the burrow to help carry water away. Researchers have found no evidence of a latrine (or bathroom) inside of the burrow, so it is believed that the chipmunk must leave the area to relieve itself. 

Eastern Chipmunk siblings

Do Chipmunks live in colonies?
While chipmunks live close to each other, they are generally solitary animals. Home ranges can vary in size between 0.04 and 1.26 hectares, with males typically having larger ranges than females. These areas do not strictly belong to one chipmunk, and frequently overlap with several individuals. When crossing each other's paths in their home ranges, chipmunks will usually tolerate one another and go about their business alone. There is no overlap of territory when it comes to burrows, and if one chipmunk comes within close proximity to another chipmunk's burrow, the owner will pursue and chase the intruder away from its home. Chipmunks use scent marks to mark their territory and communicate to others that a certain space is their dominance area. When a chipmunk is near another individual's burrow, it will typically avoid the area, but some may wander a little too close for comfort for the owner resulting in an exchange of words, a chase, and occasionally, a scuffle. 

Eastern Chipmunk blocked by WBU Raccoon Baffle

How can I keep Chipmunks away from my feeders?

Exclusion & deterrent methods

  • Install baffles
    The best defence against feeder-raiders are baffles. A properly placed baffle, such as a squirrel baffle or raccoon baffle, is the only way to entirely exclude chipmunks from feeders. To ensure that a baffle is going to work against chipmunks, your feeder pole needs to be at least 7' from any object sturdy enough for a chipmunk to jump from (house, fence, tree, etc), and the top of the baffle should sit at 5' high. If you have feeders hanging from trees, you can purchase baffles that go above the feeders and stop critters from jumping or climbing down. These styles aren't as effective as a pole system with a mounted baffle, but they can help limit access.
  • Use specific feeders
    100% chipmunk-proof feeders are tough to come by, but there are some feeders that you can use in your yard to help deter them, or at least slow them down. Because of their small feeding holes, WBU Finch Feeders can help to deter chipmunks. These finch feeders also have reinforced metal feed ports to discourage chipmunks chewing to make the holes on the feeder bigger. While chipmunks love seed, they'll also feed on suet. Starling-proof suet feeders and upside-down suet feeders can help to discourage chipmunks from gulping down suet cakes as they have difficulty accessing these feeders and hanging upside down while feeding.

  • Offer less "chipmunk friendly" foods
    Safflower is typically our recommendation to deter blackbirds and squirrels, but unfortunately, it isn't the case with chipmunks. In fact, it is the opposite - they love it! Be prepared if you are offering safflower in your yard as a deterrence for other critters and birds, you will need additional protection from chipmunks if you don't want them to eat from the feeders. Some other foods you could offer that chipmunks aren't huge fans of are Nyjer seed, Simply Suet (plain suet), and hot pepper foods. Hot pepper food varieties may or may not help with chipmunks due to their fur-lined cheek pouches. The pouches help protect the chipmunks from tasting the spice produced by hot pepper foods, but once they get a taste of it they might think twice before coming back for more.

And for all the chipmunk lovers out there (I know there are lots - myself included!), here are some happy chipmunk habitat tips:

Though food is important, there's much more to survival than just eating! Chipmunks require a consistent source of fresh water to drink and to aid in grooming, safe places to hide from predators, natural food sources, and nesting material. To help chipmunks thrive in your yard, be sure to have an accessible water dish or bird bath with fresh, clean water available at all times. Keep brush piles and dense shrubs where possible to allow for a quick getaway when fleeing from predators. Brush and leaf piles can also be used by chipmunks as nesting materials in the spring. Plant native plants that produce fruits, nuts, and support insects that chipmunks feed on. Last but not least, keep kitty inside. Free-roaming cats are introduced and invasive predators that pose a huge threat to our native wildlife species. It is much safer for both chipmunks and our cats to be indoor-only, unless on lead or in an enclosed space such as a "catio".

* NOTE: In the Province of Ontario, chipmunks can be trapped and relocated 1 kilometer from where you trapped them. They can easily travel that 1 kilometer distance back to your house. Moving your chipmunks also makes room for more chipmunks to enter the habitat, with one gone its neighbour will move in. So the most effective way to deal with chipmunks is to accept that they are a part of your yard and invest in a good pole system and baffle. Putting a feeder out just for chipmunks will not do much to distract them from your other bird feeders it may simply attract more to your home. For more information on chipmunk exclusion, visit our website

Happy trails!
- Shayna 

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