The Story Of Wild Animals:
Story Of The Ferret
Story Of The Chipmunk
Story Of The Cavy
Story Of The Marten
Story Of The Lemur
Story Of The Echidna
Story Of The Mink
Story Of The Wapi
Story Of The Wolverine
Story Of The Skunk
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Story Of The Chipmunk
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
Among the prettiest of the wild animals of the United States is the chipmunk, or ground squirrel.
Who could desire a prettier coat than the chipmunk wears? The ground color of the fur is the same as that of the squirrel; with a simple black stripe running down the middle of the back, with a white stripe bordered with black on either side of it. There are also two white stripes separated by a black one above and below the eyes.
The Siberian chipmunk differs from the American variety, by having four light-colored and fine black stripes on the body.
The chipmunk does not live entirely upon nuts, as many suppose, although they are its favorite food. It is also, fond of beech-mast, various kinds of corn and roots and the larvae of some insects.
Chipmunks are most numerous where food is most abundant. When they find a place where food is plentiful, they at once establish themselves for the winter, and begin to hoard up large stores.
Chipmunks collect an astonishing quantity of food for the winter, which is carried to its place of deposit in their large cheek-pouches. In addition to regular storehouses, these animals lay up a portion of their winter supply here and there beneath the leaves of the forest. In a hole tenanted by four chipmunks, Audubon relates that in the nest itself he found about a gill of corn, and in the communicating galleries upwards of about a quart of nuts, a peck of acorns, about two quarts of buckwheat, and a small quantity of Indian corn and grass seeds.'
Generally the chipmunk keeps to the ground, although it will often run some few feet up the trunk of a tree, and when pursued, if its hole be not accessible, will take refuge among the branches. Instances are, however, on record where these animals have been observed regularly ascending tall trees in search of food; and they seemed perfectly at home among the boughs, although they never leaped from branch to branch after the manner of the squirrels.
In regard to its general mode of life, the chipmunk establishes its headquarters in some log or stump, or in a hole excavated by itself in the earth, generally among the roots of a tree. It is partial to brush-heaps, wood piles, stone walls, rail fences, accumulations of old rubbish and other places that afford a pretty certain escape, and at the same time enable it to see what is taking place outside. For, though by no means wary, it delights in these loosely sheltered hiding-places, where it can whisk in and out at will, peep unobserved at passers-by, and dart back when prudence demands. If suddenly surprised, it utters a shart chip-per, r, r, r, and makes a sudden quick dash for its retreat, which is no sooner reached than, simultaneously with the disappearance of its tail, out pops its head, the keen dark eyes gazing intently at the source of alarm. If not pursued further, it is very apt to advance towards the supposed enemy, betraying excitement by a series of nervous starts and precipitous retreats, till finally, making a bold rush, it dashes by the object of dread, and in another instant is peering out from a hole beneath the roots of a neighboring tree. The chipmunk does not make an agreeable pet, and it is apt to be sulky and morose, and disposed to bite the fingers of any one who offers it food.
The ground-squirrel of Siberia, portions of Eastern Europe, and North America, together with several. other closely-allied North American species commonly known as chipmunks, constitute a group serving to connect the squirrel family with the susliks. The chipmunks are indeed so closely allied to the true squirrels that Dr. Forsyth-Major proposes to include them in the same family. They differ, however, from both the spiny-squirrels and the true squirrels in the possession of pouches inside the cheeks; on which account they may, for the present at least, be allowed to stand under the title by which they are commonly known. They are further characterized by the sides, or the back and sides together, being marked by white or grayish-white stripes bordered by black bands. The ears are of medium size or small, and are never tufted with long hair.