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Why Do Chipmunks Chase Each Other? (A Guide to Chipmunk Behavior)

Why Do Chipmunks Chase Each Other? (A Guide to Chipmunk Behavior)

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We typically see chipmunks climbing trees, running around, and foraging for food. However, it’s rare to see them searching for food or spending their day with other chipmunks.

Oftentimes, we see them acting aggressively toward each other. You may even see these furry creatures chasing each other in your yard, seemingly playing, or are they?

Why do chipmunks chase each other? The primary reason why these critters chase each other is because of their territorial nature—they dislike other chipmunks setting foot in their area.

Keep reading if you want to know more about chipmunks’ social behaviors. We’ll discuss their behavior toward each other and break down the social habits making these animals unique.

Overview of Eastern Chipmunks

Chipmunks are rodents related to squirrels. They’re brightly colored, with conspicuous black stripe patterns running across their eyes, back, and tail.

These adorable creatures can grow up to 8 to 10 inches. And though they share similar features to squirrels, they’re smaller in weight and height.

The Eastern chipmunks are the most common variety in the US. They inhabit woodlands, forested lands, grasslands, and even urban areas.

They create burrows and nests underground to store food and rear kittens. Their tunnel systems are typically three feet deep and spanning 20 to 30 feet wide.

Chipmunks are omnivore animals. They’re known for their varied eating habits, consuming plants, flowers, fruits, seeds, nuts, and small animals like frogs, birds, and insects.

Chipmunks: Social Behavior

Mainstream media depicted chipmunks as these cuddly, friendly, and cute creatures. Movies like Alvin and the Chipmunks portrayed these creatures as these adorable singers.

The reality, however, can never be farther from those depictions. In truth, chipmunks aren’t social creatures and prefer to spend their days alone.

Mature chipmunks only seek out companionship during their mating season. They meet twice a year, in February and April, then in June to August.

Despite their antisocial tendencies, these furry creatures like to mate with several partners. They’re polygamous with no permanent partners like other social animals.

Most often, they’re the only resident inside their expansive tunnel systems. And the only time their nests contain more than one furry creature is when a female rears babies.

Females produce two to six young chipmunks every mating cycle. The baby critters mature after eight weeks and leave their mothers to create their own burrows and live alone.

Why Do Chipmunks Chase Other Chipmunks?

If you live in an area abundant with chipmunks, you may already see them chasing each other around. They may even scuttle about in groups of six or eight chipmunks.

It’s an adorable, sometimes funny, sight to behold. However, if you know about their solitary nature, you can’t help but wonder why they’re running with other chipmunks.

1 – Mating Season

One reason why chipmunks chase other chipmunks is for mating. It’s the likely reason if you see two or more of these creatures running around during their mating season months.

When in heat, female mammals secrete hormones signaling their readiness for mating. The male mammal typically smells these hormonal changes and will start pursuing the female.

Dominant male chipmunks sometimes chase away other males to assert their dominance. Females may also run away from the dominant male if they’re uninterested in mating.

2 – Territorial Nature

Despite their cute appearance and small stature, chipmunks are extremely territorial. They’ll fight other chipmunks who dare wander near their burrows and nests.

Chipmunk territory can span around 0.5 to 1.0 acres. And they mark their area by urinating around key spots, rubbing their cheek glands, or through vocalized threats.

If you see these furry creatures chasing each other outside of their mating periods, it’s usually a territory dispute. Dominant males may be establishing order against younger male chipmunks.

3 – Food Dispute

Another likely reason why chipmunks attack others is to protect their food supply. As you may already know, these creatures spend most of their time foraging for food.

They stash their food in caches and hidden storage spots in preparation for winter. When other chipmunks wander too close, they might attack to drive the strangers away.

Protecting gathered food is a matter of life and death for these creatures, especially in the colder months. And they can become aggressive when it comes to food supply.

How Do Chipmunks Communicate?

The population of these critters ranges from two to four chipmunks per acre. However, their number can go as high as a dozen if enough food is available in an area.

These animals are rather vocal, though they don’t sing as well as Alvin and his brothers. They make loud chipping, chucking, and trilling sounds for several reasons.

The chip and chuck sound can mean that other animals are intruding near their burrows. Chipmunks use these vocalizations to announce that they’re occupying the area.

These territorial calls usually follow aggressive chases among chipmunks. And these encounters can sometimes lead to physical aggression like biting and scratching.

Trill sounds are shorter vocalizations made by chipmunks when under stress. So if you notice these creatures trilling, it’s highly likely that a predator is chasing them.

Final Thoughts

Different animals use actions and sound to display aggression and fear. And chipmunks are particularly expressive when communicating with their kind.

There are three primary reasons why chipmunks chase each other. They may be in the middle of their mating ritual, protecting their territory or defending their food.


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