Ask a Naturalist: What do chipmunks do in winter?

Discovery Place Nature

Mb Chipmunk

Eastern chipmunks (Tamias striatus) are found all around Charlotte. It's fun to watch them dart back and forth from burrow to burrow, collecting seeds and chasing each other around.

When the days get short and temperatures decline, the chipmunk starts to put finishing touches on its winter abode and stores for the winter. Chipmunks spend a lot of time caching food in their burrows, and they will need these stores to survive the winter.

Although these little rodents hibernate, they don't spend the entire winter in a deep sleep.

Every few days, they awaken, their body temperature rises to about 94 degrees, and they eat some of the food stored in their burrow. Unlike bears, chipmunks must eat, urinate and defecate during hibernation, which they do during these active cycles.

When temperatures drop, they will lower their body temperature, slow their heart rate and go back into their form of hibernation. During this time, a chipmunk's heart rate can drop to around 4 beats a minute and its body temperature can drop as low as 40 degrees!

Want to see these animals up close? Stop by Creature Cavern to meet our resident chipmunks.