Today’s post comes from Gabriel Argenti, a Discovery student at Rondeau Provincial Park.
As winter approaches, most wildlife undergoes seasonal changes or new habits.
Some animals prepare for the cold by storing food, hibernating, eating to gain weight, and growing thicker fur. Others migrate south to warmer climates to wait out the season.
Let’s take a look at one animal in particular, the eastern chipmunk (fluted tamias), and watch them overcome the coldest time of the year.
Getting ready for winter
A chipmunk’s den is not just your average hole in the ground.
Chipmunks dig these dens to be between 18 and 32 inches deep with the main nest chamber at the end of the tunnel, complete with insulating materials such as grass, leaves, and other materials to create a comfortable nest.
Beginning in late summer and throughout fall, chipmunks begin collecting nuts and seeds for food and storing them for the winter in their dens or other hidden hiding places they have on hand.
A chipmunk can collect up to 165 acorns in a day and in just two days, a chipmunk can collect enough food to last an entire winter!
However, chipmunks often accumulate much more food than necessary.
It’s time to get comfortable!
Once the squirrel has stored enough food and made proper preparations, it retreats to the comfort of its den and enters a state of hibernation.
However, this type of hibernation (called torpor) is more of a nap compared to other species that actually hibernate for many months, such as groundhogs or bats.
While in this state of torpor, a chipmunk’s heart rate can decrease dramatically: dropping from an average of 350 beats per minute to approximately four beats per minute!
The chipmunk’s body temperature, respiration, and metabolism are also lower during this time.
It can be cold in a chipmunk’s den, even with all the insulation and warm materials they collected. So, chipmunks wake up every few days to warm themselves and their den to stay comfortable.
Once they wake up, chipmunks will also take the time to eat more food from their storage. They will occasionally leave their den, if they need to go to another food storage den or go to the bathroom.
Once warmer weather arrives in the spring, they wake up for good and continue as they normally would for the rest of the year.