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Sea to Sky Chipmunk: The Yellow Pine

The Yellow-Pine Chipmunk, or what some would call Neotamias Amoenus, is in the Sciuridae family.  It is found in both Canada, the USA and Sea to Sky where most of us live, work and play.  They are usually only found above 950 meters above sea level so if you see one around most house’s here, it is extremely rare.  950 meters above sea level is about 300meters above Whistler’s Main Gondola and about half way to Whistler Mountains mid station.  Most common sightings will be on Alpine hikes, or bike rides.  Good times!!

Yellow Pine Chipmunks length including tail is about 7 to 9 inches and weight for an adults is 1 to 2.5 lbs.  It has at least 10 different calls; one sounds like a robin’s chirp and another, among the most common, is a sharp, accented kwist.

The Yellow Pine Chipmunk mostly burrows and lives underground at about 7 to 21 inches.  The nests are commonly 1.5 to 3 feet long in an open area within the forest where there is usually one entrance, though there may also be short side openings.

Seeds are its most important food, and are eaten as they are available,  When pinecones open up in the fall, this chipmunk climbs trees to get the seeds. It also eats some insects and fungi.

Breeding is early spring with average litters of about 5.  It’s home range is usually only a few acres but depends on a number of factors most notably predators.  These critters are very shy around humans. In the fall the animal stuffs its cheek pouches with food to be stored in its burrows.  One food cache study contained 15 kinds of seeds, corn, and part of a bumblebee.

The species is currently healthy in large numbers. In Washington State individuals once observed this critter being active about seven months and hibernating five, waking to eat about every two weeks and emerging around April. This same study indicated a 97 percent survival rate.  Phenomenal for a mammal of this size!

The yellow pine is most commonly found in Brushy areas interspersed with herbaceous vegetation and open conifer stands; shrubs typically present include snowberry, chinquapin, mountain mahogany, antelope brush, currant, and buckbrush.  Depending on season, its colour ranges from really cool looking tawny hues to pinkish cinnamon. There are 5 distinct longitudinal dark stripes, that are evenly spaced and about equal in width. The Central 3 dark stripes extend to rump; lateral 2 only to mid-body.  In open forest where the sun casts sharp shadows, the well-defined stripes of the Yellow-pine Chipmunk offer protective colouration.


It is not known if these Critters are related to Alvin, Simon or Theodore though input is apprecitated.

Have a great Easter 2011!


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