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Chipmunks

Siberian Chipmunks or Korean Groundsquirrels

Saimirus sciurus

There are lots of books and booklets available on chipmunks or ground squirrels; Pets at Home, Focus, etc., stock them. Some are 160-180 pages in length, so you must read them if you are interested in this species.

In the wild they occur right round the northern sector of the globe in the afforested regions, living in open glades amongst the trees in Canada, North America, and South East Asia, e.g. Korea, hence the name. Like most squirrels, they self regulate their numbers by spacing themselves out. Each female digs a tunnel 1.5-3 m. deep with one or two side galleries or little rooms. Here she gives birth to and rears up to 8 young in a litter. They hibernate each autumn until the following spring.

Imported as pets in the 1960's and 1970's, 100's are bred in the UK each year, including many in various colour variants like the white (really cinnamon).

These animals are rodents and feed on all sorts of nuts and seeds. In the wild they hibernate underground through the winter months.

You can see this energetic creature in the Tropical House.

Aggressive Behaviour

Sometimes/often chipmunks are aggressive towards one another. Some females only accept the male for mating (they make a very audible chirruping when in oestrus). Provide two nest boxes, if you can, so they can stay separate, if possible, especially at night, when they prefer to use a nest box to sleep.

In captivity, accommodation is highly variable. If cages are too small, ie., a typical bird cage, they 'stereotype' by doing repeated circles of the cage and backward flips - not a good idea. For the first year they will live as a group, but come the Spring, each female will fight the others to obtain the 'space' to herself, so most serious breeders try to keep them in pairs.