When walking in the woods, be sure to listen for the sounds of forest creatures. If you do, you may hear the high-pitched call of a chipmunk. It sounds similar to the excited call of a robin. You can hear the calls here:
Three species of chipmunk are native to the Pacific Northwest:
- The Townsend’s chipmunk (Neotamias townsendii) is the only species native to western Oregon and Washington. It’s about 10 inches long from its nose to the tip of its tail, about 3 inches shorter than a Douglas squirrel. At lower elevations, it is active throughout the year. You can see them in winter, perhaps munching on a fungus. All the photos here are of the Townsend's chipmunk.
- The yellow pine chipmunk (Neotamias amoenus) lives from the summit of the Cascades to large areas of eastern Oregon and Washington. It’s about 8 inches long, 2 inches shorter than the Townsend’s chipmunk.
- The least chipmunk (Neotamias minimus) lives east of the Cascades in Oregon and in central Washington. This chipmunk can survive in dry desert areas where no water is available. It’s nearly 8 inches long, slightly smaller than the yellow pine chipmunk.
Listen for these chipmunks when you are hiking in the woods. When you hear one, stop and look carefully. You may see it scurrying around in the bushes or sitting on a fallen log. Perhaps you can catch the magic of its movements.
“Mammals of the Pacific States,” Lloyd G. Ingles, Stanford University Press.