How Do Chipmunks Hold Food in Their Cheeks?
Chipmunks have pouches in their cheeks in which they can hold food. The chipmunk stores food for winter. During autumn this active little animal scampers about, stuffing its cheek pouches with nuts and seeds. After filling its pouches with food, the chipmunk hurries off to put the food in its burrow under an old stump or pile of rocks.
The cheek pouches can hold great amounts, even enlarging the chipmunk’s head to twice its size when fully packed. The chipmunk will sleep through the winter, waking up occasionally to feed on its store of food.
Chipmunks have a varied omnivorous diet mainly consisting of nuts, fruits, seeds, berries, grains, bird’s eggs, small frogs, fungi, insects and worms. Some species of chipmunk make many caches of food. These two behaviors are referred to as ‘larder hoarding’ and ‘scatter hoarding’. Larder hoarders usually remain in their nests until spring.
Chipmunks generally gather food on the ground in areas with underbrush, rocks and logs, where they can hide from predators like hawks, foxes, coyotes, weasels, and snakes. They will climb trees to collect acorns and hazel nuts; however, they are not as agile as their cousins, the squirrel.
Chipmunks fulfill several important functions in forest ecosystems. Their activities which include harvesting and hoarding tree seeds play a crucial role in seedling establishment. Chipmunks also play an important role as prey for various predatory mammals and birds; however, they are also opportunistic predators themselves, particularly with regards to bird eggs and nestlings.