Natural Sightings Merriam's Chipmunk

A Merriam's Chipmunk feeds in the mountains.

Pat McKown took this photo in the mountains south of Highline Road of a Merriam's Chipmunk (Tamias merriami) as it was feeding. Pat has been coming to Tehachapi for many years to visit her daughter and son-in-law Kerri and Chris Esten.

Chipmunks are the smallest species of squirrel in the Tehachapi Mountains — the biggest are Gray Squirrels, followed by California Ground Squirrels. Chipmunks get their name from the "chip" sound that is one of their calls.

Merriam's Chipmunks are grayish-brown with alternating brown and light stripes on their back and face. They appear to follow what is known as Gloger's Rule, which states that birds and mammals living in more humid environments, often closer to the equator, tend to be darker. The darkest Merriam's Chipmunks live in the redwood forests near the Bay area, and the lightest ones live around arid Walker Pass in eastern Kern County.

Merriam's Chipmunks typically have two foraging periods: they roam the undergrowth and around boulders, logs and stumps looking for food for three or four hours in the morning, then they have a resting time in their burrows, then they go out again in the afternoon for additional foraging.

Acorns are one of the most important components in a Merriam Chipmunk's diet, and they gather lots of them in the late summer and autumn. They often cache them in small holes in the topsoil and duff, much like jays, and thus contribute to the planting of new generations of oak trees.

The Nuwä word for chipmunk is tava'asi, pronounced ta-va-AH-zi.

NATURAL SIGHTINGS is a regular feature of the Tehachapi News edited by Jon Hammond which showcases photos of the natural beauty that enhances the quality of life in Tehachapi. If you have a good quality image of plants, animals, insects, trees, birds, weather phenomena, etc., taken in the Tehachapi area, you may submit it to the Tehachapi News for possible publication. Submissions can be dropped by the News office in the form of a print or CD, or sent by email to: editorial@tehachapinews.com.