Chipmunks are adorable little animals and I can sit and watch them scamper for hours on end. Of course, humans are not the only species that enjoys the sight of chipmunks. There are many species of animals that look at chipmunks as tasty treats and a great meal. Chipmunks play several vital roles in the ecosystem and serving as a food source for other animals is one of them.
Have you ever wondered what animals eat chipmunks?
Chipmunks are eaten by predatory mammals (foxes, wolves, coyotes), aerial predators (hawks, owls) and some species are actively hunted by snakes. Chipmunks have developed a communication system that helps them warn each other about the presence of a predator and whether the treat is on the ground or in the air.
Let’s look at each class of predator in more detail.
Chipmunks and other rodents are an essential part of the diet of many mammals. According to the Colorado Division of Wildlife, small mammals like chipmunks, mice, squirrels and rabbits make up approximately 70% of the diet of coyotes (source).
According to the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology (source), known mammalian predators of the Eastern chipmunk include the following animals.
- Long-tailed weasels
- Red foxes
- Red squirrels
I was surprised to see red squirrels on this list but those little guys are known for being feisty!
Since different species of chipmunks live in different regions of the country the list of predators changes with geography. For example, when we look at the mammalian predators of the Least chipmunk we see that the list expands to contain minks and martens.
Sometimes a chipmunk is an easy meal for these hunters while other times it turns into a fruitless pursuit. Check out this fun video of a chipmunk eluding a coyote!
Two other noteworthy mammalian predators of chipmunks are domesticated cats and dogs.
Chipmunk’s Avian Predators
Chipmunks have it rough. Not only do they have to spend their days evading foxes that are chasing them on foot but they also have to keep their eyes and ears tuned into the skies!
The list of avian predators contains many of the standard birds that you would expect. Chipmunks are actively hunted by several types of hawks and other birds. Such as:
- Red-tailed hawks
- Cooper’s hawks
Chipmunks are pretty spry and the birds don’t always get an easy meal. Here is a fun video of an owl hunting a chipmunk with no success.
When I was researching this article I did some searching on YouTube and was surprised to learn that chipmunks are also actively hunted by blue herons!
Snakes Love to Eat Chipmunks
Some species of snakes feed aggressively on chipmunks. Two species that have a voracious appetite for chipmunks and other small rodents include the Black Rat Snake and the Western Diamondback Rattlesnake.
The relationship between chipmunks and snakes is more complex when compared to the other animals on this list. While chipmunks have to rely on speed and agility to evade mammals and birds, they have another defense when it comes to dealing with snakes. Chipmunks will often fight aggressive snakes and sometimes even kill them!
Chipmunks are omnivores and will eat insects, bird eggs and even snakes as a source of protein.
Learn all about it here: What Do Chipmunks Eat? What Food Do They Like?
Here is an amazing video of a chipmunk aggressively attacking a snake. Not all encounters end so well for chipmunks but in this video you can really see their fighting spirit!
Chipmunk’s Defense Against Predators
The importance of chipmunks as a food source to so many animals is one reason that chipmunks do not live very long. That being said, when it comes to evading predators chipmunks have quite a few tricks up their sleeves.
From the videos above you can see how quick and agile these critters are. The habitats of chipmunks gives these little prey animals an advantage sometimes. Chipmunks can use their coats to easily blend in with the leaves and twigs on the forest floor making them nearly invisible if they remain motionless. Chipmunks can also dash into one of the openings of their burrows or tunnels to evade an oncoming predator.
One of the more interesting tools chipmunks use to avoid being eaten is communication. Chipmunks are social animals that live in communities of other chipmunks. Chipmunks have developed highly specific alarm calls that tell each other about the location of predators. If a chipmunk spots a predator in the air then it will emit a low pitched “chuck” alarm. If a predator is spotted on the ground then the alarm changes to a high pitched “chirp”.
You’ll love this: Chipmunk Sounds: What Are They and What Do They Mean?