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Seen a chipmunk in eastern North Carolina? The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission wants to hear from you

chipmunk sits and eats cracker
File photo
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A chipmunk sits and eats a tasty cracker.

Chipmunks in North Carolina are only known to live north and west of Wake County. However, a recent photograph submitted to the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission has biologists wondering if its range has expanded to eastern North Carolina.

It's no secret that a lot of people are moving to Wilmington. But could chipmunks also be en route to the coast?

“We recently received an observation with photos of a chipmunk in the Wilmington area. It is likely a case of hitchhiking, however, we’d like the public to notify us of any chipmunk sightings east of Wake County,” says Andrea Shipley, a mammalogist with the Wildlife Commission.

Staff biologists are specifically interested in sightings in New Hanover, Brunswick, Onslow, Duplin, Sampson, Bladen, Cumberland, Moore, Montgomery, Anson, Richmond, and Robeson counties.

Chipmunks are found in both urban and rural habitats. The eastern chipmunk prefers open woodlands or forest edges, with plenty of cover and dry hillsides for digging burrows. The chipmunk is most active in the early morning and late afternoon — gathering and storing seeds, nuts, acorns, and berries. Unlike squirrels, chipmunks spend most of their time foraging on the ground, climbing trees only occasionally.

Chipmunks have distinctive coloring – reddish-brown fur, a black stripe down the center of its back, and a set of two black stripes. They are smaller than squirrels, measuring eight to 10 inches long, including three to four inches of tail.

The chipmunk’s most distinguishing feature is its large cheek pouches, usually full of nuts or seeds to unload in an underground storage burrow. Burrows provide protection from predators such as hawks, owls, foxes, and snakes, and safe quarters during winter months when cold weather brings on a state of deep sleep.

If you live in any of the counties specified and observe a chipmunk or its habitat, please take a picture, note the location (GPS coordinates preferred), and contact the Commission’s NC Wildlife Helpline during business hours. You can also email the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission anytime at HWI@ncwildlife.org.