Chipmunks and Ground Squirrels

February 11, 2015

A few days ago I took a photo-hike at Shaw Nature Reserve on a quiet, cold morning. The forest critters were few and far between and it looked like the morning might be a bust, photo-wise at least. After an hour or so of non-action, I remembered a log upon which I had observed a few eastern chipmunks several winters ago. They must have had a den nearby because every time I checked the log, I eventually spotted a chipmunk.

I headed to the site and found the log, just as I remembered it. It was bathed in the golden light of the soft, winter sunrise so I found a comfortable spot nearby to set my tripod and wait. It couldn’t have been more than a minute or two before a little munk jumped up on the log and began sniffing the air (see featured image). I waited a little longer to see if it would move away from a distracting stem near its rear end, but my wait was to no avail. When the little guy finally decided to make its move, it was a dead run across the log into the surrounding brush. I waited 30 minutes more but never saw it again. I considered myself lucky to get any kind of shot of the suspicious chipmunk and started back toward my vehicle.

In Missouri, if you see a chipmunk, it is likely the eastern chipmunk. Out west, its a different story, as I learned from our trip to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon a few summers ago. I photographed a chipmunk that didn’t look quite right, especially with the distinct line right through its eye (see below). On further inspection, I realized it was a Uinta chipmunk (or possibly the similar least chipmunk), a relative of our eastern version. A better view of its back stripes would have made for a solid identification. The Uinta chipmunk usually lives among the evergreens and feeds on tasty pine cones and such. I made the image below of one checking me out from its hidey hole inside a hollow log.


I only spotted one other individual during my trip to the North Rim as it struck a cute pose on a broken pine stem (see below). I remember taking the shot in the late-morning sun so I was surprised that it came out worth keeping.


During our visit to Grand Canyon National Park, we stayed in one of the four “rim cabins” that are perched right at the edge of the canyon. Every day, we received visits from little critters that most of the tourists referred to as “chipmunks.” I knew something was wrong when I first saw one. “That is not a chipmunk,” I said to Joyce, “but I’m not sure what it is.” A check on the internet revealed the fat little critters, which usually sported Cheez-It crumbs on their whiskers, to be golden-mantled ground squirrels.

We fell in love with the ground squirrels during our vacation as they kept sneaking into our cabin in search of treats. Any time we were on our porch enjoying the greatest view on earth, we were surrounded by our little friends as they hung around like house pets, stretching, scratching, and bathing in the sun. Below you will find a couple shots of one that frequented our cabin during the week.


Here is another image of a golden-mantled ground squirrel, even closer. What a fat little guy!


I was so glad to catch a fleeting glimpse of the eastern chipmunk at Shaw Nature Reserve this week. It not only gave me something to write about during the cold, brown days of winter, but also brought back some nice memories of our wonderful vacation. I highly recommend the North Rim, and it will be extra special if you reserve one of the rim cabins. They come not only with a killer view, but with some furry little companions as well. Just don’t be tempted to feed them—you never know when a park ranger is watching.

Thanks for looking,


Email me at:  Natureframes@Rocketmail.Com

All chipmunk images were taken with a Canon 1D Mark IV and Canon 500/4 L lens supported with a Gitzo GT 3530 LS Tripod with a Full Wimberley Head. The ground squirrel images were captured with a Canon 300/4 lens (hand held).

6 comments on “Chipmunks and Ground Squirrels”

  1. Wonderful images, informative words (that never talk down to ignoramii like me)….thank you, Danny and have a safe trip!

  2. Great story and pictures, Danny. It was nice to get a glimpse of your vacation to the Grand Canyon!

  3. Great images of your Chipmunk’s Danny. If you every need to get some different shots, you could come here at any time of the day, and find them all over my place. They like burrell under my front porch, which I don’t like, because of the damage that they can do. But they are very cute. thank you for sharing.


    • Thanks Art — I might just do that. I bet they are fat from you feeding them cheese and crackers. 🙂

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