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Species in this Guide: 206
Mammals of California
Created by: Robert Hole, Jr.
Lodgepole Chipmunk  Tamias speciosus         View on EOL
Conservation

Conservation Status

According to most sources, T. speciosus has no special conservation status. IUCN lists this species as a lower risk animal. In spite of this, it is important to maintain their habitat to assure that the species is maintained in the future.

IUCN Red List: Lower Risk - Least Concern

US Federal List: No special status

CITES: No special status
Editor: Nancy Shefferly, Animal Diversity Web Staff, Editor: John Demboski, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, Author: Vivian Quesada, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, Au  Source: The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors   CC License: by-nc-sa

Management
Conservation Actions
This species is not known to occur in any protected areas.
Author: Linzey, A.V. & Hammerson, G., Compiler: Linzey, A.V. & NatureServe (Hammerson, G.)  Source: International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources   CC License: by-nc-sa

Threats
Major Threats
There are no major threats to this species.
Author: Linzey, A.V. & Hammerson, G., Compiler: Linzey, A.V. & NatureServe (Hammerson, G.)  Source: International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources   CC License: by-nc-sa

Trends
Population
This species is considered common. Populations fluctuate seasonally and annually; maximum reported density is about one per hectare (see Best et al. 1994).

Population Trend
Stable
Author: Linzey, A.V. & Hammerson, G., Compiler: Linzey, A.V. & NatureServe (Hammerson, G.)  Source: International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources   CC License: by-nc-sa

Overview

Taxon Biology
The range of the Lodgepole Chipmunk follows the high Sierra Nevada, and continues along the tops of the San Bernardino and San Jacinto mountains near Los Angeles. Most of the time the Lodgepole Chipmunks forage on the ground, climbing on rocks and running along logs to find seeds, fungi, flowers, fruits, and insects. These striking, brightly-colored chipmunks go into hibernation around the end of October and emerge in mid-April.

Links:
Mammal Species of the World
Click here for The American Society of Mammalogists species accountProject: Smithsonian Institution - North American Mammals  Source: Smithsonian Institution   CC License: by

Distribution
This species occurs in the United States in central Sierra Nevada in California, into Nevada in the vicinity of Lake Tahoe, south to the San Bernardino and San Gabriel mountains and Mount Pinos. Reported occurrence in the northern Sierra Nevada has been questioned by D. A. Sutton; field investigations revealed only T. amoenus in localities from which speciosus has been reported (see Best et al. 1994, Sutton 1995). It occurs at elevations of 1,500-3,000 m asl.Author: Linzey, A.V. & Hammerson, G., Compiler: Linzey, A.V. & NatureServe (Hammerson, G.)  Source: International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources   CC License: by-nc-sa

Physical Description

Diagnostic Description

See Sutton (1995).
Author: Hammerson, G.  Source: NatureServe   CC License: by-nc

Morphology

Tamias speciosus is a small Sciuridae, typically weighing between 50 and 70 g. These animals measure from 197 to 212 mm in length. Tail length is reported at 13 to 22 mm. As in other chipmunks, females are slightly larger than males.

Tamias speciosus is a brightly colored, medium-sized chipmunk compared to others of the genus. It is easily distinguished from sympatric and parapatric relatives by its remarkably prominent facial and dorsal stripes. The dark cheek and submolar facial stripes are blacker with some brown and broader than in other neighboring species. The submolar stripes extend from the rostrum to the ear and are central below the eyes. The dark dorsal stripes strongly contrast with the light dorsal stripes. The black median stripe may fade to brown across the shoulder area. The white medial stripes are slightly yellow, whereas the white lateral stripes are much brighter and more prominent. These chipmunks nearly to completely lack a dark outer lateral stripe. The crown of the head is usually brown and sprinkled with grey. The sides of the head can be yellowish-tawny to brown in the summer. There is a white patch behind the ears, and the underside of the tail is cinnamon through most of the length with black near the tip.

The incisors of lodgepole chipmunks are short and straight, helping to distinguish these chipmunks from other species in the area. The dental formula of T. speciosus is 1-0-2-3/1-0-1-3.

In areas of sympatry, the size and shape of genital bones may provide the most diagnostic features of these animals. The baculum is 2.1 to 3.2 mm in length and the distal 2/3 of the shaft is strongly compressed.

Molecular differences with related species may be used in identification, since T. speciosus is sometimes confused with Tamias amoenus based solely on morphological diagnostics. (Best, Clawson, and Clawson, 1994; Good et al., 2003; Ingles, 1965; Merriam, 1893; Sutton, 1995; White, 1953)

Chipmunks are endothermic hibernators. Their body temperature changes seasonally, so they can be considered heterothermic. However, since individuals maintain a constant body temperature in any given season, they can also be called homoiothermic. (Best, Clawson, and Clawson, 1994; Sutton, 1995)

Other Physical Features: Endothermic; Heterothermic; Homoiothermic; Bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: Female larger
Editor: Nancy Shefferly, Animal Diversity Web Staff, Editor: John Demboski, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, Author: Vivian Quesada, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, Au  Source: The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors   CC License: by-nc-sa

Size
Sexual Dimorphism: Females are larger than males.

Length:
Average: 210.5 mm males; 214.5 mm females
Range: 200-222 mm males; 197-229 mm females

Weight:
Average: 56.8 g males; 63 g females
Range: 50.6-60.8 g males; 55.2-69.5 g femalesProject: Smithsonian Institution - North American Mammals  Source: Smithsonian Institution   CC License: by

Ecology

Associations

Predators of lodgepole chipmunks include Canis latrans, Accipiter cooperi, and Buteo jamaicensis. Other predators of T. speciosus are Urocyon, other VulpesLynx rufus, and Martes americana. (Best, Clawson, and Clawson, 1994)

Anti-predator Adaptations: Cryptic
Editor: Nancy Shefferly, Animal Diversity Web Staff, Editor: John Demboski, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, Author: Vivian Quesada, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, Au  Source: The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors   CC License: by-nc-sa

General Ecology

Populations fluctuate seasonally and annually; maximum reported density is about 1/ha (see Best et al. 1994).

Home range size averages about 1.3-2.6 ha; at Yosemite, the longest axis of a home range was 252 m (see Best et al. 1994). See Best et al. (1994) for information on the distributional relationships among T. SPECIOSUS and other TAMIAS species.
Author: Hammerson, G.  Source: NatureServe   CC License: by-nc

Habitat
Habitat and Ecology
It occurs in open mixed-conifer forests and forests mixed with chaparral; forests of lodgepole pine, Jeffrey pine, and red fir; lodgepole pine/chinquapin/shrub associations in southern California; meadows in some areas. Found primarily in Canadian, but also Hudsonian and upper Transition life zones. Primarily terrestrial but frequently climbs trees. Nests for sleeping and rearing young are in burrows, stumps, logs, tree cavities (e.g., woodpecker holes), or among rocks.

Breeding occurs in May and June, about one month after emergence from hibernation, young are born in spring and early summer. Litter size usually is 3-6 and young emerged in late July in the San Jacinto Mountains, generally one litter per year (see Best et al. 1994).

Home range size averages about 1.3-2.6 ha; at Yosemite, the longest axis of a home range was 252 metres. See Best et al. (1994) for information on the distributional relationships among T. speciosus and other Tamias species.

Diet includes seeds of grasses, forbs, and woody plants; fruits; fungi; insects; carrion. Forages in shrubs and on the ground. Stores food in small pits in the ground, in tree crevices, under rocks or logs, among rocks, or underground.
This species is inactive during the coldest part of the winter and/or during periods of prolonged deep snow cover, but may awaken during warm weather to feed; active in every month in southern California. Emerges from winter den in the early spring.

Systems
  • Terrestrial
Author: Linzey, A.V. & Hammerson, G., Compiler: Linzey, A.V. & NatureServe (Hammerson, G.)  Source: International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources   CC License: by-nc-sa

Migration

Non-Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species do not make significant seasonal migrations. Juvenile dispersal is not considered a migration.

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.
Author: Hammerson, G.  Source: NatureServe   CC License: by-nc

Trophic Strategy

Lodgepole chipmunks are omnivorous, eating a wide range of seeds, nuts, berries and insects. They also eat other arthropods, fungi, and small vertebrates. Tamias speciosus individuals consume leaves, flowers, pollen, fruit, and garbage, when such items are available. They are known to be great robbers of eggs from bird nests, and they cache food. (Best, Clawson, and Clawson, 1994; Chappell, 1978; Meyer, North, and Kelt, 2005; Pyare and Longland, 2001)

Animal Foods: Birds; Mammals; Eggs; Insects; Terrestrial Non-insect Arthropods

Plant Foods: Leaves; Seeds, grains, and nuts; Fruit; Pollen; Flowers

Other Foods: Fungus

Foraging Behavior: Stores or caches food
Editor: Nancy Shefferly, Animal Diversity Web Staff, Editor: John Demboski, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, Author: Vivian Quesada, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, Au  Source: The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors   CC License: by-nc-sa

Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Tamias speciosus is extremely furtive and shy. These chipmunks are not particularly vocal or conspicuous compared to other members of the Tamias. They are seldom seen or heard.

Field studies of interspecific aggression indicate that T. speciosus is aggressive to its sympatric and parapatric relatives, whereas in laboratory studies T. speciosus tends to be subordinate to other members of the genus. Both field and laboratory studies indicate high intraspecific aggression.

Tamias speciosus is diurnal and undergoes hibernation during the winter months until about March or early April. These chipmunks are somewhat arboreal, but spend much of their time on the ground gathering and caching food, especially in summer and autumn. (Best, Clawson, and Clawson, 1994; Chappell, 1978; Heller, 1971)

Home Range

Home range size ranges between .25 and .5 hectares (Best, Clawson, and Clawson, 1994; Chappell, 1978; Heller, 1971)

Key Behaviors: arboreal; scansorial; terricolous; diurnal; motile; sedentary; hibernation; territorial
Editor: Nancy Shefferly, Animal Diversity Web Staff, Editor: John Demboski, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, Author: Vivian Quesada, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, Au  Source: The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors   CC License: by-nc-sa

Cyclicity

Comments: Inactive during the coldest part of the winter and/or during periods of prolonged deep snow cover, but may awaken during warm weather to feed; active in every month in southern California. Emerges from winter den in the early spring.
Author: Hammerson, G.  Source: NatureServe   CC License: by-nc

Life Expectancy

Not much is known about T. speciosus lifespan. Individuals of this species are usually expected to only live through one breeding season, which is about a year. Mortality may be due to predation or to low temperatures, as many of these chipmunks are thought to freeze to death.

In spite of low average lifespan, individuals may live for up to 4 years in the wild and 5 years in captivity. (Best, Clawson, and Clawson, 1994)
Editor: Nancy Shefferly, Animal Diversity Web Staff, Editor: John Demboski, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, Author: Vivian Quesada, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, Au  Source: The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors   CC License: by-nc-sa

Reproduction

When males are ready to mate, the scrotum is black and the testes are in a pendulous position. Both females and males use chattering vocalization and visual cues to attract mates, such as flipping their tails and using various body postures.

Although data on the mating system of this species are not available, most members of the genus Tamias for which mating systems have been described are polygynous. It is likely that T. speciosus is similar. (Best, Clawson, and Clawson, 1994)

Tamias speciosus breeds during May and early June. The gestation period is about one month, after which a litter of 3 to 6 pups is born. Young chipmunks are typically poorly developed at birth. Lactation lasts for 1 month. Young are independent shortly after weaning, and typically disperse in the autumn of their birth year. These chipmunks reach reproductive maturity the following spring. (Best, Clawson, and Clawson, 1994)

Key Reproductive Features: Iteroparous; Seasonal breeding; Gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); Sexual; Fertilization; Viviparous

These animals breed once per year.>p

Breeding occurs from May to early June.>p

Young are born in spring or early summer. Mothers lactate for about a month, at which time they stop caring for their young. Males are not known to provide any parental care in this species. (Best, Clawson, and Clawson, 1994)

Parental Investment: Altricial; Pre-fertilization; Pre-fertilization :: Provisioning; Pre-fertilization :: Protecting; Pre-fertilization :: Protecting :: Female; Pre-hatching/birth; Pre-hatching/birth :: Provisioning; Pre-hatching/birth :: Provisioning :: Female; Pre-hatching/birth :: Protecting; Pre-hatching/birth :: Protecting :: Female; Pre-weaning/fledging; Pre-weaning/fledging :: Provisioning; Pre-weaning/fledging :: Provisioning :: Female; Pre-weaning/fledging :: Protecting; Pre-weaning/fledging :: Protecting :: Female; Pre-independence; Pre-independence :: Protecting; Pre-independence :: Protecting :: Female
Editor: Nancy Shefferly, Animal Diversity Web Staff, Editor: John Demboski, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, Author: Vivian Quesada, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, Au  Source: The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors   CC License: by-nc-sa

Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Humans profit from the lodgepole chipmunks through their effects on their ecosystem. Tamias speciosus keeps down pests that could harm plants and other organisms. They have a mutualism with ecotomycorrhizal fungi and with many plant species for which they disperse seeds. Tamias speciosus also provides enjoyment for humans who view them in nature. There may be some economic value in breeding these animals for the pet trade. (Townsend, Begon, and Harper, 2003)

Positive Impacts: pet trade; food; research and education; controls pest population
Editor: Nancy Shefferly, Animal Diversity Web Staff, Editor: John Demboski, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, Author: Vivian Quesada, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, Au  Source: The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors   CC License: by-nc-sa

Show/Hide iNaturalist Observations Map for this species. Source: iNaturalist