Chris Lakin

How to Tame a Chipmunk

Meet Stripes:

Stripes on my leg, 14 July 2020

Stripes is a wild chipmunk that occupied the garden outside my front door from 2019 September until I moved in 2020 Fall. We were pals.

And before Stripes, there was Chip:

But back to Stripes, I liked her more:

How do you tame your own chipmunk?

It all started when I saw a chipmunk outside my front door. I decided randomly to run inside, get nuts, and throw them at him. Every morning thereafter I brought nuts to throw, or to leave out for him. I quickly conditioned him to his name “Chip” by saying “Chip-chip-chip-chip-chip” every time I fed him.

Within a week of first seeing Chip, I fed him from my hand.

He also lightly nibbled on my finger when this happened. With rabies you must get treatment immediately (~100% fatal). Out of ignorance I didn’t, but probably should’ve. I wore gloves after this.

After that, I left nuts out for Chip daily. I checked every few hours to see if he was out or if he had taken the nuts. I believe the nuts kept him hanging out around my front door.

After that I gradually pushed his comfort zone more and more.

Soon Stripes somehow replaced Chip.

Over the winter, chipmunks (at least the species in the northeast) don’t hibernate per say, but sleep a lot. If they stick around and you leave nuts out, they will give you little footprints in the snow:

Stripe’s footprints in the snow, winter 2019/2020

Stripes wasn’t very active until the temperature returned to 50 or 60 degrees F. Soon after, though, she had babies (video narrated by my mom). She had two litters in 2020!

After that I experimented with different ideas with Stripes. Feeding her from a spoon was one of my favorites: if I lifted the spoon high enough while she was eating, she would pull herself onto the spoon, and then I would have a chipmunk on a spoon. My family and I also experimented with a ladder and a makeshift swing, to varying success.

Stripes on my leg, 14 July 2020


Posted 2020 August 30, revised 2021 February 3.

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