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Hopi chipmunk

Tamias rufus

What do they look like?

Hopi chipmunks are small chipmunks with buffy and gray patchwork coloring. Their top parts have black stripes highlighted with orange-red running down their back. They have pale white stripes on their face, and the lower one goes up under its ears. Their tails are black and chestnut-colored on top and chestnut with black stripes underneath. In the spring and early fall, they lose all of their fur and regrow it. Hopi chipmunks weigh 47.9 to 59.3 g depending on the season, and are 197 to 235 mm long. Females are a little bit bigger than males. Their skulls have a long, narrow opening for the brain, and are narrow between the eyes. (Burt and Best, 1994; Hall, 1981; Hoffmeister and Ellis, 1979; Levenson, et al., 1985; Nowak, 1999; Saldaña-DeLeon and Jones, 1998; Wilson and Reeder, 2005)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • female larger
  • Range mass
    47.9 to 59.3 g
    1.69 to 2.09 oz
  • Range length
    197 to 235 mm
    7.76 to 9.25 in

Where do they live?

Hopi chipmunks only live in western North America. They are found from north-central Arizona to Monument Valley, into eastern Utah, eastern Idaho, western Colorado (south of the Yampa River), and into the Rocky Mountain Range towards Canada. (Burt and Best, 1994; Good, et al., 2003)

What kind of habitat do they need?

Hopi chipmunks prefer bare rocks or rocky land with plants that has both juniper and pinyon pine. In western Colorado, they are found in patches of sage brush and juniper or pine trees. Hopi chipmunks live from 1,290 to 2,700 meters in elevation. (Burt and Best, 1994; Root, et al., 2001)

  • Range elevation
    1,290 to 2,700 m
    to ft

How do they reproduce?

Scientists don't know much about mating behavior in Hopi chipmunks, but it is probably similar to related chipmunks. When Merriam's chipmunks mate, several males group together near many females. Males run around if a female is nearby who is ready to reproduce. Males might corner females or perform a display, but scientists don't know which one. When a male approaches a female, he rubs his face and body against her, which might be a way of scent-marking. They probably also use mating calls like other related chipmunks. (Compton and Callahan, 1995; Nowak, 1999; Yahner, 1978)

Hopi chimpunks breed from February until mid-April. Males are ready to mate about a week after they come out from hibernation, and females are ready right after they do. Females allow their young to develop in their bodies for 30 to 33 days, and then give birth to one set of offspring. When they are born, young chipmunks weigh 3 g on average. Their heads are larger than their bodies and they don't have any hair. They are cold to the touch until they are 1 week old, and grow about 0.50 g per day. After 2 weeks, their faces have the patterns of adult teeth, their first 4 teeth have come out, and their toes have started to separate. They can also drag themselves with their front legs. When they are 3 weeks old, their hair gets smooth, their toes are totally separated, and they can move better. At 5 weeks, they are active outside the burrow and their cheek-teeth have come out. At 6 weeks, they can start to eat solid foods. After 6 to 7 weeks, they can eat all solid foods and are able to be independent of their parents. They can reproduce when they are 10 to 12 months old, and most females give birth in their first year. (Burt and Best, 1994; Hoffmeister and Ellis, 1979; Nowak, 1999; Root, et al., 2001)

  • How often does reproduction occur?
    Hopi chipmunks breed once a year between February and April.
  • Breeding season
    Breeding season of Hopi chipmunks runs from February to April.
  • Range number of offspring
    4 to 7
  • Average number of offspring
  • Range gestation period
    30 to 33 days
  • Average gestation period
    31 days
  • Range weaning age
    6 to 7 weeks
  • Average weaning age
    6 weeks
  • Range time to independence
    6 to 7 weeks
  • Average time to independence
    6 weeks
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    10 to 12 months
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    10 months
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    10 to 12 months
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    10 months

The mother cares for and feeds the young until they are independent. Transitioning from milk to solid foods is a gradual process that takes 6 to 7 weeks. Males don't contribute to caring for the young. (Burt and Best, 1994)

  • Parental Investment
  • altricial
  • female parental care
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-independence
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female

How long do they live?

Lifespan of Hopi chipmunks is probably similar related chipmunks, who live about 9.5 years in captivity. In the wild, the longest they live is about 8 years. Most only live 2 to 3 years, and only 10% of them live past 64 months. (Bergstrom and Hoffmann, 1991; Gorbunova, et al., 2008; Nowak, 1999)

  • Range lifespan
    Status: wild
    8 (high) years
  • Range lifespan
    Status: captivity
    5 to 9.5 years
  • Typical lifespan
    Status: wild
    2 to 8 years
  • Average lifespan
    Status: wild
    2-3 years

How do they behave?

Hopi chipmunks are active during the day and early morning, especially after rainstorms or thundershowers. They hibernate during the winter, so their activity level usually decreases between November and April. Hopi chipmunks hibernate for short periods of time, and sometimes leave their dens during the winter. When Hopi chipmunks are in the same location as other chipmunks, they often end up at higher elevation, and other chipmunks like yellow-pine chipmunks end up in lower regions. This means they don't breed together with other kinds of chipmunks. Hopi chipmunks probably live alone like other chipmunks and show dominance when other chipmunks enter their territory. (Burt and Best, 1994; Good, et al., 2003; Nowak, 1999; Yahner, 1978)

  • Range territory size
    0.005 to 0.0128 km^2

Home Range

It is difficult to calculate the home range of Hopi chipmunks using just area because they live up and down sandstone cliffs and trees. Males have a territory size about 1.28 ha, females have a territory size of about 1.04 ha, and juveniles have territories of 0.50 ha or smaller. (Burt and Best, 1994)

How do they communicate with each other?

Hopi chipmunks communicate and get information about their environment in a similar way to related chipmunks. They make both alarm calls and courtship noises. Some alarm calls sound like a chip, chuck, or "chippering" sound. They sometimes make trills and whistles as well. Courtship sounds are similar, but sound more harsh. (Nowak, 1999)

What do they eat?

Hopi chipmunks eat local berries and seeds. The kinds available depend on the season and the area where the chipmunks live. In Utah, Hopi chipmunks mostly eat berries from one-seeded junipers. Other places, they eat cliff rose, squawberry, mountain mahogany, and seeds and nuts from Russian thistle, pinyon pine, and the Gambel and waxy leaf oaks. In late spring and summer, Hopi chipmunks feed on green vegetation. In the fall, their diet changes to favor nuts as they become available. Hopi chipmunks store food in rocky ledges and use their large cheek pouches to carry food to the stores. Hopi chipmunks don't usually eat leaves or stems in the wild, but eat parts of dandelions in captivity. They need access to water, and can die of thirst if they go for 2 days without it. (Burt and Best, 1994; Nowak, 1999)

  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • roots and tubers
  • wood, bark, or stems
  • seeds, grains, and nuts
  • flowers

What eats them and how do they avoid being eaten?

Hopi chipmunks are eaten by snakes, birds, and possibly mammals. Bullsnakes sometimes eat young chipmunks. Other predators include coyotes, Swainson's hawks, and long-tailed weasels. (Burt and Best, 1994)

What roles do they have in the ecosystem?

Hopi chipmunks are infected by mites and fleas. Scientists once found botfly larva under the skin of a Hopi chipmunk, but it might not be common for them to live on Hopi chimpunks. These chipmunks store food, so they probably disperse seeds as well. When Hopi chipmunks are together with other North American chipmunks, they tend to separate into different areas of their habitat. (Burt and Best, 1994; Nowak, 1999)

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • disperses seeds
Commensal or parasitic species (or larger taxonomic groups) that use this species as a host

Do they cause problems?

Hopi chipmunks cause some damage to crops, but there are very few of them so they probably don't cause a lot of damage. (Nowak, 1999)

  • Ways that these animals might be a problem for humans
  • crop pest

How do they interact with us?

Some related chipmunks are killed for their furs, but this might not include Hopi chipmunks. (Nowak, 1999)

  • Ways that people benefit from these animals:
  • body parts are source of valuable material

Are they endangered?

Hopi chipmunks are not endangered. Researchers have some concern that Hopi chipmunks and their relatives will be affected by more loss of habitat to farming and development by humans. (Nowak, 1999; Wilson and Reeder, 2005)

Some more information...

In 1905, Hopi chipmunks were named Eutamias hopiensis. Then, scientists thought they were a subspecies of Colorado chipmunks, so they were called Eutamias quadrivittatus rufus. Scientists debate their classification, and study their skulls to help them figure out the differences between species. (Hoffmeister and Ellis, 1979; Nowak, 1999; Patterson, 1984; Wilson and Reeder, 2005)


Jessica Morris (author), University of Alaska Fairbanks, Laura Prugh (editor), University of Alaska Fairbanks.


Bergstrom, B., R. Hoffmann. 1991. Distribution and Diagnosis of Three Species of Chipmunks (Tamias) in the Front Range of Colorado. The Southwestern Naturalist, 36: 14-28.

Burt, S., T. Best. 1994. Mammalian Species: Tamias Rufus. The American Society of Mammalogists, 460: 1-6.

Compton, S., J. Callahan. 1995. REPRODUCTIVE BEHAVIOR IN MERRIAM'S CHIPMUNK ( TAMIAS MERRIAMI ). Great Basin Naturalist, 55: 89-91.


Gorbunova, V., M. Bozzella, A. Seluanov. 2008. Rodents for comparative aging studies: from mice to beavers. AGE, 30: 111-119.

Hall, E. 1981. Mammals of North America Volume 1. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

Hoffmeister, D., L. Ellis. 1979. Geographic Variation in Eutamias quadrivittatus with Comments on the Taxonomy of Other Arizonan Chipmunks. The Southwestern Naturalist, 24: 655-665.

Levenson, H., R. Hoffman, C. Nadler, L. Deutsch, S. Freeman. 1985. SYSTEMATICS OF THE HOLARCTIC CHIPMUNKS (TAMIAS). Journal of Mammalogy, 66: 219-242.

Nowak, R. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World 6th Edition Volume II. Baltimore and London: The John Hopkins University Press.

Patterson, B. 1984. Geographic Variation and Taxonomy of Colorado and Hopi Chipmunks (Genus Eutamias). Journal of Mammalogy, 65: 442-456.

Root, J., C. Calisher, B. Beaty. 2001. MICROHABITAT PARTITIONING BY TWO CHIPMUNK SPECIES (TAMIAS) IN WESTERN COLORADO. Western North American Naturalist, 61: 114-118.

Saldaña-DeLeon, J., C. Jones. 1998. Annotated checklist of the recent mammals of Colorado. Museum of Texas Tech University: 1-16.

Wilson, D., D. Reeder. 2005. Mammal Species of the World Volume II. Baltimore and London: The John Hopkins University Press.

Yahner, R. 1978. The Adaptive Nature of the Social System and Behavior in the Eastern Chipmunk, Tamias striatus. Behavioral and Sociobiology, 3: 397-427.

University of Michigan Museum of ZoologyNational Science Foundation

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Morris, J. 2013. "Tamias rufus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed July 29, 2014 at

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