The explore.org Chipmunk Cams will soon go off-air for the winter. With below freezing temperatures and blanket of snow on the ground, Colorado’s Lake Dillon – home of the Chipmunk Mountain and Chipmunk Log cams – will become a powdery playground for thousands of skiers flocking to the surrounding slopes, but the resident chipmunks will stay out of sight. Where’d they scurry off to?
While chipmunks are basically tiny squirrels (the tiniest!) they burrow underground and hibernate for the winter; their larger cousins spend the colder months awake. Chipmunks have adapted digging skills, creating tunnels into the earth where it will remain above freezing through winter, and where they are protected from any number of predators who find the tiny furballs delicious. Unlike most hibernating species who gain body weight through the summer and fall and live of their fat reserves during winter, chipmunks store nuts, seeds, and other sundry forest delicacies in specialized cheek pouches. These pouches can reach a chipmunk’s body size when full and allow transport of these goods to their dens, where the animals will feast upon them throughout the winter. Um, adorable. Chipmunks’ body temperature will drop to about 40°F through most of the winter but every few days will rise back up to 94°F when they will eat from their seed reserves and rid their bodies of waste.