One of the smaller wild rodents in North America, and a seriously cute one to boot, chipmunks are known for their distinctive contrasting striped and also for carrying large quantities of food to their burrows held within their comically oversized cheeks.
Tiny, inoffensive, and adorable, chipmunks are among the most endearing wild animals on the continent and a common sight in backyards around the nation. But is there any chance that chipmunks could be dangerous?
No, chipmunks are not dangerous. Aside from the risk of a bite if captured or handled, or the possibility of transmitting disease, chipmunks are harmless.
Chipmunks, like all wild animals, can and will defend themselves if pressed, and a bite from their sharp teeth will draw blood. But assuming you don’t go out of your way to lay hands on them you don’t have a thing to fear.
Keep reading to learn more about these charismatic rodents and their usual behavior around humans…
Understanding Chipmunk Behavior
Chipmunks are rodents, and closely related to squirrels. They share many of the same features and habits, including a fondness for cached food, a love of trees, and an ability to climb with great speed and agility.
Chipmunks are mostly diurnal animals, meaning they are active during the daytime hours and sleep at night. They tend to be loners, although they will share their burrows with other chipmunks if necessary.
Chipmunks are also much smaller than squirrels, usually only growing to be about 6 inches in length from nose to tail-tip.
And while squirrels come in many different colors depending on the species, chipmunks are almost always some shade of brown with lighter stripes running down their flanks and backs.
Like all rodents, chipmunks have long front incisors that they use for gnawing, and these teeth grow continuously throughout their lives.
In order to keep them at a manageable length, chipmunks are constantly chewing on things that will dull and shorten their teeth.
They are also proficient diggers, and will happily excavate burrows in which to live and store food.
In fact, chipmunks have been known to bury as much as 1.5 times their body weight in acorns and other nuts in larders, basically small, attached pantries in their burrows. How about that?
Are Chipmunks Aggressive Toward Humans?
No. Chipmunks are not known to be aggressive animals and will rarely bite unless they are cornered or handled. As a rule, they will try to flee from humans that are threatening them at all costs.
Have Chipmunks Ever Attacked Humans?
Yes, though this is very rare. Some possibly apocryphal accounts of chipmunks attacking people after being refused food do exist, but there is little to no evidence that these incidents actually occurred.
However, there have been plenty of documented rodent attacks for various reasons throughout history, so it stands to reason that a chipmunk could likewise attack someone.
How Do Chipmunks Attack?
A chipmunk’s only means of attack is via its teeth, which are sharp and sturdy despite their tiny size. Chipmunk claws are well suited for climbing trees and for handling food, but are meaningless against a threat the size of a human being.
What Causes Chipmunk Aggression?
The only reason a chipmunk would attack a human, typically, is if it is captured or cornered. Most rodents will fight fiercely when they have no means of escape and think they are going to be harmed.
But in the case of chipmunks, these instances are few and far between because they are such skittish animals.
If you see a chipmunk, chances are it will see you at the same time and make a hasty retreat before you even have a chance to get close to it.
Their tiny size and agility means they can scurry up a tree or into their burrows with speed. In other words, if a chipmunk is aggressive toward you, it’s probably more scared than anything else.
Do Chipmunks Eat People?
No! Chipmunks do not eat people, though as omnivorous rodents it is not beyond reason that a chipmunk might take a few nibbles off a fresh human body. Mercifully, reports of predatory chipmunks that crave human flesh are just the stuff of bad fiction- for now!
Are Chipmunks Territorial?
They can be toward other chipmunks and fellow rodents, but they are not territorial toward people. In fact, you are more likely to see multiple chipmunks in the same area than you are to see just one.
How Strong is a Chipmunk?
Not very. They are fast and agile, truly excellent climbers, but tiny and so have no brute strength to rely on.
What Should You Do if You See a Chipmunk?
If you see a chipmunk you don’t need to do one, single thing. They will probably go about their business of foraging and not even notice you. If they do, they will keep a wary distance or make a break for it.
Chipmunks that are used to living in close proximity to humans are much bolder than their rural cousins and will likely scamper around your yard and patio if you don’t make any sudden movements or sounds. Know that they will likely run away at the first sign of trouble.
What Should You Do if Attacked by a Chipmunk?
On the offhand chance that you get attacked by a chipmunk, try to knock it away. They are so small and quick that you might have trouble actually escaping. Plus, they can cling to your clothes with those sharp claws of theirs.
But, being so slight of build, chipmunks are very easy to kill by any means. One good blow is all it should take. Hope it doesn’t come to that, the poor thing.
Do Chipmunks Carry Diseases People Can Catch?
Yes, sadly. Chipmunks can carry a variety of germs and diseases common to wild rodents, including hantavirus along with an assortment of fleas, ticks, mites, and other nasty parasites that can infect humans or pets.
Ticks are vectors of Lyme disease and various tick fevers, both of which are quite nasty.
Also, while the chances are very small, chipmunks are potential carriers of the rabies virus. Any mammal can theoretically carry and transmit rabies, though the virus is far more commonly seen in bats, raccoons, skunks, and foxes.
If you are attacked by a chipmunk that is acting strangely- especially if it is unafraid of humans- try to contain it and contact animal control or your local health department immediately.
Tom Marlowe practically grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, Tom has the experience to help civilian shooters figure out what will work best for them.