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Overview

Brief Summary

Description

Cliff chipmunk fossils about 2,300 and 8,000 years old have been found in caves in Utah and Nevada. The chipmunks still live in those states, in habitats where sagebrush, fourwing saltbush, chokecherry, wild rose, and cliffrose grow. In other parts of their range, they are found with a wide variety of plants, and their diets include seeds and fruits from many kinds of grasses, shrubs, forbs, and trees. They also feed on insects, frogs, salamanders, snakes, birds, and eggs. Four other chipmunk species share parts of their range. Where one or more other species occurs on a mountain, the cliff chipmunk usually is found at the lowest elevation, but where none of the others occurs, cliff chipmunks range right to the top of the mountain.

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Mammal Species of the World
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  • Original description: Baird, S.F., 1855.  Characteristics of some new species of Mammalia, collected by the U.S. and Mexican Boundary Survey, Major W.H. Emory, U.S.A. Commissioner, p. 332.  Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, 7:331-333.
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Distribution

Range Description

Southwestern United States and northcentral Mexico. In the United States, from Idaho south through the mountains of Arizona and western New Mexico. In Mexico, from Sonora and western Chihuahua to northeastern Sinaloa and northwestern Durango. There are three disjunct population segments (Wilson and Ruff 1999).
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Geographic Range

Tamias dorsalis is found mainly in the southwestern United States of America. Its range inludes the states of Nevada, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico as well as the northern portion of Mexico.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native )

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occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

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Global Range: (250-20,000 square km (about 100-8000 square miles)) Eastern Nevada, southern Idaho, Utah, southwestern Wyoming, and northwestern Colorado south through Arizona and western New Mexico to northwestern Durango, western Coahuila, and coastal Sonora (Hoffmann et al., in Wilson and Reeder 1993). to northern Mexico. Populations in Sonora and Coahuila are disjunct. Elevations of 1500-3700 m in most areas, but also in low elevation deserts in Arizona and New Mexico and to sea level in Sonora (see Hart 1992).

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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

Tamias dorsalis is a smoky-gray chipmunk with dark stripes on its back. These dark stripes are more distinct on the summer fur than on the winter fur. It lacks the white stripes often found in the pelage of this genus. The flanks are light brown in color, and the undeparts are creamy-white. The tail is bushy with black on top and cinnamon brown underneath. The feet have a hint of yellow. The molt in May and June from winter to summer pelage occurs from anterior to posterior. Females tend to molt into their summer pelage in June and July, later than males, due to the engergy requirements of pregnancy and lactation.

Adults of this species average 70 g. Females are larger than males, weighing between 70 and 74 g. The smaller males weigh between 61 and 64.5 g.

The total length of T. dorsalis ranges between 217 and 249 mm, with the hind foot measuring between 34 and 37 mm. They have 22 teeth. Eight mammae are present on the females.

There are several subspecies reported, and these subspecies are reported to have clinal variation which intergrades them phenotypically. The subspecies may be defined mainly by differences in body and skull dimensions, pelage characters, dental characeters, and differences in the baculum.

Tamias dorsalis is sympatric with several other species of chipmunks, including T. canipes, T. cinereicollis, T. minimus, T. quadrivittatus, and T. umbrinus. However, all of these species have well defined white stripes on their fur, making it easy to distinguish them from T. dorsalis at a glance.

The species is diagnosed by its baculum. This has a thin shaft, ranging in length from 2.64 to 3.69 mm. The distal half of the shaft is somewhat laterally compressed. The keel, which is 20% of the length of the tip, is low. The tip of the baculum is between 20% and 40% the length of the shaft, and forms an angle of 140 degrees with the shaft.

Range mass: 61 to 74 g.

Average mass: 70 g.

Range length: 217 to 249 mm.

Average length: 230 mm.

Sexual Dimorphism: female larger

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Size

Length: 28 cm

Weight: 85 grams

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Size in North America

Sexual Dimorphism: Females are slightly larger than males.

Length:
Average: 217 mm males; 222 mm females
Range: 204-226 mm males; 212-235 mm females

Weight:
Average: 59.5 g males; 62.9 g females
Range: 54.5-63.8 g males; 58.8-66.7 g females;
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Ecology

Habitat

Sierra Madre Oriental Pine-oak Forests Habitat

This taxon is found in the Sierra Madre Oriental pine-oak forests, which exhibit a very diverse community of endemic and specialized species of plants, mammals, reptiles and amphibians. These high mountains run north to south, beginning in the USA and ending in Mexico. The Sierra Madre Oriental pine-oak forests are a highly disjunctive ecoregion, owing to the fact that they are present only at higher elevations, within a region with considerable expanses of lower elevation desert floor.

The climate is temperate humid on the northeastern slope, and temperate sub-humid on the western slope and highest portions of the mountain range. Pine-oak forest habitat covers most of the region, even though most of the primary forest has been destroyed or degraded. However, the wettest portions house a community of cloud forests that constitute the northernmost patches of this vegetation in Mexico. The forests grow on soils derived from volcanic rocks that have a high content of organic matter. The soils of lower elevations are derived from sedimentary rocks, and some of them are formed purely of limestone. In the northernmost portions of the ecoregion, the forests occur on irregular hummocks that constitute biological "islands" of temperate forest in the middle of the Chihuahuan Desert. To the south, from Nuevo León southward until Guanajuato and Queretaro, the ecoregion is more continuous along the mainstem of the Sierra Madre Oriental.

Dominant tree species include the pines: the endemic Nelson's Pine (Pinus nelsonii), Mexican Pinyon (P. cembroides), Smooth-bark Mexican Pine (P. pseudostrobus), and Arizona Pine (P. arizonica); and the oaks Quercus castanea and Q. affinis. In mesic environments, the most common species are P. cembroides, and Alligator Juniper (Juniperus deppeana), but in more xeric environments on the west slopes of the mountains, the endemic P. pinceana is more abundant. Gregg's Pine (P. greggii) and Jelecote Pine (P. patula) are endemic.

Many mammalian species wander these rugged hills. Mule Deer (Odocoileus hemionus), Puma (Puma concolor), Cliff Chipmunk (Tamias dorsalis), Collared Peccary (Tayassu tajacu), Coati (Nasua narica), Jaguar (Panthera onca) and Coyote (Canis latrans) are a few of the many diverse mammals that inhabit this ecoregion. Some threatened mammals found in the ecoregion are: Bolaños Woodrat (Neotoma palatina VU); Diminutive Woodrat (Nelsonia neotomodon NT), known chiefly from the western versant of the Sierra Madre; Chihuahuan Mouse (Peromyscus polius NT); and Mexican Long-nosed Bat (Leptonycteris nivalis EN).

A considerable number of reptilian taxa are found in the Sierra Madre Oriental pine-oak forests, including three endemic snakes: Ridgenose Rattlesnake (Crotalus willardi); Fox´s Mountain Meadow Snake (Adelophis foxi); and the Longtail Rattlesnake (Crotalus stejnegeri VU), restricted to the central Sierra Madre. An endemic skink occurring in the ecoregion is the Fair-headed Skink (Plestiodon callicephalus). The Striped Plateau Lizard (Sceloporus virgatus) is endemic to the ecoregion. The Sonoran Mud Turtle (Kinosternon sonoriense VU) is found in the ecoregion and ranges from southwestern New Mexico south to northwestern Chihuahua.

The following anuran taxa occur in the Sierra Madre Oriental pine-oak forests: Red-spotted Toad (Anaxyrus punctatus); Cane Toad (Rhinella marina); Elegant Narrow-mouthed Toad (Gastrophryne elegans); New Mexico Spadefoot Toad (Spea multiplicata); Sinaloa Toad (Incilius mazatlanensis); Pine Toad (Incilius occidentalis); Southwestern Toad (Anaxyrus microscaphus); Woodhouse's Toad (Anaxyrus woodhousii); Great Plains Narrowmouth Toad (Gastrophryne olivacea); Great Plains Toad (Anaxyrus cognatus); Plateau Toad (Anaxyrus compactilis); Texas Toad (Anaxyrus speciosus); Sonoran Desert Toad (Incilius alvarius), found only at lower ecoregion elevations here; Rana-ladrona Silbadora (Eleutherodactylus teretistes); Sabinal Frog (Leptodactylus melanonotus); Mexican Leaf Frog (Pachymedusa dacnicolor); Montezuma Leopard Frog (Lithobates montezumae); Yavapai Leopard Frog (Lithobates yavapaiensis); Northwest Mexico Leopard Frog (Lithobates magnaocularis); Bigfoot Leopard Frog (Lithobates megapoda), who generally breeds in permanent surface water bodies; Mexican Cascade Frog (Lithobates pustulosus); Tarahumara Frog (Lithobates tarahumarae VU); Western Barking Frog (Craugastor augusti); Lowland Burrowing Frog (Smilisca fodiens); Taylor's Barking Frog (Craugastor occidentalis); Blunt-toed Chirping Frog (Eleutherodactylus modestus VU), found only at the very lowest elevations of the ecoregion; Shiny Peeping Frog (Eleutherodactylus nitidus); California Chorus Frog (Pseudacris cadaverina); Rio Grande Frog (Lithobates berlandieri); Madrean Treefrog (Hyla eximia); Mexican Treefrog (Smilisca baudinii); Dwarf Mexican Treefrog (Tlalocohyla smithii); Canyon Treefrog (Hyla arenicolor); Northern Sheep Frog (Hypopachus variolosus); Chiricahua Leopard Frog (Lithobates chiricahuensis). There are three salamanders found in the ecoregion: the endemic Sacramento Mountains Salamander (Aneides hardii), found only in very high montane reaches above 2400 meters; Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum); and the Tarahumara Salamander (Ambystoma rosaceum).

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Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
Vegetational characteristics of habitats differ across the species' range, but almost always found near large rocks, boulders, or cliffs. Otherwise, habitats include montane forests of Ponderosa pine and spruce, juniper-pinyon pine woodlands, oak woodlands, saxicolus brush and pygmy-conifer woodlands, riparian vegetation, and desert shrublands.

In its northern range, this species is associated with pygmy conifer woodland, ponderosa pine woodland, saxicoline brush, maple associations, sagebrush and saltbush. In Arizona-New Mexico, with aspen, low elevation shrublands, deserts, and lava fields; various oak associations. In Durango, with madrone, manzanita, and other typical lower Sonoran riparian vegetation.

Primarily terrestrial, but climbs rocks and sometimes woody plants. Dens and nests are in rock heaps, crevices, rocky bluffs and cliffs, underground burrows, and trees (Hart 1992).

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Cliff chipmunks spend much of their time near cliffs. Dens, particularly winter dens, are in rocky outcroppings. In summer, chipmunks will stay overnight in cliffs, but much of their diurnal activity is away from the den area. Tamias dorsalis generally inhabits elevations of 1500 to 3700 m with scrub-type habitat. The tendency is toward occupying patches of juniper (Juniperus spp.), but T. dorsalis is also found in areas with oaks (Quercus spp.), maples (Acer spp.), Piñon pine (Pinus monophylla), and Ponderosa Pine (P. ponderosa). Cliff chipmunks have been found in lava fields and deserts at lower elevations.

Range elevation: 1500 to 3700 m.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: scrub forest

  • Hart, E. 1976. Life History Notes on the Cliff Chipmunk, Eutamias dorsalis, in Utah. Southwestern Naturalist, 21(2): 243-246.
  • Broadbrooks, H. 1999. Cliff Chipmunk (Tamias dorsalis). Pp. 363-365 in D Wilson, S Ruff, eds. The Smithsonian Book of North American Mammals. Washington and London: The Smithsonian Institution Press.
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Comments: North: pygmy conifer woodland, ponderosa pine woodland, saxicoline brush, maple associations, sagebrush and saltbush. Arizona-New Mexico: aspen, low elevation shrublands, deserts, and lava fields; various oak associations; lower forest communities in sympatry with Tamias cinereicollis or T. QUADRIVITTATUS; alone, also occurs in higher elevation Douglas-fir and Mexican white pine. Durango: madrone, manzanita, and other typical lower Sonoran riparian vegetation. Primarily terrestrial, but climbs rocks and sometimes woody plants. Dens and nests are in rock heaps, crevices, rocky bluffs and cliffs, underground burrows, and trees. See Hart (1992).

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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.

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Trophic Strategy

Food Habits

Tamias dorsalis forages for juniper berries, pine seeds, and acorns. These make up a large portion of the diet of this species. Tamias dorsalis is an opportunistic forager and will eat available plant material. Seeds are gathered during prime availability and are carried in cheek pouches and are transported to temporary caches. Seeds and vegetation are generally cached within 100 m of the home cliff, with many of these caches being retrieved later. Use of plants as food sources seems to influence both daily and seasonal movements. Females have been noted to spend more time foraging than males. Tamias dorsalis is mainly herbivorous although these chipmunks have been noted to eat a wide variety of insects, herps, birds, and eggs in Utah.

Animal Foods: amphibians; reptiles; eggs; insects; terrestrial non-insect arthropods

Plant Foods: seeds, grains, and nuts; fruit

Foraging Behavior: stores or caches food

Primary Diet: herbivore (Granivore )

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Comments: Diet includes primarily a wide variety of seeds, acorns, and fruits. May store food in home burrow or in shallow excavations. Primarily terrestrial but capable of climbing trees to forage for food.

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Associations

Ecosystem Roles

Cliff chipmunks are food for a variety of carnivores and raptors. They also cache seeds, and so may be an important means of seed dispersal. They compete with other species of chipmunks and ground squirrels for seeds. Bot-fly larva (Cuterebra), fleas, lice and white chiggers (Trombiculi allredi) have been found on T. dorsalis. Necropsies of T. dorsalis in other regions have not found any endoparasites.

Ecosystem Impact: disperses seeds

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Predation

Tamias dorsalis remains close to the cliff faces and rocks for easily available cover. The indistinctness of their stripes is also supposed to serve as an anti-predator adaptation. Potential predators in different regions include Cooper's hawks (Accipiter cooperii), Sharp-shinned hawks (Accipiter jamaicensis), American kestrels (Falco sparverius), coyotes (Canis latrans), badgers (Taxidea taxus), long-tailed weasels (Mustela frenata), and prairie rattlesnakes (Crotalus viridis). Domestic cats may also prey on T. dorsalis. 

Known Predators:

Anti-predator Adaptations: cryptic

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Known predators

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Known prey organisms

Tamias dorsalis preys on:
Arthropoda
Insecta
Amphibia
Reptilia

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
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Population Biology

Number of Occurrences

Note: For many non-migratory species, occurrences are roughly equivalent to populations.

Estimated Number of Occurrences: 81 to >300

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Global Abundance

10,000 to >1,000,000 individuals

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General Ecology

Territorial in immediate vicinity of home den. In Utah, home range averaged around 1 ha; in Nevada, home ranges frequently averaged 100 m in greatest dimension (see Hart 1992). See Hart (1992) for comments on interspecific competitive relationships among chipmunks. Preyed on by various hawks, snakes, and carnivores.

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Communication and Perception

Tamias dorsalis has three different calls that characterize different meanings. A bark emitted during standing, resting, or squatting suggests normal activity. A sharp "whsst" or "psst" chirp from an upright, alert position and tail twitching indicates excitement. A mixture of high-pitched sounds represents being surprised or threatened.

In addition to its vocal communications, it is likely that this diurnal species uses other visual signals to communicate with conspecifics. For example, body posture may indicate friendly or hostile intentions when two individuals come together.

Tactile communication is undoubtedly important between mates as well as rivals, and also occurs between a mother and her young. Although specific scent based communication has not been reported for this species, it may occur.

Communication Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic

Perception Channels: visual ; infrared/heat ; acoustic

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Cyclicity

Comments: Active throughout winter in central Arizona; most active February-November. Active from March through late fall in northern Utah. Diurnal; most active in the morning and late afternoon. See Hart (1992).

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Life Expectancy

Lifespan/Longevity

The longevity of this species has not been reported.

Average lifespan

Status: captivity:
12.6 years.

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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 12.6 years (captivity)
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Reproduction

Details on the reproductive system of this species are scant. However, one estrus female was the center of attention of as many as 14 males, indicating that there is probably some competition among males for access to these females. It is not known whether the female in this report mated with more than one of the males.

Males are reproductively active from January through June although most breeding occurs in March. A study of T. dorsalis in the mountains of Arizona suggests that copulation does not occur until May with birth in late June and early July. These discrepancies can be attributed to the duration of winter and the quantity of food available. Tamias dorsalis does not gain weight before winter, but will loose some over the winter. February through April are lean months and may play a crucial role in the copulation and breeding success of T. dorsalis.

Cliff chipmunks have only one litter per year, with an approximate size of 4 to 6 young. Parturition normally occurs in the months of April to July with the young emerging from burrows about a month later.

Although details on the development of this species are lacking, cliff chipmunks are probably like other members of their genus. Tamias cinereicollis young are reported to nurse for 41 to 45 days. They are capable of eating solid foods at 36 to 40 days of age.

Breeding interval: Cliff chipmunks generally breed once every spring.

Breeding season: Copulation generally occurs in May.

Range number of offspring: 4 to 6.

Average gestation period: 4 weeks.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); fertilization ; viviparous

Average gestation period: 30 days.

Average number of offspring: 5.2.

The young spend their early days in the den of their mother, and are presumed to be altricial. As mammals, females of this species provide their young with milk, grooming, and protection. Mature females in Arizona have been recorded in transport of half-grown young which are carried in the mouth. Males are not reported to be involved in the care of the young.

Parental Investment: no parental involvement; altricial ; pre-fertilization (Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-independence (Protecting: Female)

  • Hart, E. 1976. Life History Notes on the Cliff Chipmunk, Eutamias dorsalis, in Utah. Southwestern Naturalist, 21(2): 243-246.
  • Dunford, C. 1974. Annual Cycle of Cliff Chipmunks in the Santa Catalina Mountains, Arizona. Journal of Mammalogy, 55(2): 401-416.
  • Best, T. 1999. Gray-collared chipmunk (Tamias cinereicollis). Pp. 362-363 in D Wilson, S Ruff, eds. The Smithsonian Book of North American Mammals. Washington and London: The Smithsonian Institution Press.
  • Broadbrooks, H. 1999. Cliff Chipmunk (Tamias dorsalis). Pp. 363-365 in D Wilson, S Ruff, eds. The Smithsonian Book of North American Mammals. Washington and London: The Smithsonian Institution Press.
  • Hart, E. 1992. Tamias dorsalis. Mammalian Species, No. 399: 1-6. Accessed 12/05/02 at http://www.science.smith.edu/departments/Biology/VHAYSSEN/msi/pdf/i0076-3519-399-01-0001.pdf.
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Breeds in spring. Young are born in spring and early summer. Newly emerged litters usually include 3-6 young. Individual females may produce multiple litters in a single year in some areas (e.g., New Mexico), but multiple litters have not been recorded in Utah or Arizona. See Hart (1992).

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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2008

Assessor/s
Linzey, A.V., Timm, R., Álvarez-Castañeda, S.T., Castro-Arellano, I. & Lacher, T.

Reviewer/s
McKnight, M. (Global Mammal Assessment Team), Amori, G., Koprowski, J. & Roth, L. (Small Nonvolant Mammal Red List Authority)

Contributor/s

Justification
This species is listed as Least Concern in view of its wide distribution, presumed large population, tolerance of a broad range of habitats, and because it does not appear to be under threat and is unlikely to be declining at nearly the rate required to qualify for listing in a threatened category.
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Cliff chipmunks are not listed by CITES or IUCN.

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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National NatureServe Conservation Status

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

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Population

Population
Locally abundant (Wilson and Ruff 1999).

Population Trend
Stable
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Threats

Major Threats
None known.
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
There are no known conservation measures specific to this species. However, there are several protected areas within its range.
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Global Protection: Few to several (1-12) occurrences appropriately protected and managed

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

If agricultural areas are within or near the range of T. dorsalis, the possibility of crop damage is present although it has not been documented.

Negative Impacts: crop pest

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

These animals are not reported to have any positive economic impact on humans. However, as a prey species, they do provide food for some of the larger predatory species that humans enjoy watching. Also, because they are themselves sort of cute, they may provide entertainment for tourists in natural areas.

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Wikipedia

Cliff chipmunk

The cliff chipmunk (Tamias dorsalis) is a small, bushy-tailed squirrel that typically lives along cliff walls or boulder fields bordering Pinyon-juniper woodlands in the Western United States and Mexico. Cliff chipmunks are very agile, and can often be seen scaling steep cliff walls. Cliff chipmunks do not amass body fat as the more common ground squirrel does. They create a "stash" of food which they frequent during the cold winter months.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Linzey, A. V., Timm, R., Álvarez-Castañeda, S. T., Castro-Arellano, I. & Lacher, T. (2008). Tamias dorsalis. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 8 January 2009.
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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Comments: See Dobson et al. (1987) for information on genetic variation in the eastern Great Basin. Formerly included in genus Eutamias, which recently was included in the genus Tamias (Levenson et al. 1985; Jones et al. 1992, Hoffmann et al., in Wilson and Reeder 1993). Based on patterns of variation in ectoparasites (Jameson 1999) and molecular phylogenetics (Piaggio and Spicer 2001), the North American mammal checklist by Baker et al. (2003) placed all North American chipmunks (except Tamias striatus) in the genus Neotamias. Thorington and Hoffmann (in Wilson and Reeder 2005) noted that chipmunks could be legitimately allocated to one (Tamias), two (Neotamias, Tamias), or three (Tamias, Neotamias, Eutamias) genera; they chose to adopt the single-genus (Tamias) arrangement.

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