Mammal Species of the World
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Hopi chipmunks are found only in western North America from north-central Arizona to Monument Valley as well as into eastern Utah, eastern Idaho, western Colorado (restricted to Yampa River southward), and into the Rocky Mountain Range towards Canada.
Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native )
endemic to a single nation
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Type of Residency: Year-round
Global Range: Western Colorado, eastern Utah, and northeastern Arizona. Elevations of about 1290-2700 m.
Hopi chipmunks are small, monotypic chipmunks in the subgenus Neotamias. They weigh 47.9 to 59.3 grams depending on the season. Their external length measures 197 to 235 mm. Females are generally slightly larger than males but have no other distinct differences in morphology. The coloring is buffy and gray patchwork. Upperparts have black stripes highlighted with tones of orange-red running in an anterior to posterior direction down its back. Hopi chipmunks also have pale facial white and "rufous" facial stripes with the lower stripe extending under the ears. The tail is mixed black and chestnut dorsally and chestnut with faint black stripes ventrally. There are two annual molts: one in the spring and one in early autumn. The dental formula is I 1/1, C 0/0, P 2/1, M 3/3, totaling 22 teeth. The skull has a long and narrow braincase, short nasals, a narrow interorbital region, and rather large auditory bullae.
Range mass: 47.9 to 59.3 g.
Range length: 197 to 235 mm.
Sexual Dimorphism: female larger
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry
- 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.
- Wilson, D., D. Reeder. 2005. Mammal Species of the World Volume II. Baltimore and London: The John Hopkins University Press.
Length: 23 cm
Size in North America
Average: 211 mm
Range: 197-221 mm
Range: 52-62 g
Hopi chipmunks prefer bare or vegetated rocky substrate that contains juniper and pinyon pine. In western Colorado, they occupy two microhabitats: sage patches and juniper/pine patches. Hopi chipmunks live at elevations of 1,290 to 2,700 meters.
Range elevation: 1,290 to 2,700 m.
Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial
Terrestrial Biomes: desert or dune ; mountains
Habitat and Ecology
In southeastern Utah mating occurs February-March; gestation lasts 30-33 days; young are born during first half of April, above ground in May; average litter size is 5.2 (Wadsworth 1969). Weaning is completed in 6-7 weeks. Sexually mature in 10-11 months; females give birth to their first litter when about one year old (Burt and Best 1994).
Home range in southeastern Utah was estimated at 0.4-1.3 ha (Wadsworth 1972). Diet includes mainly seeds (of trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants), also flowers and insects, and, seasonally, small or large amounts of green vegetation; opportunistic, takes advantage of handouts and human food refuse in campgrounds (Armstrong 1982, Wadsworth 1972, Burt and Best 1994).
Activity peaks in morning and late afternoon (Armstrong 1982), especially in summer when it avoids midday heat. Seldom seen above ground mid-November to mid-February (Armstrong 1982).
Comments: Various rocky habitats: woodlands of pinyon-juniper and associated shrubs, rubble slopes, slickrock; may use trees and shrubs for cover; burrows beneath boulders or shrubs (Armstrong 1982). May sometimes use sandy habitats (blackbrush-Indian ricegrass) adjacent to pinyon-juniper or rocky areas. Easily climbs on cliffs and in woody vegetation. Nest sites are associated with piles of broken rock or crevices in solid rock.
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.
The diet of Hopi chipmunks consists largely of the berries and seeds of its local region. The variety and type available for consumption is affected by the season and geographical range. In Utah, Hopi chipmunks feed primarily on the berries of the one-seeded juniper (Juniperus monosperma). In other areas, individuals feed on cliff rose, squawberry (Rhus trilobata), 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. The species also has been seen caching food in rocky ledges and utilizes its large cheek pouches to carry food to caches. Hopi chipmunks do not typically eat leaves or stems in the wild although in captivity, they are known to eat parts of dandelions. They need constant access to water, and can die of thirst if deprived of water for only 2 days.
Plant Foods: leaves; roots and tubers; wood, bark, or stems; seeds, grains, and nuts; flowers
Foraging Behavior: stores or caches food
Primary Diet: herbivore (Folivore , Granivore , Lignivore)
Comments: Diet includes mainly seeds (of trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants), also flowers and insects, and, seasonally, small or large amounts of green vegetation; opportunistic, takes advantage of handouts and human food refuse in campgrounds (Armstrong 1982, Wadsworth 1972, Burt and Best 1994).
Mites and fleas are common parasites that infect Hopi chipmunks. In one case, botfly larva (likely Cuterebra) was found under the skin of an individual, but it is not known whether this larvae typically uses the Hopi chipmunk as a host. Hopi chipmunks displays caching behavior, so it can be assumed that it may also disperse seeds. The species also interacts with a large number of western chipmunks in North America, but due to its habitat preference, it is thought that there are not a lot of interspecific interactions in the ecosystem.
Ecosystem Impact: disperses seeds
- mites (Hirstionyssus utahensis)
- mites (Dermanyssus becki)
- fleas (Epitedia stanfordi)
- fleas (Malaraeus sinomus)
- fleas (Malaraeus techinum)
- fleas (Megaroglossus procus)
- fleas (Monopsyllus eumolpi)
- fleas (Monopsyllus wagneri)
- fleas (Peromyscopsylla hesperomys)
Hopi chipmunks are eaten by snakes, birds, and possibly mammals. Bullsnakes (Pituophis catenifer sayi) have been known to eat juvenile chipmunks. Other predators include coyotes (Canis latrans), Swainson's hawks (Buteo swainsoni), and long-tailed weasels (Mustela frenata). The exact mortality of the chipmunks by these predators is not known.
- bullsnakes (Pituophis catenifer sayi)
- coyotes (Canis latrans)
- Swainson's hawks (Buteo swainsoni)
- long-tailed weasels (Mustela frenata)
Home range in southeastern Utah was estimated at 0.4-1.3 ha (Wadsworth 1972).
Life History and Behavior
Communication and perception strategies of Hopi chipmunks are likely similar to other Neotamias species. These animals produce two main categories of calls: alarm calls and agonistic (courtship) sounds. Alarms calls vary and may include a chip, chuck, or "chippering" sound. Trills and whistles have also been recorded. Courtship sounds were similar, but tended to be much harsher.
Communication Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic
Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
Comments: Activity peaks in morning and late afternoon (Armstrong 1982), especially in summer when avoids midday heat. Seldom above ground mid-November to mid-February (Armstrong 1982).
Exact lifespan of Hopi chimpmunks is unknown. The maximum lifespan of other Tamias chipmunks in captivity is roughly 9.5 years, but their lifestyle tends to lower their life expectancy considerably. The longest expected lifespan in the wild is 8 years, but most individuals survive only 2 to 3 years, and only 10% of individuals survive their first 64 months of life.
Status: wild: 8 (high) years.
Status: captivity: 5 to 9.5 years.
Status: wild: 2 to 8 years.
Status: wild: 2-3 years.
- 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.
- Gorbunova, V., M. Bozzella, A. Seluanov. 2008. Rodents for comparative aging studies: from mice to beavers. AGE, 30: 111-119.
The mating behavior of Hopi chipmunks is unknown. In other Neotamias species such as Merriam's chipmunks (Tamias merriami), several males congregate in areas where there are many females. Males run around if an estrous female is nearby. It is unknown if males chase the female until one corners her for copulation (such as in the Eastern chipmunk) or if males perform a display. When a male approaches a female, he rubs his body and face against hers. This may be a form of scent-marking, and precedes copulation. Pre-copulation vocals and mating calls have been noted in other Neotamias chipmunks and are most likely utilized by Hopi chipmunks.
Mating System: polygynous
The breeding season of Hopi chimpunks is from February until mid-April. Males prepare for the breeding season by becoming sexually active through enlargement of testes about a week after emerging from their winter dens. Females are prepared for mating immediately after exiting their winter dens. Females give birth to one litter after a gestation period of 30 to 33 days. Young chipmunks weigh an average of 3 grams at birth. The heads of the young are larger than bodies and they have no hair. The young are cold to the touch until they are a week old. They have a fairly uniform growth rate and gain 0.50 g per day on average. By 2 weeks, the color of the adult facial patterns becomes visible, the incisors have erupted, the toes have begun to separate, and the young can drag themselves using their front legs. By 3 weeks, the hair becomes smooth and more adult-like, the toes are fully separated, and the young can move more efficiently. At 5 weeks, the young become active outside and the cheek-teeth have erupted. At 6 weeks, they are consuming solid foods. Weaning is a slow process and usually occurs when the young are 6 to 7 weeks old and by then are fully independent. Sexual maturity usually occurs at 10 to 12 months with most females having their first litter in their first year.
Breeding interval: 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: 5.
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.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization
The mother cares for the young extensively until they are capable of being independent. Weaning is a gradual process. Males contribute no parental care towards the young.
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)
Southeastern Utah: mates February-March; gestation lasts 30-33 days; young are born during first half of April, above ground in May; average litter size is 5.2 (Wadsworth 1969). Lactating females were captured in late May and early June in southeastern Utah (Armstrong 1982) and in mid-June in southwestern Colorado. Weaning is completed in 6-7 weeks. Sexually mature in 10-11 months; females give birth to their first litter when about one year old (see Burt and Best 1994).
Hopi chipmunks are considered stable and not endangered. There has been some concern that habitat loss due to agricultural and urban expansion may adversely affect Neotamias species in the future.
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: no special status
State of Michigan List: no special status
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure
NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
There have been suggestions that Hopi chipmunks damage crops (as some Neotamias live close to agricultural areas) but the species rarely occurs in large enough concentrations to cause much damage.
Negative Impacts: crop pest
The positive impact of the Hopi chipmunk on humans is unknown, but most likely minimal. Some chipmunks of the subgenus Neotamias are killed for their skins in the fur trade, although it is not certain if Hopi chipmunks are included in this trade.
Positive Impacts: body parts are source of valuable material
The Hopi chipmunk (Neotamias rufus) is a small chipmunk found in Colorado, Utah and Arizona in the southwestern United States. It was previously grouped with the Colorado Chipmunk, T. quadrivittatus.
Hopi chipmunks prefer rocky areas with pinion and juniper pines and feed mostly on nuts, seeds and fruits. Food gathered is stored in cheek pouches and taken elsewhere for consumption or storage. They nest in rock piles or crevices. Habitat: This is the common chipmunk of much of the canyon and slickrock piñon-juniper country in western Colorado. Population densities appear to be highest in areas with an abundance of broken rock or rubble at the base of cliff faces or in rock formations with deep fissures and crevices suitable for den sites.
Diet: Seeds of Indian ricegrass and penstemon are eagerly sought as are seeds of junipers, piñon, oak, skunkbrush, and other shrubs.
Description: This species is distinguished by somewhat smaller size and a dorsal pelage that generally lacks significant amounts of black in the stripes, resulting in a more orange red to buff pelage. Measurements are: total length 190–221 mm; length of tail 83–95 mm; length of hindfoot 31–35 mm; length of ear 15–22 mm.
Range in Colorado: The Hopi chipmunk occurs in western Colorado from the Yampa River south. It ranges eastward along the Colorado River to Eagle County and along the Gunnison to the western end of the Black Canyon.
Status: This species is not listed 
Hopi chipmunks are naturally timid, and even individuals born in captivity never become tame. Like Panamint chipmunks, they live in southwestern pinyon-juniper forests and nest in rock crevices or piles of broken rock. They are fast and sure-footed on the sheer rock faces of canyons and buttes. They often climb into shrubs to get seeds, but never eat there: either they take the food to the safety of their den, or perch on a boulder or other lookout where they can eat but at the same time watch for hawks or other predators. Sexual Dimorphism: Females are slightly larger than males.
Length: Average: 211 mm Range: 197–221 mm
Weight: Range: 52-62 g
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Names and Taxonomy
Comments: Formerly included in T. quadrivittatus (as subspecies hopiensis, a nomen dubium); recognized as a distinct species by Patterson (1984), Jones et al. (1992), and Hoffmann et al. (in Wilson and Reeder 1993).
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.
See Sutton (1992) for a key to the species of Tamias (Neotamias).