It is hard to imagine any animal being less dangerous than a chipmunk. From their beautiful, striped fur to those adorably chubby cheeks that carry food back to their burrows, chipmunks are among the most charismatic rodents on Earth.
Arguably it is only squirrels that have better publicity.
They are so tiny and delicate, it’s hard to imagine them being a threat to anything bigger than a sunflower seed, but looks can be deceiving. Are chipmunks actually dangerous?
No, chipmunks aren’t dangerous. A chipmunk that is trapped or grabbed may bite, but aside from that and the possible transmission of infectious diseases, chipmunks are completely harmless to people.
Chipmunks, like most of their rodent brethren, have impressively sharp and capable teeth that can definitely injure you, but barring the risk of infection this bite is not going to inflict any serious harm.
Chipmunks are well-known pest animals in some places, and they can transmit diseases, so you want to know how to deal with them and more importantly how they can try to deal with you if it comes down to it. Keep reading and I’ll tell you a lot more about chipmunks…
Chipmunk Overview, Temperament and Habitat
Chipmunks are a small species of terrestrial or semi-arboreal rodent.
Instantly recognizable from their small size, rarely measuring longer than half a foot from end to end, they have distinctive longitudinal, light-colored stripes running across their tan or brown fur, and usually have darker, speckled contrast markings along this length.
Chipmunks tend to be active during the daytime, sleeping at night in an underground burrow with multiple exits, a larder for food, and a main sleeping chamber.
Like many rodents, chipmunks tend to be solitary although occasionally you’ll see one or two living together or close by.
Like their close cousins, squirrels, chipmunks have a varied diet consisting of various plant matter but particularly seeds and nuts, and also fruit, grains, small insects, bird eggs and occasionally newborn chicks.
They have sharp, stout incisors that they use to gnaw through obstacles and also process their food, and they’ve been known to climb trees readily in search of nuts or eggs.
This tendency to gnaw and climb has also made them a perennial pest around human habitation, where they demolish seedlings, songbird eggs and occasionally infiltrate homes to make their dens in out-of-the-way places.
A surefire indicator that a chipmunk has set up residence in the area is when you see it with large, puffy cheeks.
Those chubby cheeks aren’t fat, and they are actually oversized pouches that chipmunks use to store and haul food from the environment back to their burrow.
Chipmunks subsist on their stored food during the winter time, and if you see a chipmunk making multiple trips back and forth you can be sure that a burrow is nearby.
Do Chipmunks Protect Their Territory?
Chipmunks tend to be surprisingly territorial towards others of their own kind, most of the time, and also other rodent species but they are not territorial towards larger animals or human beings.
This is because chipmunks no instinctively that they’re very low on the totem pole and have no real chance of running off or fending off larger animals.
Do Chipmunks Act Aggressively Toward Each Other?
Yes, often. So long as they’re not living too close together and there is not much food pressure, chipmunks will generally get along with one another, and every now and then you’ll see a couple of chipmunks living together.
However, territorial disputes are far from uncommon, and food shortages will lead to chipmunks fighting amongst themselves and even fighting other rodents like squirrels or rats.
Do Chipmunks Threaten People?
No, not directly. A chipmunk’s only concern when a person is around is to get away as quickly as possible.
It is possible for a chipmunk to injure you by biting or, maybe, by scratching but aside from the aggravation they cause in and around homes they are not a threat.
Have There Been Recorded Chipmunk Attacks on People?
Yes, surprisingly enough. Don’t worry though; chipmunk attacks on people are extremely rare. It is actually very difficult to find documented cases of attacks.
Most are simply a case of people reporting incidents on the internet, and there are a few humorous videos of chipmunks jumping on people or “charging” them after being refused food once they’ve become acclimated to human presence and particularly to people that feed them often.
That being said, chipmunks are rodents and rodents have been known to sometimes attack people under peculiar circumstances, so you should never assume that a chipmunk won’t attack you.
What Will Trigger a Chipmunk Attack on a Person?
Pretty much the only reason that a chipmunk would it ever attack a person is if you grabbed it, trapped it or cornered it.
Rodents, including chipmunks, invariably prefer to escape and run and hide, rather than fight, but fight they will if they think they have no other option.
Even a chipmunk that you somehow managed to surprise at close range is going to run for the hills.
It might run past you if it thinks that is its best chance of escape, but an unprovoked chipmunk attack on a person is almost unheard of.
Just How Strong is a Chipmunk?
Not strong at all. Now, for their size, chipmunks have well-developed jaw muscles and teeth capable of impressive chewing, and their overall athleticism and endurance makes them capable diggers, climbers and foragers.
But chipmunks at the end of the day are teeny, tiny little creatures compared to human beings, not strong at all.
Can Chipmunks Bite?
Yes, they can and they will! Like pretty much all rodents chipmunks have large and impressively well-developed incisors that they use for gnawing and eating.
In fact, a chipmunk’s teeth will grow continuously throughout their life, and so they gnaw on things constantly in order to shorten them.
These sharp teeth have a chisel-like profile, perfect for puncturing, and a chipmunk bite is definitely going to hurt and draw blood.
What Does a Chipmunk Attack Look Like?
A chipmunk attack is going to look pretty comedic at the end of the day- unless it happens to you.
Assuming you aren’t holding the chipmunk, an event that will lead it to bite any part of you that it can reach, a chipmunk is likely to jump on you and just start biting.
That’s the only recourse they have because their claws are far too tiny to inflict anything but the most superficial damage.
How Do You Respond to a Chipmunk Attack?
If, for whatever reason, a chipmunk starts charging you, react quickly and try to get away from it. You should be faster than the chipmunk over open ground.
But assuming you only noticed that you are under attack by a chipmunk when the chipmunk is climbing on you, do what you can to swat it away and then get away from it.
Ultimately, if you are forced to defend yourself, chipmunks are so small and delicate that any solid strike should kill it more or less immediately.
Remember: Chipmunks should invariably try to run away from you, so if you notice one acting aggressively it might be because there’s something wrong with it, it is sick or it is defending a burrow with young inside.
Will a Chipmunk Eat a Person?!
No. Chipmunks are omnivores, and that means they eat both plants and meat, but no chipmunk is going to attack you with the intention of eating you.
That said, chipmunks are rodents, and most rodents are opportunistic; if you were to die it isn’t unthinkable that a chipmunk might take a bite or two out of you- protein is protein after all!
Can People Catch Diseases from Chipmunks?
Yes, they can. Chipmunks, like most rodents, carry a wide assortment of communicable diseases and parasites that can infect people.
Most seriously, chipmunks are potential vectors of rabies although the chances of chipmunks infecting a person with it are very small. Nonetheless, any obvious strange behavior or aggression from a chipmunk is a warning sign.
Other than that, chipmunks are significant vectors of nasty germs like hantavirus and also the usual assortment of mammalian parasites like fleas and ticks.
Ticks are an especially serious concern because they’re the most likely vector of Lyme disease and other debilitating tick fevers.
Be very careful, and make sure you wash up and disinfect if you’re forced to handle chipmunks for any reason!