Thursday, September 23, 2010

Pondering the Bay Area chipmunk

A little over a year ago while hiking Simmons Trail on Mt. Tam (best accessed from the Rock Spring trailhead), I noticed a few chipmunks scampering around. Using just our trusty little family camera (a Panasonic DMC-FX37) I managed to get a one decent photo from a few feet away. I didn't think much about it then, but I came across the photo a few days ago and was struck by the little chipmunk's beauty. Then I wondered what kind of chipmunk it was.

After a few hours of internet and book research, I discovered we don't have many chipmunks in the Bay Area. Merriam's chipmunk lives in southern and central California; you have a chance of seeing them in the Bay Area only in coastal counties south of the Golden Gate. Yellow-cheeked chipmunks are found on the northern coast, but their range ends in near Freestone in Somona County. That leaves one other contender to be my Tam cutie: Tamias sonomae, Sonoma chipmunk, with a California range from the northern San Francisco Bay Area north to Siskiyou County.

I thought about chipmunks a bit, and realized I haven't seen very many of them while hiking; so few that I remember the occasions: one on the trail at Purisima Creek Redwoods, one on Bear Valley Trail at Point Reyes, and now a few scrambling around the chaparral on Mount Tam. So I suppose I've seen one Merriam's and two Sonomas. Mystery solved!

11 comments:

CoolEric194 said...

Nice photo. :D

Shmeedie said...

I saw a few on the Palomarin trail near Bass Lake about six weeks ago. I don't think I'd ever seen one in the Bay Area before, and I'm a native!

Anonymous said...

When the Hazelnut Mountain Trail opened up in the 1990s (+/-), the first couple hikes we took there were dozens of chipmunks rustling in the manzanita either side of the trail. Then, fewer and fewer. I think the foxes and coyotes must have discovered the trail and the balance of things shifted.

Ben Pease

Anonymous said...

Try the lookout bench at Henry Cowell, Pipeline Trail. If you sit quietly at the bench, one of the two chipmunks that frequent that spot might just pop up and look around for leftover trail mix!

Anonymous said...

In the last two months, I've seen two at Rancho San Antonio: one on the PGE trail and one on the Chamise Trail.

Jane Huber said...

Saw one this weekend at San Pedro Valley Park, zipping through the manzanitas.

Anonymous said...

Another sighting on the Upper High Meadow Trail at Rancho San Antonio. I sat down on the trail and watched as a trio of these high-energy cuties foraged all around me. They didn't seem to mind me at all and actually came within "touching" distance. Also, there were two pair of quail that joined in our foraging party much to my delight!

Larissa said...

Sorry, this is unrelated, but do you have any ideas for a Bay Area trail, 5-10mi - moderate/easy that could accommodate 500-1000 people for a charity hike benefiting lung cancer research? Ideally, it would be easily accessible by public transit, or have a large parking lot. We would also like there to be a space for post-hike festivities (i.e. picnic lunches, motivational speakers, info tables, etc) with tables. Thanks for any help/advice that you are able to provide! Larissa

Anonymous said...

If you hike and backpack enough in this area you might soon think the chipmunks are not so cute. I had them chew through my backpack and rummage through my limited food supply. I found their little droppings in my trail mix and had to trash it all. I have advice for other hikers. Get a wire mesh camping food bag (I bought one online called Grubpack). These are chipmunk proof food containers. The metal screen material stops rodents (mice, skunks, raccoons, etc)from chewing through the bag.

Car Service Bay Area said...

aww, that's an adorable chipmunk. It's so tiny and furry.

Anonymous said...

We saw one on the Kent Trail coming down to Alpine Lake a couple of days ago. First time I've seen a chippy in the Bay Area (I am a native, too). Lived in the Pacific Northwest for the past 4.5 years where they are plentiful. So cute!