8              Chipping Squirrel

                             TAMIAS LISTERI.--RAY.
                               [Tamias striatus]

                        CHIPPING SQUIRREL, HACKEE.  &c.
                               [Eastern Chipmunk]

              PLATE VIII.--MALE, FEMALE, AND YOUNG (First Autumn).

     T. dorso fusco-cinereo, striis quinque nigris, et duobus luteo-albis
longitudinalibus ornato; fronte et natibus fusco-luteis; ventre albo.

     Brownish gray on the back; forehead and buttocks brownish orange; five
longitudinal black stripes and two yellowish white ones on the back; under
surface white.


     ECUREUIL SUISSE, Sagard Theodat, Canada, p. 746, A. D. 1636.
     GROUND SQUIRREL, Lawson's Carolina, p. 124.
     GROUND SQUIRREL, Catesby, Carol. vol. ii., p. 75.
     EDWARDS, vol. iv., p. 181. Kalm, vol. i., p. 322.
     SCIURUS LYSTERI, Ray, Synops. Quad., p. 216, A.D. 1693.
     LE SUISSE, Charlevoix, Nouv. Fr., vol. v., p. 196.
     STRIPED DORMOUSE, Pennant, Arc. Zool., 4 vols., vol. i., P. 126.
     SCIURUS CAROLINENSIS, Brisson, Reg. Anim., p. 155, A.D. 1756.
     ECUREUIL SUISSE, (Desm. Enc. Mamm.,) Nota, p. 339, Esp., 547.
     SCIURUS STRIATUS, Harlan, Fauna, p. 183.
     SCIURUS STRIATUS, Godman, Nat. Hist., vol. ii., p. 142.
     SCIURUS (TAMIAS) LYSTERI, Rich., F.B.A., p. 181, plate 15.
     SCIURUS (TAMIAS) LYSTERI, Doughty's Cabinet Nat. Hist., vol. ., p. 169,
       pl. 15.
     SCIURUS STRIATUS, DeKay, Nat. Hist. of N. Y., part 1, p. 62, pl. 16,
       fig. 1.


     Body, rather slender; forehead, arched; head, tapering from the ears to the
nose, which is covered with short hairs; nostrils, opening downwards, margins
and septum naked; whiskers, shorter than the head.  A few bristles on the cheeks
and above the eye-brows; eyes, of moderate size; ears, ovate, rounded, erect,
covered with short hair on both surfaces, not tufted, the hair on those parts
simply covering the margins.  Cheek-pouches, of tolerable size, extending on the
sides of the neck to a little below the ear, opening into the mouth between the
incisors and molars.  Fore-feet, with four slender, compressed, slightly-curved
claws, and the rudiment of a thumb, covered with a short blunt nail; hind-feet,
long and slender, with five toes, the middle toe being a little the longest.
Tail, rather short and slender, nearly cylindrical above, dilated on the sides,
not bushy, sub-distichous.  Hair on the whole body short and smooth, but not
very fine.


     A small black spot above the nose; forehead, yellowish brown; above and
beneath the eyelids, white; whiskers and eyelashes, black; a dark brown streak
running from the sides of the face through the eye and reaching the ear; a
yellowish brown stripe extending from near the nose, running under the eye to
behind the ear, deepening into chesnut-brown immediately below the eye, where
the stripe is considerably dilated.
     Anterior portion of the back, hoary gray, this colour being formed by a
mixture of gray and black hairs.  Colour of the rump, extending to a little
beyond the root of the tail, hips, and exterior surface of the thighs, reddish
fawn, a few black hairs sprinkled among the rest, not sufficiently numerous to
give a darker shade to those parts.  A dark dorsal line commencing back of the
head is dilated on the middle of the back, and runs to a point within an inch of
the root of the tail; this line is brownish on the shoulder, but deepens into
black in its progress downwards.
     On each flank there is a broad yellowish-white line, running from the
shoulder to the thighs, bordered on each side with black.  The species may be
characterized by its having five black and two white stripes on a gray ground.
The flanks, sides, and upper surface of feet and ears, are reddish-gray; whole
under surface white, with no line of demarcation between the colours of the back
and belly.  Tail, brown at its root, afterwards grayish-black, the hair being
clouded and in some places banded with black; underneath, reddish-brown, with a
border of black, edged with light gray.
     There are some varieties observable among specimens procured in different
States of the Union.  We have noted it, like the Virginian deer, becoming
smaller in size at it was found farther to the South.  In Maine and New
Hampshire it is larger than in the mountains of Carolina and Louisiana, and the
tints of those seen at the North were lighter than the colouring of the Southern
specimens we have examined.  We possess an albino, sent to us alive, snow-white,
with red eyes; and also another specimen jet-black.  We have, however, found no
intermediate varieties, and in general we may remark that the species of this
genus are not as prone to variations in colour as those of the true Squirrels.


                                                             Inches.  Lines.

     Length of head and body .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .   6        3
     Length of head .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .   1        6
     Length of tail (vertebrae) .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .   3        7
     Length of tail, including fur .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .   4        7
     Height of ear  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .   0        4
     Breadth of ear .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .   0        3 1/2


     The Chipping Squirrel, as this little animal is usually called, or Ground
Squirrel, as it is named almost as frequently, is probably, with the exception
of the common flying squirrel, (Pteromys volucella,) one of the most interesting
of our small quadrupeds.  It is found in most parts of the United States, and
being beautifully marked in its colouring is known to every body.  From its
lively and busy habits, one might consider it among the quadrupeds as occupying
the place of the wren among the feathered tribes.  Like the latter, the Ground
Squirrel, full of vivacity, plays with the utmost grace and agility among the
broken rocks or uprooted stumps of trees about the farm or wood pasture; its
clucking resembles the chip, chip, chip, of a young chicken, and although not
musical, like the song of the little winter wren, excites agreeable thoughts as
it comes on the air.  We fancy we see one of these sprightly Chipping Squirrel
as he runs before us with the speed of a bird, skimming along a log fence, his
chops distended by the nuts he has gathered in the woods; he makes no pause till
he reaches the entrance of his subterranean retreat and store-house.  Now he
stands upright, and his chattering cry is heard, but at the first step we make
towards him, he disappears.  Stone after stone we remove from the aperture
leading to his deep and circuitous burrow; but in vain is all our labour--with
our hatchets we cut the tangled roots, and as we follow the animal, patiently
digging into his innermost retreat, we hear his angry, querulous tones.  We get
within a few inches of him now, and can already see his large dark eyes; but at
this moment out he rushes, and ere we can "grab" him, has passed us, and finds
security in some other hiding place, of which there are always plenty at hand
that he is well accustomed to fly to; and we willingly leave him unmolested, to
congratulate himself on his escape.
     The Chipping Squirrel makes his burrow generally near the roots of trees,
in the centre of a decayed stump, along fences or old walls, or in some bank,
near the woods whence he obtains the greater portion of his food.
     Some of these retreats have two or three openings at a little distance from
each other.  It rarely happens that this animal is caught by digging out its
burrow.  When hard pressed and closely pursued it will betake itself to a tree,
the trunk of which it ascends for a little distance with considerable rapidity,
occasionally concealing itself behind a large branch, but generally stopping
within twelve or fifteen feet of the ground, where it often clings with its body
so closely pressed to the trunk that it is difficult to detect it; and it
remains so immovable that it appears like a piece of bark or some excrescence,
till the enemy has retired from the vicinity, when it once more descends, and by
its renewed clucking seems to chuckle over its escape.
     We are doubtful whether this species can at any time be perfectly tamed.
We have preserved it in cages from time to time, and generally found it wild and
sullen.  Those we had, however, were not young when captured.
     At a subsequent period we obtained in the State of New-York five or six
young ones almost half grown.  We removed them to Carolina, where they were kept
during winter and spring.  They were somewhat more gentle than those we had
formerly possessed, occasionally took a filbert or a ground-nut from the
fingers, but never became tame enough to be handled with safety, as they on more
than one occasion were disposed to test the sharpness of their teeth on our
     The skin which covered the vertebra of their tails was so brittle that
nearly all of them soon had mutilated them.  They appeared to have some aversion
to playing in a wheel, which is so favourite an amusement of the true squirrels.
During the whole winter they only left their nest to carry into it the rice,
nuts, Indian corn, &c., placed in their cage as food.
     Late in the following spring, having carried on our experiments as far as
we cared to pursue them, we released our pets, which were occasionally seen in
the vicinity for several months afterward, when they disappeared.
     We were once informed of a strange carnivorous propensity in this species.
A lady in the vicinity of Boston said to us, "We had in our garden a nest of
young robins, (Turdus migratorius,) and one afternoon as I was walking in the
garden, I happened to pass very close to the tree on which this nest was placed;
my attention was attracted by a noise which I thought proceeded from it, and on
looking up I saw a Ground Squirrel tearing at the nest, and actually devouring
one of the young ones.  I called to the gardener, who came accompanied by a dog,
and shook the tree violently, when the animal fell to the earth, and was in an
instant secured by the dog."  We do not conceive that the unnatural propensity
in the individual here referred to, is indicative of the genuine habit of this
species, but think that it may be regarded as an exception to a general rule,
and referred to a morbid depravity of taste sometimes to be observed in other
genera, leading an individual to feed upon that which the rest of the species
would loathe and reject.  Thus we have known a horse which preferred a string of
fish to a mess of oats; and mocking-birds, in confinement, kill and devour jays,
black-birds, or sparrows.
     We saw and caught a specimen of this beautiful TAMIAS in Louisiana, that
had no less than sixteen chinquapin nuts (Castanea pumila) stowed away in its
cheek-pouches.  We have a specimen now lying before us, sent from Pennsylvania
in alcohol, which contains at least one and a half table-spoonfuls of Bush
trefoil (Hedysarum cannabinum) in its widely-distended sacks.  We have
represented one of our figures in the plate with its pouches thus filled out.
     This species is to a certain extent gregarious in its habits.  We had
marked one of its burrows in autumn which we conceived well adapted to our
purpose, which was to dig it out.  It was in the woods on a sandy piece of
ground and the earth was strewed with leaves to the depth of eight inches, which
we believed would prevent the frost from penetrating to any considerable depth.
We had the place opened in January, when the ground was covered with snow about
five inches deep.  The entrance of the burrow had been closed from within.  We
followed the course of the small winding gallery with considerable difficulty.
The hole descended at first almost perpendicularly for about three feet.  It
then continued with one or two windings, rising a little nearer the surface
until it had advanced about eight feet, when we came to a large nest made of oak
leaves and dried grasses.  Here lay, snugly covered, three Chipping Squirrels.
Another was subsequently dug from one of the small lateral galleries, to which
it had evidently retreated to avoid us.  They were not dormant, and seemed ready
to bite when taken in the hand; but they were not very active, and appeared
somewhat sluggish and benumbed, which we conjectured was owing to their being
exposed to sudden cold from our having opened their burrow.
     There was about a gill of wheat and buckwheat in the nest; but in the
galleries we afterwards dug out, we obtained about a quart of the beaked hazel
nuts, (Corylus rostrata,) nearly a peck of acorns, some grains of Indian corn,
about two quarts of buckwheat, and a very small quantity of grass seeds.  The
late Dr. JOHN WRIGHT, of Troy, in an interesting communication on the habits of
several of our quadrupeds, informs us, in reference to this species, that "It is
a most provident little creature, continuing to add to its winter store, if food
is abundant, until driven in by the severity of the frost.  Indeed, it seems not
to know when it has enough, if we may judge by the surplus left in the spring,
being sometimes a peck of corn or nuts for a single Squirrel.  Some years ago I
watched one of these animals whilst laying up its winter store.  As there were
no nuts to be found near, I furnished a supply.  After scattering some hickory
nuts on the ground near the burrow, the work of carrying in was immediately
commenced.  It soon became aware that I was a friend, and approached almost to
my feet for my gifts.  It would take a nut from its paws, and dexterously bite
off the sharp point from each end, and then pass it to its cheek-pouch, using
its paws to shove it in, then one would be placed on the opposite side, then
again one along with the first, and finally, having taken one between its front
teeth, it would go into the burrow.  After remaining there for five or ten
minutes it would reappear for another load.  This was repeated in my presence a
great number of times, the animal always carrying four nuts at a time, and
always biting off the asperities."
     We perceive from hence that the Chipping Squirrels retire to winter
quarters in small families in the early part of November, sooner or later
according to the coldness or mildness of the season, after providing a store of
food in their subterranean winter residence.  When the snows are melted from the
earth in early spring, they leave the retreat to which they had resorted during
the first severe frosts in autumn.  We have seen them sunning themselves on a
stump during warm days about the last of February, when the snows were still on
the earth here and there in patches a foot deep; we remarked, however, that they
remained only for half an hour, when they again retreated to their burrows.
     The young are produced in May, to the number of four or five at a birth,
and we have sometimes supposed from the circumstance of seeing a young brood in
August, that they breed twice a year.
     The Chipping Squirrel does but little injury to the farmer.  It seldom
disturbs the grain before it is ripe, and is scarcely more than a gleaner of the
fields, coming in for a small pittance when the harvest is nearly gathered.  It
prefers wheat to rye, seems fond of buckwheat, but gives the preference to nuts,
cherry-stones, the seeds of the red gum, or pepperidge, (Nyssa Multiflora,) and
those of several annual plants and grasses.
     This species is easily captured.  It enters almost any kind of trap without
suspicion.  We have seen a beautiful muff and tippet made of a host of little
skins of this TAMIAS ingeniously joined together so as to give the appearance of
a regular series of stripes around the muff, and longitudinally along the sides
of the tippet.  The animals had in most cases been captured in rat-traps.
     There is, besides, a simple, rustic, but effectual mode of hunting the
Ground Squirrel to which we are tempted to devote a paragraph.
     Man has his hours of recreation, and so has the school-boy; while the
former is fond of the chase, and keeps his horses, dogs and guns, the latter
when released from school gets up a little hunt agreeable to his own taste and
limited resources.  The boys have not yet been allowed to carry fire-arms, and
have been obliged to adhere to the command of a careful mother--"don't meddle
with that gun, Billy, it may go off and kill you."  But the Chip Muck can be
hunted without a gun, and Saturday, the glorious weekly return of their freedom
and independence from the crabbed schoolmaster and the puzzling spelling-book,
is selected for the important event.
     There are some very pleasing reminiscences associated with these little
sports of boyhood.  The lads, hurried by delightful anticipations, usually meet
half an hour before the time appointed.  They come with their "shining morning
faces" full of glee and talking of their expected success.  In lieu of fire-arms
they each carry a stick about eight feet long.  They go along the old-fashioned
worm-fences that skirt the woods,--a crop of wheat or of buckwheat has just been
gathered, and the little Hackee is busily engaged in collecting its winter
     In every direction its lively chirrup is heard, with answering calls from
adjacent parts of the woods, and here and there you may observe one mounted on
the top of a fence-stake, and chipping away as it were in exultation at his
elevated seat.  One of the tiny huntsmen now places his pole on a fence rail,
the second or third from the bottom, along which the Ground Squirrel is expected
to pass; a few yards behind him is another youngster, ready with his stick on
another rail, in case the Chip Muck escapes the first enemy.  One of the
juveniles now makes a circuit, gets behind the little Hackee and gives a blow on
the fence to drive him toward the others, who are eagerly expecting him.  The
unsuspecting little creature, with a sweep of his half-erected tail, quickly
descends from the top of the fence along a stake, and betaking himself to some
of the lower rails, makes a rapid retreat.  If no stone-heaps or burrows are at
hand, he runs along the winding fence, and as he is passing the place where the
young sportsmen are lying in wait, they brush the stick along the rail with the
celerity of thought, hitting the little creature on the nose, and knocking him
off.  "He is ours," is the exulting shout, and the whole party now hurry to the
spot.  Perhaps the little animal is not dead, only stunned, and is carried home
to be made a pet.  He is put into a calabash, a stocking, or a small bag
prepared for the occasion by some fond little sister, who whilst sewing it for
her brother half longed to enjoy the romp and the sport herself.  Reader, don't
smile at this group of juvenile sportsmen; older and bigger "boys" are often
engaged in amusements not more rational, and not half so innocent.
     Several species of hawks are successful in capturing the Chipping Squirrel.
It furnishes also many a meal for the hungry fox, the wild cat, and the mink;
but it possesses an enemy in the common weasel or ermine, (mustela erminea) more
formidable than all the rest combined.  This blood-thirsty little animal pursues
it into its dwelling, and following it to the farthest extremity, strikes his
teeth into its skull, and like a cruel savage of the wilderness, does not
satiate his thirst for blood until he has destroyed every inhabitant of the
burrow, old and young, although he seldom devours one fifth of the animals so
wantonly killed.  We once observed one pursue a Chipping Squirrel into its
burrow.  After an interval of ten minutes it reappeared, licking its mouth, and
stroking its fur with its head by the aid of its long neck.  We watched it as it
pursued its way through a buckwheat field, in which many roots and stumps were
yet remaining, evidently in quest of additional victims.  On the following day
we were impelled by curiosity to open the burrow we had seen it enter.  There we
found an old female ground squirrel and five young, half-grown, lying dead, with
the marks of the weasel's teeth in their skulls.

                           GEOGRAPHICAL DISTRIBUTION.

     The Chipping Squirrel has a pretty wide geographical range.  It is common
on the northern shores of Lakes Huron and Superior; and has been traced as far
as the fiftieth degree of north latitude.  In the Eastern, Northern, and Middle
States, it is quite abundant; it exists along the whole of the Alleghany range,
and is found in the mountainous portions of South Carolina, Georgia, and
Alabama.  In the alluvial districts of Carolina and Georgia it disappears.  We
have never found it nearer the seaboard of South Carolina than at Columbia, one
hundred and ten miles from Charleston, where it is very rare.  It is found in
Tennessee and throughout Louisiana.

                                GENERAL REMARKS.

     We have at the head of this article endeavoured to preserve TAMIAS as a
valuable genus distinct from SCIURUS.  We hope we have offered such reasons as
will induce naturalists to separate this interesting and increasing little
group, mostly of American species, from the squirrels, to which they bear about
the same affinity as do the marmot squirrels (SPERMOPHILUS) to the true marmots
(ARCTOMYS).  We will now inquire whether the present species (Tamias Lysteri) is
a foreigner from Siberia, naturalized in our Western world; or whether it is one
of the aborigines of our country, as much entitled to a name as the grisly bear
or the cougar.
     Two of our American naturalists, HARLAN and GODMAN, supposed that it was
the Asiatic species, the S. striatus of KLEIN, PALLAS, SCHREBER, and other
authors; Dr. RICHARDSON (1829) believed that the descriptions given of Sciurus
striatus did not exactly correspond with American specimens, and as he had no
opportunity of instituting a comparison, he adopted the specific name of RAY,
Sciurus (TAMIAS) Lysteri, for our species; and quoted what PALLAS had written in
regard to the habits of the Asiatic animal, as applying to those of our little
Chipping Squirrel.  Very recently (1842) Dr. DEKAY, in the work on American
quadrupeds, published by order of the State of New-York, has again referred it
to S. striatus of LINNAEUS, and endeavoured to prove the identity of the two
species from European writers.  We suspect he had no opportunity of making a
comparison from actual specimens.
     Reasoning from analogy in regard to the species of birds or quadrupeds
found to be identical on both continents, we should be compelled to admit that
if our species is the S. striatus of Asia, it presents a solitary exception to a
long-established general rule.  That many species of water-birds, such as geese,
ducks, gulls, auks, and guillemots, which during the long days of summer crowd
toward the polar regions to engage in the duties and pleasures of reproduction,
should be found on both continents, cannot be a matter of surprise; and that the
ptarmigan, the white snow-bird, Lapland Long-spur, &c., which resort annually to
them, should at that season take wing and stray to either continent, is so
probable a case, that we might think it strange if it were otherwise.  Neither
need we regard it as singular if a few quadrupeds, with peculiar constitutions
and habits suited to the polar regions, should be inhabitants of the northern
portions of both continents.  Thus the polar bear, which delights in snow and
ice, and which is indifferent as to whether it is on the land or on an iceberg
at sea; the reindeer, which exists only in cold regions, and which by
alternately swimming and walking can make its way over the icy waters in winter,
and over rivers and arms of the sea in summer, and which migrates for thousands
of miles; the beaver, which is found all over our continent, on the banks of the
Mackenzie river leading into the polar sea in latitude 68 degrees, and in the
Russian settlements near Behring's Straits; the ermine, which riots in the
snow-drifts, and has been found as far to the north as man has ever travelled;
and the common wolf, which is a cosmopolite, exhibits itself in all colours, and
strays from the tropics to the north pole; may be found on both continents
without surprising us:  but if this little land-animal, the Chipping Squirrel,
which is unable to swim, and retires to the earth in cold weather, should be
found both in Asia and America, it would oppose all our past experience in
regard to American quadrupeds, and be the only exception to a long and
universally admitted theory.  The highest northern range in which this species
has ever been seen is above Lake Huron, as far as latitude 50 degrees; from
thence there is a distance of more than 90 degrees of longitude and 18 degrees
of latitude before we reach its Asiatic range, and in its migrations either way
it would have to cross Behring's Straits, and traverse regions which even in
summer are covered with snow and ice.  From the above facts and from our
knowledge of the adaptation of various animals for extensive migrations, we must
conclude that this species cannot possibly exist on both continents, even
admitting the correctness of the supposition that these continents had in some
former age been united.
     Dr. RICHARDSON says, (p. 181,) "I am not aware that the identity of the
species on the two continents has been established by actual comparison."  In
this he was quite correct.  At the period when his valuable work on American
quadrupeds was published, nearly all the figures and many of the descriptions of
Tamias striatus of the Eastern continent were taken from American specimens of
Tamias Lysteri; and the authors supposing them to be identical, were not
sufficiently cautious to note this important fact.
     In 1838 we carried to Europe, American specimens of nearly all those
species which had their congeners on the Eastern continent.  We were surprised
at finding no specimen of the T. striatus in the museums of either England or
France.  At Berlin, however, an excellent opportunity was afforded us for
instituting a comparison.  Through the kindness of Dr. LICHTENSTEIN,
superintendent of the museum, we were permitted to open the cases, examine
several specimens in a fine state of preservation, and compare them with our
American species, which we placed beside them.  The differences, at first sight
were so striking that we could only account for their ever having been
considered identical, from the fact that the descriptions of the old authors
were so loose and unsatisfactory that many minute but important characteristics
had not been noted.  The following memorandum was made by us on the
occasion:--"The Tamias striatus differs so widely from our American Chipping
Squirrel or Hackee, that it is unnecessary to be very minute in making the
comparison.  The two species can always be distinguished from each other by one
remarkable characteristic, which I have observed running through all the
specimens.  The stripes on the Asiatic (T. striatus) running over the back
extend to the root of the tail; whilst those on the American (T. Lysteri) do not
reach so far by a full inch.  There are many other differences which may as well
be noticed.  T. striatus is a little the largest, the stripes on the back are
situated nearer each other, and are broader than in the other species; the
stripes on each side of the back are nearly black instead of yellowish-brown; on
each side of the black stripe on the centre of the back of Tamias Lysteri, there
is a broad space of reddish-gray.  In T. striatus this part of the animal is
yellowish; being an alternate stripe of black and yellowish-white.  The tail of
the latter is black towards the extremity and tipped with white; its tail and
ears also are larger than those of T. Lysteri:  in short, these two species
differ as widely from each other as Tamias Lysteri differs from the four-lined
ground squirrel of SAY, (T. quadrivittatus.)