The lodgepole chipmunk (Tamias speciosus) is a Californian through and through! This chipmunk can be found in the eastern Sierra Nevada and in southern California in the San Bernardino, San Jacinto, and San Gabriel mountains. Lodgepole chipmunks live in a coniferous forest that contains lodgepole pine, red fire, and Jeffrey pine and within elevations between 1,500 and 3,300 meters. Their sweet spot is between 2,400 and 3,000 meters.
Lodgepole chipmunks are on average 8 inches long and have white, brown, and black stripes on its face and back. Baby lodgepole chipmunks are very independent after they are weaned and go off on their own within a couple months with their mother. These chipmunks spend a lot of their time in the trees but come down to the ground to feed. They eat seeds, nuts, fruit, insects, fungi, and trash. Great reminder to leave no traces in our forests! The lodgepole chipmunk has its chipmunk-y ways and stashes away food in its cheeks and other hiding places.
The lodgepole chipmunk plays an important role in the forest ecosystem. Since they love to feed on truffles of ectomycorrhizal fungi, which increased water and nutrient uptake of trees, the chipmunks play a part in spreading the spores of the fungi. Lodgepole chipmunks are efficient seed, pollen, and fungal spore dispersers based on the food the chipmunks likes to eat.
Lodgepole chipmunks are vulnerable to climate change due to the increased temperatures. These high-elevation creatures have a limited range of habitat. As temperatures increase, they are forced to seek refuge in higher and cooler elevations, beyond their normal range. At a certain point, their habitat will be severely limited since the elevations of the mountains are fixed. Scientists have found that the decrease in their habitat has also decreased their genetic diversity. Low genetic diversity leads to inbreeding, vulnerabilities to diseases, and threatens the species’ long-term survival.