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Chipmunks in eastern North Carolina?

A rare sighting in Wilmington has N.C. Wildlife officials curious. Normally, chipmunks in North Carolina are known to live north and west of Wake County.

RALEIGH, N.C. — A recent photo submitted to the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission has biologists pondering if North Carolina chipmunks have now expanded to eastern parts of the state. 

Normally, chipmunks in North Carolina are known to live north and west of Wake County. 

“We recently received an observation with photos of a chipmunk in the Wilmington area. It is likely a case of hitchhiking, however, we’d like the public to notify us of any chipmunk sightings east of Wake county,” stated Andrea Shipley, a mammalogist with the Wildlife Commission.  

According to a release from the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, staff biologists are specifically interested in sightings in New Hanover, Brunswick, Onslow, Duplin, Sampson, Bladen, Cumberland, Moore, Montgomery, Anson, Richmond, and Robeson counties. 

Chipmunks are found in both urban and rural habitats. The eastern chipmunk is believed to prefer open woodlands or forest edges, with plenty of cover and dry hillsides for digging burrows. They are most active in the early morning and late afternoon, gathering and storing seeds, nuts, acorns, and berries.

 Different from squirrels, chipmunks spend most of their time foraging on the ground and only climbing trees occasionally.  The chipmunk’s most distinguishing feature is its large cheek pouches, usually full of nuts or seeds to unload in an underground storage burrow.