Behaviour 2019
Overwinter Survival and Behavior of Captive Least Chipmunks (Tamias minimus) During Hibernation
Eric C. Quallen, Merav Ben-David. University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY, United States

For many species, adaptive survival mechanisms include hibernation during periods of extreme cold and low resource availability. Least chipmunks (Tamias minimus) use this strategy in winter, which can last up to 6 months in their native range. We monitored 6 populations in southeast Wyoming using mark-recapture methods for 14 years. We found that overwinter survival is variable and very low across multiple habitats. We hypothesize that knowledge transfer of high-quality hibernacula and food resources among chipmunks affects individual survival. To test this, we captured 20 wild individuals and brought them into outdoor enclosures. Each chipmunk had access to a nest box with chambers of varying insulation. Individuals selected for chambers with mid-level insulation for nest-building over other options. Initially, these animals nested in groups. After we provided more nesting materials sociality declined. During their second winter in captivity, half of the chipmunks were supplementally fed while the rest relied only on stored caches. Survival and sociality were not significantly affected by food availability, indicating that hibernacula quality is likely more limiting.