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Red-Tailed Chipmunk

Limiting Factors

Illustration of a Red-tailed ChipmunkAlthough the Red-Tailed Chipmunk is not threatened on a continental basis, the Alberta population is small and has a highly restricted distribution.  While most of their range in province is protected, factors such as Habitat Availability, Barriers and Habitat Quality may limit their population size.

Habitat Availability:  Standing trees may be a limiting factor for chipmunks in transitional habitats. Red-tailed Chipmunks appear to have relatively specific habitat requirements, namely mature forests in the mountain and sub-alpine regions, and this is probably the most important factor determining population size and trend. Significant changes in quality or availability of this habitat could have important consequences for this species. The total amount of habitat available is probably relatively stable in Alberta because most of the range of Red-tailed Chipmunks lies within Waterton Lakes Provincial Park. 

Barriers to Movement:  The connectivity of existing habitats could be a limiting factor for Red-tailed Chipmunks because of their relatively specific habitat requirements and the occurrence of barriers (for example, non-forested areas, rivers) to movement between pockets of habitat. Connectivity to the core of the range should not be a problem for the Waterton Lakes National Park population because this protected area adjoins Glacier National Park in Montana. However, connectivity to populations in the West Castle region and in British Columbia could be threatened because the intervening habitat is not protected. Lack of connectivity could leave isolated populations vulnerable to catastrophic events or problems associated with genetic isolation.

Habitat Quality:  The most important habitat concern is the potential for long term changes in habitat quality. Montane areas are predicted to be highly sensitive to global climate change. Therefore, existing areas of habitat could decrease in quality or disappear as a result of global warming. A more immediate concern relates to long term fire suppression in Waterton Lakes National Park that might affect habitat quality by altering natural disturbance regimes. Forests with low levels of disturbance may have less diverse understories, and fewer forest openings and edges, both of which are important habitat features for Red-tailed Chipmunks. 

Reprinted from Alberta Wildlife Status Report No. 19 (1999), with permission from Alberta Sustainable Resource Development.

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