Sudbury·Summer U

Urban chipmunks are overweight, researcher says

Researchers at Laurentian University have determined chipmunks living in cities are fatter and less stressed than chipmunks who live in the wild.

Urban chipmunks are less stressed and fatter than their country counterparts: study

We launched a summer series we're calling Summer U. Each week we'll head to Laurentian University to find out about some of the research taking place there. Our first installment featured Albrecht Schulte-Hostedde and a study of chipmunks.

Throughout July and August, Summer U will feature research work from across northeastern Ontario.

Researchers at Laurentian University have determined that chipmunks that live in urban areas are less stressed and fatter than chipmunks that live in the wild.

The research was conducted under the supervision Albrecht Schulte-Hostedde, a Laurentian biology professor and Canada Research Chair in applied evolutionary biology.
Albrecht Schulte-Hostedde, Canada Research Chair, Environmental Micro-Biology, Laurentian University (Markus Schwabe/CBC)

​Dozens of chipmunks were trapped in the town of Huntsville, Ont., and in the wilderness in nearby Algonquin Provincial Park. More chipmunks were trapped and studied in Sudbury, Ont., and in the wilderness around Sudbury.

"We collected chipmunk poop," said Schulte-Hostedde, which was measured for the stress hormone cortisol. 

"Chipmunks found in urban areas were less stressed ... than those in natural areas," said Schulte-Hostedde. 

In addition, the researchers observed that urban chipmunks were fatter than their country counterparts.

"I have a theory that I think some of them might be obese and perhaps even diabetic because of what they're eating," said Schulte-Hostedde.

More research needs to be done on why there are differences between urban and country chipmunks. But Schulte-Hostedde said he believes one reason may be that food is plentiful in urban areas in the form of garbage. He also believes there may be fewer natural predators in cities.

"We'd like to know what the consequences of human activities are on the natural world. Urban centres are growing exponentially," said Schulte-Hostedde.

"This chipmunk study is a nice way to get into that question."


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