Do Chipmunks Bite?
The question of whether or not chipmunks bite is a simple one on the surface. All answers can be summed up with a single word: yes or no. But it turns out this is a wide-ranging issue spanning several fields of research.
The first thing that should be addressed is exactly what chipmunks bite since it is clear that they possess all of the equipment required to do so. According to one article, they will chew on just about anything, from wires inside the walls of your house to pictures of you and your aunt at Disney World. However, when most people investigate this question they want to know if chipmunks bite people.
According to a quick Google search, most sources allude to the fact that chipmunks only bite people if they feel as if they are being threatened. So if you are looking to not get bitten by a chipmunk, ruining your perfectly planned Memorial Day weekend, it is not a good idea to chase down every chipmunk you see with a baseball bat, even if you are just trying to invite said chipmunk to your intramural softball game on Sunday.
While the question on whether chipmunks bite is relatively clear, the real question is how much of a danger chipmunks are to society in other ways. According to one article, they are “dangerously cute”, and the article goes on to discuss some ways these seemingly adorable creatures are only rodents, very similar to rats, mice, and the like, masquerading as adorable, cuddly creatures. While this might not seem harmful, the fact remains that chipmunks can carry any of the diseases carried by these animals, who are nearly universally detested by our society. It is only because these rodents, with their striped faces and bodies, bright coloration, and puffy tails, look nicer than their gray, toothy counterparts that we assume their innocence.
And then there is the issue of fear. As Franklin D. Roosevelt said in 1933, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” This philosophy stresses the importance of perception of how we view the world and, more importantly, how we react to it. Therefore, the true danger of chipmunks is not if they are truly dangerous, but whether or not they have the ability to strike fear in their potential victims. And, despite their cuteness, chipmunks do have that ability.
I was recently talking to a two-time Olympic cross-country skier, and she told me a story that would terrify even the most stoic of personalities. As she was doing laundry one day, a chipmunk rushed across her toes, causing her to drop her freshly folded basket of laundry onto the floor and run out of the room. The chipmunk, probably wanting to make sure she was sufficiently terrified, proceeded to chase her out of the house.
According to the psychology behind Roosevelt’s quote on fear, that matters much more than any true threat they may represent.