Baby chipmunks: cute but deadly? Chipmunk bites can certainly be painful, and in some instances they can potentially spread disease. Before you make a mistake in approaching a baby chipmunk, read this guide - you'll learn what diseases baby chipmunks can spread, and what to do if you find a baby chipmunk alone.
What to Do if You Find a Baby or Injured Chipmunk
If you find a baby chipmunk or an injured chipmunk that needs help, always contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. Not only can a wildlife rehabilitator provide proper veterinary care and make sure the animal is prepared for living in the wild upon release, but in some states it is actually illegal for you to keep a chipmunk.
If you find a chipmunk that needs your help, wear thick work gloves and use an old t-shirt or towel to carefully place it in a secure, quiet location out of the sun, and then contact your closest wildlife rehabilitator. Be extremely careful around injured wild animals! If the chipmunk looks like it's going to put up a fight, call the wildlife rehabilitator first and get instructions for how to move the animal to a safer spot.
Can a Chipmunk Bite Hurt You?
Though not every individual will actually spread disease to you, any chipmunk has the potential to carry disease - and no matter how unlikely, that does pose some risk. If you receive a chipmunk bite you should always contact a healthcare professional to determine if they recommend any tests or preventative measures. Additionally, some diseases are more prevalent in specific regions of the country, and your doctor will know more about exposure risks in your area.
Chipmunk Diseases: Rabies
Perhaps the scariest of zoonotic diseases (infectious diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans, and vice versa), rabies has no cure and always results in death if treatment doesn't occur immediately after exposure. Thankfully, chipmunks and other rodents have a relatively low likelihood of carrying and spreading rabies to humans. Rabies infections are more common in bats, skunks, raccoons and foxes. Though you have a much lower likelihood of contracting rabies from a chipmunk, you should still seek the advice of a medical professional after any chipmunk bite because the chance of infection still exists.
Chipmunk Diseases: Plague
When you think of the plague you probably picture the middle ages and flea-bitten rats scurrying through the streets. However, chipmunks, prairie dogs and some other rodents can and do spread plague to humans to this day. However, in the United States, most instances of plague occur in rural regions of the western United States.
You can successfully treat plague infections with antibiotics nowadays, but early treatment is important and untreated cases can be fatal. Both handling an animal infected with plague or being bitten by a flea carrying plague can spread the disease. If you think you might have been exposed, contact a medical professional immediately.
Chipmunk Diseases: Tularemia
Though chipmunks can potentially carry tularemia, this disease is more common in semi-aquatic rodents such as beavers and muskrats. You can potentially catch this disease by handling infected animal carcasses, ingesting contaminated water or food, or being bitten by an infected insect.
Chipmunk Diseases: Leptospirosis
While you cannot catch leptospirosis from a chipmunk bite, you can still potentially become infected through contact with a chipmunk. The only way to contract leptospirosis is through eating something contaminated by urine from the infected animal or otherwise getting urine in your mouth or nose. To prevent the potential spread of this disease make sure to wash your hands thoroughly after handling wild animals or cleaning any bedding or potentially contaminated areas.
As always, if you think you might have been exposed to any disease it is always safest to seek the help of your doctor or a medical professional!
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Diseases Directly Transmitted by Rodents
- Johns Hopkins Medicine: Bites and Stings: Animals
- Ohio Department of Health: Rabbits, Rodents and Pocket Pets
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Rabies
- Tenafly Nature Center: Injured & Orphaned Squirrels and Chipmunks
About the Author
Marina Somma is a freelance writer and animal trainer. She holds a B.A. in Psychology and a B.S. in Marine and Environmental Biology & Policy from Monmouth University. Marina has worked with a number of publications involving animal science, behavior and training, including animals.net, SmallDogsAcademy and more.