Distribution and Habitat
The chinchilla is extinct in most of its original distribution range. It is now found only in the Andes Mountains of Bolivia and Chile in South America.
They make their homes in clefts, crevices and rocky outcroppings of mountainous terrain as well as open fields and brush land.
This squirrel-like rodent has very dense, soft, silky fur. Its upper body parts vary in color from bluish to pearl, to brownish-gray, while its under parts are yellowish-white. It has a broad head, large black-tipped ears and large black eyes. Chinchillas have ever-growing incisors. Their short forefeet and long hind feet each have four digits ending in weak claws surrounded by stiff bristles.
The United States breeding stock of chinchillas was established when M.F. Chapman brought them to the country in 1923. Most commercially bred chinchillas are direct descendants of the original eleven that Chapman imported.
Chinchilla teeth need to be worn down as their teeth grow continuously and can prevent the chinchilla from eating if they become overgrown.
The chinchilla lacks the ability to sweat; therefore, if temperatures get above 25°C (80°F), the chinchilla could get overheated and may suffer from heat stroke. Chinchillas dissipate heat by routing blood to their large ears, so red ears signal overheating.