Chipmunk vs Squirrel: Welcome to the Ultimate Guide

Chipmunk vs Squirrel: Welcome to the Ultimate Guide

Did you know that chipmunks, ground squirrels, and tree squirrels are related? All three are members of the Sciuridae family, which includes over 300 different species of rodents! But even though they’re family, there are still some big differences between these furry rodents. If you’ve ever wanted to know what makes the difference between these two, here’s an easy guide to the most telling signs to help you identify a chipmunk vs squirrel.

8 Key Differences Between a chipmunk vs squirrel?

  • Chipmunks are found mainly in North America, while squirrels are larger rodents that can be found all over the world.
  • Chipmunks have stripes on their backs, while tree squirrels do not.
  • Chipmunks and tree squirrels enjoy climbing, but ground squirrels do not.
  • In most cases, you will find chipmunks and ground squirrels living in their underground burrows and dens, while the tree squirrel will be living in their tree nest.
  • They are also very different in size — chipmunks are around the size of a large hamster, while tree squirrels and ground squirrels are much larger.

  • Chipmunks eat mostly seeds, nuts, and berries, while tree squirrels are omnivores that eat mostly nuts, seeds, and plants.

  • Chipmunks live alone while some squirrels like flying squirrels and ground squirrels sometimes live in groups.

  • Chipmunks and tree squirrels have two litters per year, while some ground squirrels like the golden-mantled ground squirrels usually have one or two litters each year.

chipmunk vs squirrel - Kai the chipmunk
Kai – the most adorable chipmunk on the internet!
photo courtesy of @eve_the_junebug_squirrel_ on IG

Visually Identify a Chipmunk vs Squirrel

If you see a bushy-tailed animal in your yard, you can tell if it’s a chipmunk or a ground squirrel by looking for these differences in stripes, size, weight, and location.

chipmunk vs squirrel - comparison

Identify a Chipmunk

Chipmunk Stripes

There are five blackish stripes on its back and two tan and two brown stripes on its sides, leading to its reddish hind end.

Chipmunk Size

Chipmunks are generally between 4 and 7 inches long, not including their tail.

Chipmunk Weight

A chipmunk typically weighs between 1.5 and 5 ounces (42.5 and 142 grams).

Chipmunk Location

Chipmunks can be found almost anywhere there are trees in North America. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) says the only chipmunk that lives outside of North America is the Siberian chipmunk. The Siberian chipmunk lives in Asia and is spreading into parts of Europe.

chipmunk vs squirrel - golden mantled squirrels
Golden mantled Squirrels

Identify a Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel

Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel Stripes

A golden-mantled ground squirrel has stripes on its body but not on its face. Their tail is also shorter than normal, and their head and shoulders are shaded golden orange-brown. There are two black-bordered white stripes on each side of their body.

Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel Size

This ground squirrel is about 9 to 11.5 inches (23 to 29 cm) in length.

Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel Weight

For an adult squirrel, the weight range is 4 to 14 ounces (120 to 394 g).

Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel Location

The golden-mantled squirrel, native to western North America, is often mistaken for chipmunks. They live in the Rocky Mountains of British Columbia and Alberta, and most of the Western United States.

Identify a 13-lined Ground Squirrel

13-lined Ground Squirrel Stripes

Their name makes reference to the 13 white stripes that run the length of their backs, rows of white spots, resulting in a dotted line effect. Their background color is brown or tan, and their bellies are white.

Often sitting erect with their head pointing up, you’ll notice they have short ears. Tails are bushy but thin.

13-lined Ground Squirrel Size

A full-grown adult squirrel – 11 inches (28 cm) long, which includes a tail that is 5 to 6 inches (13 to 15 cm).

13-lined Ground Squirrel Weight

A full-grown adult squirrel – 4 to 5 ounces (113 to 142 gm) in the spring, but double that weight to endure winter.

13-lined Ground Squirrel Locations

They live as far east as Ohio and as far west as Montana and Arizona. They extend as far north as central Alberta and Saskatchewan and are as far south as the Texas coast.

Fun Facts: Chipmunk vs Squirrel

Chipmunk Fun Facts

  • Chipmunks are able to collect up to 175 acorns in a day.
  • A group of chipmunks is called a scurry.
  • An entrance to a chipmunk’s home, a burrow or den, can extend 20 feet (about 6 meters) long.
  • The chipmunk’s ‘bedroom’ in the burrow is extremely clean and tidy.
  • The average lifespan for a chipmunk is 3 years.
squirrel vs chipmunk - image of chipmunk with stuffed cheeks

Fun Facts: Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel

  • The golden-mantled ground squirrel hibernates typically from October and not emerging again until May.
  • Golden-mantled ground squirrels prefer to live alone after leaving their mother and siblings.
  • The squirrel rolls around in dust and dirt and uses its claws and teeth for grooming its fur.
  • Ground squirrels are found in dryer areas across Oregon and many states. They prefer dry rocky areas, and the edges of meadows, tundra, and forest openings (openings in the forest due to tree loss).
chipmunk vs squirrel - golden mantled ground squirrel on a rock
golden mantled ground squirrel

Fun Facts: 13-lined Ground Squirrel

  • They are often called leopard ground squirrels, squinny, and striped gophers.
  • They are not found in wooded areas
  • They are found in the central United States and Canada, from southern Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan to east central Arizona, central Ohio, and the Texas Gulf Coast, and also close to the Arizona-New Mexico border.
  • 13-Lined ground squirrels are true hibernators. Their body temperatures decrease to right above freezing and their heart rate decreases from the usual 200 beats per minute to 20 bpm.
  • The squirrels touch noses or lips upon greeting which makes it look like they are kissing.
  • Some can jump up to 5 feet and leap over 10 feet and run faster than 8 mph!
chipmunk vs squirrel - 13-lined ground squirrel in the grass eating
13 lined ground squirrel

Do Chipmunks and Squirrels Get Along?

The relationship between chipmunks and squirrels is an interesting one. While they are both rodents, they have very different behaviors.

Chipmunks are known for being shy and reclusive, while squirrels are known for being active and curious. Interestingly, chipmunks and squirrels will sometimes live in close proximity to each other without any problems.

However, there have been instances where chipmunks and squirrels have not gotten along. In some cases, chipmunks have been known to steal food from squirrels. In other cases, squirrels have been known to chase and harass chipmunks.

Overall, the relationship between chipmunks and squirrels is a complicated one. While they can sometimes get along, there is also potential for conflict.

chipmunk vs squirrel - golden mantled squirrel
Golden mantled squirrel

Chipmunk vs Squirrel: Conclusion

So, what’s the bottom line? Are squirrels and chipmunks the same thing? No, they’re not! But even though they have some big differences, these two rodents are still family!

Are you at the expert level at the difference between a chipmunk vs squirrel? If you have any tips or tricks regarding the identification of these squirrels, please leave a comment below or through the contact page.

If you would like to learn about tree squirrels and where they live, take a look at the Ultimate Guide to Squirrel Nests.

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