Chipmunk vs Squirrel: Is a chipmunk and a squirrel the same thing?

chipmunk vs squirrel
Chipmunks and squirrels are not the same. However, squirrels and chipmunks have similar physical features, behaviors, diets, and habitats.

Here is a table comparing their differences and similarities:

Chipmunks are about 6 to 12 inches in length.Squirrels are about 8 to 12 inches in length.
The lifespan of a chipmunk is about six years.The lifespan of a squirrel is about twelve years.
Chipmunks live in deserts, mountains, and forests.Squirrels live in parks and woodlands.
Chipmunks eat nuts, seeds, berries, and insects.Squirrels eat nuts and seeds.
Chipmunks are mainly found in North America and parts of Asia and Europe.Squirrels are found worldwide except in Australia and Antarctica.
Chipmunks can weigh about two to three ounces.Squirrels can weigh up to two pounds.

Are chipmunks and squirrels the same thing?

No, they are not; chipmunks and squirrels are different. Note that both animals are omnivores and are members of the squirrel family. Sciuridae is the scientific name for the squirrel family.

Chipmunks are a type of squirrel, but they are different than squirrels. The case is the same as with other creatures in the Sciuridae family.

For example, prairie dogs are in the squirrel family, too, but they are not the same as squirrels. Despite all these similarities, squirrels and chipmunks are not the same animal.

How in fact do you tell a ground squirrel from a chipmunk?

There are many different types of squirrels. The ground squirrel is the type of squirrel that looks most like a chipmunk. 

Ground squirrels and chipmunks have similar body stripes, but the specifics of their stripes depend on the squirrel or chipmunk species. The eastern chipmunk has seven stripes on its body, while the thirteen-lined squirrel, as the name suggests, has thirteen lines.

The eastern chipmunk has a black line down its back with a pattern of three stripes on each side of the middle stripe. The pattern is white and black. The stripes do not extend to the head of the chipmunk.

The thirteen-lined squirrel is a type of ground squirrel with a pattern of seven dark stripes and six lighter stripes. The key difference between this ground squirrel and chipmunk is that the squirrel’s stripes extend onto the top of its head.

Ground squirrels have shorter and smaller ears than chipmunks. The ears of chipmunks are rounded and more erect.

Chipmunks have bushier tails than ground squirrels, and their bushy tails are held high while running. Ground squirrels have more narrow tails, and their tails hang low to the ground as they move. 

Chipmunks and ground squirrels rest during the winter. But ground squirrels actually hibernate, unlike chipmunks. Chipmunks may be seen running around during the day in the winter, but it is highly unlikely to see a ground squirrel in the winter. 


Do All Squirrels and Chipmunks have Stripes?

Not all squirrels have stripes. Sometimes striped squirrels have stripes on their heads, and sometimes they don’t. For instance, the golden-mantled squirrel has stripes that do not extend onto its head.

All chipmunks have stripes, and chipmunk stripes are more distinguishable than squirrel stripes. Like squirrels, sometimes their stripes extend onto their heads, and sometimes they don’t. Again, it depends on the species.

It is easier to distinguish a tree squirrel from a chipmunk since tree squirrels don’t have any stripes on their bodies, and they are much larger.

Are chipmunks smarter than squirrels?

Both chipmunks and squirrels are intelligent in ways that are similar and different. It is unclear which creature is more intelligent. It is more commonly believed that chipmunks are smarter than squirrels, but squirrels are more intelligent than people realize. 

Both ground squirrels and chipmunks create deep, complex burrows. Their burrows can extend up to thirty feet long. These burrows also have different tunnels for different activities such as sleeping, excreting, giving birth, storing food, entering, and exiting.

Chipmunks have a designated area in their burrow for excreting, but squirrels do not excrete in their burrows. Squirrels excrete away from their burrows so that the smell of their feces in the burrow doesn’t lure in a predator. 

Ground squirrels have an excellent memory and sense of smell. In preparation for winter, they will scatter and hoard their food. This means they bury food in several places as a way to store food for the winter.

Squirrels remember where they buried their food and retrieve it quickly to get back into the warmth of their burrow. Ground squirrels will also pretend to bury something as a decoy. This fake burying tricks predators into searching for food that isn’t there. 

Both squirrels and chipmunks create unique vocalizations to communicate with their kind. Each of their sounds signifies a different meaning. The meanings range from mating calls, warning alarms, indicating they are nervous, and more. 

Can chipmunks mate with squirrels?

Squirrels and chipmunks do not actually mate with each other. They know that they are not the same animal, and squirrels and chipmunks only mate with their own kind.

Squirrels and chipmunks do not have genetic compatibility. These creatures are distant cousins, and they hardly even acknowledge each other when they pass by. 

Chipmunks and squirrels have different mating seasons. Although they both mate twice a year, squirrels mate in the summer and winter, while chipmunks mate in the spring and summer.


Whitney is a graduate of Georgetown College and a current graduate student at the University of the Cumberlands. She resides in the beautiful state of Kentucky, which she has always appreciated and endeavors to maintain the land's well-being. A lover of animals and the earth, Whitney strives to communicate accurate information that will help readers learn new information, ideas, and become informed stewards of the natural world.

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