Squirrel vs Chipmunk: [Top 10 Similarities & Differences]

When you are out enjoying those spring and summer days there is no doubt that you are going to run into a rodent of two. Heck, you will probably spot a rodent or two when you are lazing around in your back yard.

Depending on where you are located, it is possible that you could encounter a variety of rodents. However, the most common type of rodent that you will probably spot will either be the squirrel or the chipmunk.

Most people don’t even know these difference between the two. It is true that they both species share some similarities, but they are also each unique in their own ways. Understanding what each rodent has to bring to the table will give you a better understanding of nature altogether.

Sciuridae Family

Squirrel vs Chipmunk

Both the squirrel and chipmunk are members of the Sciuridae family. However, it is extremely easy to differentiate from the two. Other members of the Sciuridae family include the prairie dog, which also has some very unique features. So, it should be easy for the average person to differentiate between all of these rodents.

[Related Article: Average Lifespans Of A Squirrels]


The squirrel varies in size from three to five pounds and eight to 16 inches in length. The chipmunk, on the other hand, weighs between 2-1/2 and five pounds and 8-1/2 to 11-1/2 inches in length. If you familiarize yourself with these sizes, you will not have any issues differentiating between the chipmunk and squirrel.

Food Storage

Both the squirrel and chipmunk store foods for winter. To keep the foods safe from the elements, these rodents will build tunnels that can extend from many feet. However, it depends on the species because some squirrels do not create holes for food storage.

Various types of squirrels are found throughout the world. But, most squirrels replicate the same behaviors. Some of these species live in extensive tunnel systems while others live in burrows.

[Related Article: How Do Squirrels Survive The Winter]


Most squirrels and chipmunks give birth at least once a year throughout their adult life. It is not uncommon for these rodents to give birth twice a year. The baby chipmunk can weigh between 40 and 55 grams. The baby squirrel weighs slightly a little more than the baby chipmunk, which is only expected due to the mother squirrel and chipmunk’s size difference.

Eating Habits

Heck, most people didn’t even know that both squirrels and chipmunks are classified as rodents. Since they are from the rodent family this means that they will have four sharp incisor teeth as well as flat teeth located in the backs of their mouths.

These teeth are specifically designed to help the animals grind those harder foods and nuts. Both species are known to much on similar foods like nuts, berries, seeds, mushrooms, or bird eggs, but their eating habits are far from the same.

The squirrel will eat their feel of food until they are full. The leftover cache will be stored away for later consumption. The chipmunk takes a somewhat similar approach in a different manner. The chipmunk will consume until they are full, but they will then store the rest of the food away in special pouches located in their cheeks. That being said, chipmunks are also known to burrow tunnels and fill them with food supplies.

Hibernation Habits

Squirrel vs Chipmunk

When it comes to winter it is the squirrel that is the true hibernator. Sure, you will see some squirrels out probably foraging for food during those long winter months, but for the most part that are true hibernators. This simply means that they will eat a large amount of food to build up enough fat to live on during those months.

This is not the case with the chipmunk. Yes, chipmunks like to limit their movement as much as possible during the winter, but they will still be somewhat active. Chipmunks usually like to store food in burrows during the winter and they will be most active when they are traveling from nest to food cache.

This is, of course, if they aren’t living underground. Some chipmunks will also live underground in similar burrows where they store food.

Eye Rings

Don’t make a guess. Instead, you should look at the animal’s eyes. One thing to note is that the chipmunk does not have eye-rings. The squirrel might. This is the case with the striped ground squirrel. They look very similar to chipmunks.

However, you can tell the difference by looking for a white ring around the animal’s eye. If they have it, you’re dealing with a squirrel. Chipmunks will never have an eye-ring.


Another way to tell the difference between the two is by looking at their tails. While their tails are going to look similar, they’ll be different in one or two ways. For starters, the chipmunk’s tail is not too bushy. And, it is going to stick straight up in the air when the animal moves.

The tails of squirrels are bushier. At the same time, the trail is going to maintain a horizontal angle when the animal runs. Take a close look at the animal’s tail and you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding out what animal you are watching.


These animals are best known for their cheek pouches. This is why it is fun to watch chipmunks and squirrels eat. Chipmunks will have cheek pouches. These pockets are found on their jaws and cheeks. These pouches give them the ability to collect food very quickly.

Then, they’ll be able to transport the food to a safe location. The squirrel is different. Most squirrels are going to have cheek pouches too but some do not.

The tree squirrel and the flying squirrel will not have cheek pouches. At the same time, you should know that the African ground squirrel isn’t going to have a cheek pouch either.


Squirrel vs Chipmunk

Initially, you may believe that the two look identical. This isn’t true. There is one may difference between them. When you spot one of these animals, you should look closer for stripes. Do you notice any stripes? If so and they’re visible across the animal’s back, you’re dealing with a chipmunk.

These animals have a stripe on their face, tail, and back. It will run from their head to tail. As for the squirrel, some have stripes and so do not.

The ground squirrel does have a stripe. However, that stripe is not going to extend to the animal’s face. With that being said, you should look at the animal’s face. If you notice a stripe on its face, you’re dealing with a chipmunk. Otherwise, it is some type of squirrel.

 Where They’re Located

Another thing to note is that these two animals cannot be found in the same areas. The squirrel is more widespread. You can find squirrels almost anywhere. They’re found in all of the world’s continents. This is not the case with the chipmunk. In general, it is only possible to find chipmunks in North America.

However, there may be a few species of chipmunks that can be found elsewhere. Either way, squirrels are more common than chipmunks.


At the end of the day, the chipmunk and the squirrel are very similar. They look the same and they behave the same. However, there are many things that set them apart. If you’re outside of North America, you’re most likely looking at a squirrel.

If you’re living in North America, you’ll need to look closer to find out which animal you’re dealing with. Take the factors above into consideration and you shouldn’t have any trouble finding out which animal you’re looking at.

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