How Exactly is a Chipmunk Different from a Squirrel?

Difference between chipmunk and squirrel
How do you differentiate a chipmunk from a squirrel? One - by watching it closely and two - by reading this Buzzle post.
Did You Know?
Both squirrels and chipmunks play an important role in the local ecosystem. They carry and hoard seeds and nuts. They promote forest growth as they move and hide the seeds around. Besides transporting the seeds, they also help disperse the spores of subterranean fungi.
Squirrels and chipmunks, both belong to the family Sciuridae. Both are small rodents that eat nuts, fruits, seeds, green vegetation, fungi, and insects. The family Sciuridae consists of tree squirrels, ground squirrels, chipmunks, marmots, flying squirrels, and prairie dogs. Chipmunks are commonly referred to as 'striped squirrels', but they are not squirrels. Comparison of these two rodents, taking into consideration their physical characteristics, habits, and habitat, can reveal the differences between the two.

There are three types of squirrels - ground, tree, and flying squirrels. Both chipmunks and ground squirrels live in underground burrows, which can be up to 30 feet long and can have several tunnels. The nests (drys) of tree squirrels are located high in trees. Flying squirrels are nocturnal, and they also live in nests or tree holes. The color of the squirrel varies according to the species. They can be gray, brown, or reddish brown.
Faces of chipmunks
Faces of chipmunks - the hard-working animals, are very cute. You may enjoy watching these chubby-cheeked, smart, crafty mammals. Take a look at the cheek pouches of the chipmunk and the position of its tail as it runs, in the pictures below.
Chipmunks
Faces of chipmunks
Chipmunk running
Squirrels
Both squirrels and chipmunks have short fur and small rounded ears. Now look at the bushy tail of the squirrel and its peculiar position when it runs. (Pictures below)
Squirrel with Nutshell
Squirrels
Squirrel run
Chipmunk Vs. Squirrel
Squirrels are found in all continents of the world, except for the polar regions. However, chipmunks are mainly found in North America. One of the species is found in northeast Asia. Difference between chipmunk and squirrel is explained in the chart below.
Distinguishing Features
Chipmunks
Chipmunks always have stripes on their backs, tails, and faces. The stripes run from their heads to tails.
Squirrels
All squirrels do not have stripes. Many ground squirrels have stripes (such as the thirteen-lined and golden-mantled ground squirrels), but they do not extend onto their faces.
Cheek Pouches
Chipmunks
They have pockets on both sides of the face, between the jaw and the cheek. The pouches promote rapid collection of food. They serve as temporary storage and facilitate quick transport of food. Chipmunks carry various food items to their burrows for consumption or storage.
Squirrels
Most ground squirrels have cheek pouches, but flying and tree squirrels do not. African ground squirrels do not have the pouches.
Tail
Chipmunks
It runs with its tail straight in the air. A chipmunk's tail is not as bushy as that of a squirrel.
Squirrels
It has a bushy tail and runs with its tail at a horizontal angle.
Eye Ring
Chipmunks
Chipmunks don't have eye ring.
Squirrels
Striped ground squirrels which look like chipmunks can be differentiated with the help of white eye ring that they have.
Size and Weight
Chipmunks
These are generally smaller and lighter than squirrels. They range from 6 to 12 inches (16 - 30 cm) in length. The 'Least chipmunk' (Tamias minimus) can be 7.2 to 8.5 inches long and it may weigh as much as 1.1 to 1.8 ounces. The Eastern chipmunk can be 11 inches long and may weigh as much as 4.4 ounces.
Squirrels
These are usually larger and heavier than chipmunks. The size and weight may vary according to the species. Ground squirrels range from 8 to 12 inches (25 - 30 cm) in length. Tree squirrels are 12 to 20 inches (38 - 52 cm) in length. African pygmy squirrel is only five inches long from nose to tail, while the Indian giant squirrel is three feet long.
Number of Species
Chipmunks
There exist 25 species of chipmunks. According to some researchers, they belong to a single genus Tamias. According to some, they belong to three genera: 1. Tamias that includes the eastern chipmunk, 2. Eutamias, which includes the Siberian chipmunk; and 3. Neotamias, which includes the 23 remaining, mostly western, species.
Squirrels
More than 200 squirrel species have been identified by the scientists. They live all over the world.
Lifespan
Chipmunks
They typically live for about three years, however, they can live up to nine years in captivity.
Squirrels
Most squirrels die in the first year of life. Some live up to 10 years in the wild, although 3-5 years is the average life span for adults. They may live up to 20 years in captivity.
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Diet
Chipmunks
They eat grass, nuts, buds, seeds, fruits, vegetables, worms, insects and other arthropods, small frogs and bird eggs along with various other forms of plant matter.
Squirrels
They eat nuts, seeds, conifer cones, fruits, fungi, roots, leaves, caterpillars, and green vegetation. They store acorns for the winter. In case of scarcity of food, a squirrel may consume meat. Some squirrels eat only insects while some eat eggs, insects, small birds, smaller rodents, and even young snakes.
Foraging
Chipmunks
They climb trees to obtain nuts, but generally, they collect food on the ground. You can locate them in areas with underbrush, rocks, and logs. They quickly hide behind rocks and trees, and stay away from predators like hawks, foxes, and snakes.
Squirrels
They are mostly found on trees, but they also come down, run on ground, and collect food.
Hibernation
Chipmunks
They hibernate during the winter. Like other hibernating animals, they don't store fat. They slowly gnaw away the nuts and seeds, that they collect and store during summer.
Squirrels
Some ground squirrels hibernate during the winter season.
Social Life
Chipmunks
They are solitary creatures and independent mammals. Usually, they ignore one another, except during the spring, when mating takes place.
Squirrels
Ground-dwelling squirrels are quite social. Red and gray squirrels lead solitary life.
Breeding
Chipmunks
Eastern chipmunks mate in early spring as well as in early summer, and give birth to 4-5 babies twice every year. Western chipmunks breed only once a year. The gestation period is of about 30 days. The young ones start collecting their food on their own after about 8 weeks.
Squirrels
Squirrels breed once or twice a year and give birth to a varying number of kittens (2-8) after three to six weeks, depending on species. Kittens being blind, depend on their mothers for 2-3 months.
Sound
Chipmunks
Chipmunks make clucking sounds. High-pitched chirps are quite common. Sometimes, the calls sound like bird chirps. They must have got their name from the 'chip-chip' sound that they make.
Squirrels
They make sounds 'que, que, que', or they warn their friends and family members of danger by making rapid clicking sounds - kuk, kuk, kuk...They flick their tails while calling.
Nuisance Value
Chipmunks
Chipmunks are much less likely to enter your house, and cause damage.
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Squirrels
They may enter your house in search of food or to store food. They may dwell in your chimney or attic, spreading filth. They may eat away the peanuts kept in bird feeders. They are noisy and they can cause damage by digging up bulbs, eating buds and shoots. They often strip tree barks to build their nests. Installing chicken wire as a barrier is recommended to keep them out of your garden.
Both chipmunks and squirrels are nearly identical, small, and cute animals. Both have adapted themselves to suburban neighborhoods.