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Squirrel vs. Chipmunk: What’s the Difference?

How can you distinguish between a Squirrel versus a Chipmunk?

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If you don’t get out that much and seldom encounter rodents, you probably won’t be able to tell the difference between a squirrel and a chipmunk. To the casual observer, both might seem indistinguishable from each other, but there are in fact many ways to differentiate the two. Both species belong to the rodent family, having four toes on each front foot and five on each back foot. They also possess four pointed incisors and flat back teeth used for crushing hard food like nuts. Although a squirrel and a chipmunk belong to the same family, they differ in terms of physical features, food consumption and habitation.

Physical Features

• Smaller than a squirrel, runs quickly with its tail straight in the air
• Has 5 dark brown stripes that run from its head to its tail, which is often upright
• Weighs 4-8 ounces, runs with its tail at a horizontal angle
• Has 13 dark brown stripes running the length of its body, but none on its face

Dietary Habits

• Has pouches inside its cheeks used for storing food like seeds, nuts and fruits
• A chipmunk eats these stored food from its pouches, and from around its burrow.

• While some ground squirrels have pouches, tree squirrels don’t have them.
• A squirrel eats more before winter in order to increase its body mass and survive the long months


• Usually found in forested areas, where there are plenty of bushes and trees that will provide fruits, seeds and nuts.
• Has a dirt-free burrow and is often located at the base of a tree

• Usually lives in grassy areas, like parks and golf courses
• Has a mound of dirt at the entrance of its burrow

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