What is the difference between a squirrel and a chipmunk?

a squirrel.

Chipmunks and chipmunks belong to the same rodent family, which also includes marmots and prairie dogs. There are many different species of squirrel, but they can be grouped into three main types: ground, tree, and flying. The latter two are quite distinct from ground squirrels, but ground squirrels are very similar in appearance and habits, and it could be argued that ground squirrels are simply a type of ground squirrel. The main distinguishing features are that squirrels are usually smaller and have stripes on their faces.

A red squirrel.

While squirrels are found all over the planet except the polar regions, squirrels are confined to North America, except for one species found in northeast Asia. However, they have been introduced in some other areas. In places where both animals are present, it can sometimes be difficult to distinguish certain species.


Like other rodents, these two animals have four sharp incisors, used for gnawing, and flat back teeth, used for grinding hard food like nuts. They typically have four toes on each front foot and five on each back foot. In areas where both are found, squirrels are smaller, typically weighing only 2 to 4 ounces (56.7 to 113.4 grams), but a young squirrel can easily be mistaken for an adult squirrel. In terms of color, both are quite variable. Squirrels always have stripes, and while this is also true for many ground squirrels, they differ in that the stripes do not extend all the way to the face.

Habits and Behavior

Dry coyote urine can repel squirrels and chipmunks.

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These two types of rodents tend to prefer different habitats, although there is some overlap. Squirrels are mostly found in forested areas, where they can find trees and shrubs that provide fruits, nuts, and seeds. Ground squirrels, however, like to live in grassy areas, which is why they are often seen in parks and golf courses. Animals also differ in their dens. A squirrel’s burrow can be identified by the mound of dirt at its entrance, while a squirrel’s den has no dirt and is usually located at the base of a tree or bush.

Woodchucks are part of the same rodent order as chipmunks and chipmunks.

The squirrel also has pouches inside its cheeks, which it uses to store food while foraging. Swollen cheeks can be quite noticeable, but they are not a reliable identifying feature, as some ground squirrels also have them. A clearer difference is that squirrels tend to keep their tails straight in the air as they run, whereas a squirrel runs with its tail at a horizontal angle.

Both types of animals hibernate, but the two differ in the way they store food and prepare for winter. A squirrel will eat more as winter approaches in order to build its body mass enough to sustain it during the long, cold months, while a squirrel will eat food stored in its pouches as well as in and around its burrow during this period. Squirrels tend to have a lot of food stocks, and they may pop up briefly during the winter to feed on days when conditions aren’t too difficult.

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Relationship with Humans

Both animals can be useful to humans as they include insects in their diets and help keep the numbers down. They can also, however, be quite troublesome. Squirrels, in particular, can damage gardens by digging up bulbs, eating buds and shoots, and ripping bark off trees to use as nesting material. They often prey on the birds’ food, sometimes showing great ingenuity in entering the feeders despite efforts to stop them. They can also venture into houses and sometimes build nests in lofts and attics. Squirrels tend to be less destructive, but they can eat seeds and bulbs and sometimes enter homes.

There are a number of humane options for dealing with problems caused by these animals. Entry into the home can be prevented by screening windows and blocking any holes or gaps that might allow access to a loft or other part of the house. The rodents can also be caught using commercially available traps, to be released in another area. Dried blood and the urine of predators, such as foxes and coyotes, may also have a deterrent effect.

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