Difference between a Squirrel and a Chipmunk

Although belonging to the same biological family Sciuridae, the main difference between a squirrel and a chipmunk comes from their height and size comparisons. Chipmunks tend to be the smaller siblings of squirrels, however this is not the only differentiating factor between the two.

We will be covering these factors in detail below, but first let’s start by grasping an idea about these two super cute rodent types.

What is a Squirrel?

One of the cutest rodents to ever exist, squirrels are small mammals that are found anywhere, from trees to grounds. Their petite fast bodies are designed to help them survive everywhere except Australia and Antarctica, although there could be a number of other factors that may be preventing them from existing in the particular two terrains.

Depending upon their habitats, squirrels are generally of three types, including the tree squirrels, ground squirrels and flying squirrels. Thus while tree squirrels reside within tree burrows, ground squirrels dig in burrows to reside, however out of them flying squirrels are known to have a wide variety of habitat options. They can be found in snags, woodpecker holes, abandoned nests and even within nest boxes that may have been left in the wild.

Moreover, diet wise squirrels are omnivorous just like us humans. That means they feed on both plants and animals which includes seed, roots, fungi, caterpillars, insects and sometimes even young snakes. This however depends majorly on the food availability and therefore it is safe to categorise these rodents as omnivores.

What is a Chipmunk?

Another endearing family member of squirrels, chipmunks are the short statured siblings with reportedly black, brown and white stripes running down their backs. This is a trait that is found in all chipmunks; even though a few variations are possible amongst the sub-species of chipmunks; making them one of the major difference between a squirrel and a chipmunk.

Usually they grow up to a height of 3-5 inches and have a bushy thin tail that gives them the adorable appearance. But interestingly, the Eastern Chipmunks may grow out to be the largest, i.e., about 11 inches and even weigh around 4.4 ounces. Currently there are 25 species of chipmunks known to mankind which can be found everywhere except the extreme cold regions of the Arctic and Antarctic.

They too are omnivorous in nature and survive upon a diet that can consist of both plants and animals. Chipmunks normally feed upon fruits, nuts, seeds, berries, mushrooms but they also love to have baby birds, insects, frogs, and bird eggs. The food choice will mostly depend on their immediate environment and thanks to their omnivorous lifestyle, chipmunks can survive almost everywhere.

What is the difference between a Squirrel and a Chipmunk?

Even though both the rodents belong to the same family, there are subtle differences that mark the two separate from each other. These include:


Starting with the first basic difference between a squirrel and a chipmunk, squirrels are relatively larger creatures. As discussed above, a squirrel can easily grow up to a length of 9-12 inches, whereas only the Eastern chipmunk amongst all other chipmunk species has the ability to grow up to 11 inches. Rest of them stay between 3 to 5 inches and hence physically seem smaller than their counterparts, that is squirrels.


Another difference between the two rodents stems from their habitat choice. Even though they are perfectly capable of staying almost everywhere, squirrels are found everywhere except Australia and Antarctica, whereas chipmunks predominantly inhabit the North Americas with the Eastern Chipmunks scattered all throughout Asia.


Apart from the Polar region squirrels, no other species of squirrels are known to hibernate, contrary to chipmunks who go into hibernation from the very start of winter. Although squirrels stay a little less active during the season, that doesn’t mean they go into hibernation like their other siblings.

Here is a tabular form of all difference between a squirrel and a chipmunk.

DefinitionTree or ground dwelling rodentStriped rodent with smaller appearance
AppearanceComparatively larger with bushy tails and longer earsSmaller with bushy thin tails and a petite body
Height and Weight9-12 inches, 0.5 ounces to 4 pounds3-5  inches, 1 to5 ounces
HabitatParks, woodlands, forestsDeserts, mountains, forests
Presence of StripesNo stripes are foundHave black and white stripes running down their back
LifespanUp to 12 yearsUp to 6 years
HibernationSquirrels don’t hibernateChipmunks go into partial hibernation where they sleep for a few days and come out to look for food or get rid of their waste

So, this was all about the difference between a squirrel and a chipmunk.

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