NatureMapping Animal Facts

Chipmunks and Squirrels

Learn how to identify Chipmunks and Squirrels.

Squirrels belong to a large family of small or medium-sized rodents called the Sciuridae. The family includes tree squirrels, ground squirrels, chipmunks, marmots (including woodchucks), flying squirrels, and prairie dogs. (Wikipedia)



Least Chipmunk
(Tamias minimus)

Chipmunks are small striped squirrels native to North America and Asia. Note the stripes on the head, back and tail. They are usually classed either as a single genus Tamias, or as three.

Ground Squirrel


Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel
(Spermophilus lateralis)

Ground squirrels are small striped mammals native to wooded and open rocky areas. They look similar to chipmunks, but do not have stripes on the head. Note the white eye-ring.

Tree Squirrel


Eastern Gray Squirrel
(Sciurus carolinensis)

Tree squirrels are larger that chipmunks and ground squirrels. They do not have stripes on the head or body. Note the prominant tail.
Sciuridae Classification

What is the difference between a chipmunk and a squirrel?

Chipmunks are small mammals with distinct stripes, while the tree squirrel is larger and doesn't have stripes. The ground squirrel has body stripes like chipmunks, but no head stripes. A tree squirrel is larger, has a longer tail and no stripes.

They all have short fur and small rounded ears.


Chipmunks range from 6 to 12 inches (16 - 30 cm) in length.

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, including the tail.

What do they eat?

Tree squirrels feed mostly on plant material, including seeds, nuts, acorns, tree buds, berries, leaves, and twigs. Chipmunks have a similar diet, but smaller plants are consumed.

One study of a least chipmunk's food caches revealed some 478 acorns and over 2000 cherry pits.


Chipmunk Calls: The chipmunk makes a variety of calls including clucks calls and high-pitched chips. Chipmunks are very vocal and some of the calls sound like bird chirps.

Listen to calls of the Chipmunk »

Squirrel Calls: The call of the Eastern gray squirrel— que, que, que, que —is usually accompanied by flicks of the tail. The alarm call is a series of rapid clicking sounds—kuk, kuk, kuk—which warns all other nearby squirrels of danger. A commonly heard vocalization is a rasping whisk accompanied by a flick of the tail.

Listen to calls of the Squirrel »

Range and Habitats:
distribution map

Range of Least Chipmunk

distribution map

Range of Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel

distribution map

Range of Eastern Gray Squirrels


Eastern Gray Squirrel

More information:

Chipmunk - Hinterland's Who's Who

Eastern Grey Squirrel - Hinterland's Who's Who

Tree Squirrels - WDFW Living with Wildlife

Chipmunk - Wikipedia

Squirrel - Wikipedia

Burke Museum's Mammals of Washington


Wilson, D. E.; D. M. Reeder (2005). "Mammal Species of the World (MSW)"

Maser, Chris. Mammals of the Pacific Northwest: From the Coast to the High Cascades. Corvalis: Oregon State University Press, 1998.

Photos: Tim Knight; Natures Pics

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