Squirrel Versus Chipmunk: The Key Similarities and Differences

At first glance, squirrels and chipmunks may look alike; however, these two animals have a lot of differences.

Similarity: Chipmunks and Squirrels Are Related

Chipmunks and squirrels are related, but they’re not the same animal. Chipmunks are smaller and have a pointed snout, while squirrels have a bushy tail and a round head. Squirrels are also the larger of the two. Chipmunks and squirrels eat seeds, nuts, fruits, bakery items – you name it! They live in different parts of the world, but they’re both rodents.

The Key Differences Between Chipmunk and Squirrel

Chipmunks and squirrels are two of the most common mammals in the world. They share many similarities, but a few key distinctions set them apart. 

For one, chipmunks hibernate during the winter while squirrels don’t. Another difference is that chipmunks are shorter-legged and have narrow tails, while squirrels have long legs with broad tails. 

Physical Traits

Chipmunks are diminutive creatures with a preoccupation with food. At the same time, squirrels are larger animals better at climbing and scampering. Physically, chipmunks have shorter tails and smaller ears than squirrels do. In terms of fur color, chipmunks sport light brown or black coats, while the thicker fur of a squirrel is often varying shades of gray or black (although it can also be reddish brown)

Finally, chipmunks communicate differently – chipmunks make high-pitched squeals while squirrels chirp like birds.


Regarding size, chipmunks come in as the smaller of the two rodents. They measure around 3.1 to 6.3 inches long (8 to 16 cm). Squirrels, on the other hand, can be as giant as 15 to 20 inches long and weigh about 1 to 1.5 pounds. 

When it comes to running, chipmunks are slightly faster than squirrels because they have longer legs and a more efficient gait. Both chipmunks and squirrels eat nuts, but squirrels are better at cracking them open because they have bigger and stronger teeth. 

Portrait of a surprised chipmunk sitting on a bench with seeds

Chipmunk fur is different, too – their dense coat of fur makes them less vulnerable to cold weather, while Squirrel fur is frailer, so they need warmer clothing during colder seasons.


There are many physical differences between chipmunks and squirrels. For starters, chipmunks are the smaller of the two, with squirrels being the more significant. Their fur is also different – while chipmunks have dense reddish-brown fur, squirrels have a much lighter coat of fur that ranges from light brown to black. Chipmunks are hairy all over their bodies, while squirrels only have fur on their heads, tails, and chests. 

Regarding their diet, chipmunks mainly eat nuts, seeds, and other plant material, while squirrels eat insects, bird eggs, and other small animals. Squirrels don’t have prominent noses or ears as chipmunks do. Chipmunks’ tails are much shorter than those of squirrels. When running or playing, they often hold up their tail to show it off!


The forests are where most of the chipmunk activity is found, while tree-living squirrels live in areas such as oak woodlands or coniferous forests. Because chipmunk nests rely mainly on natural materials like sticks and leaves, they’re more common in rural areas than tree-nesting squirrel species.

Squirrels are much better at climbing trees than chipmunks and can sprint on two legs. They both eat nuts, but chipmunks bury them for later while squirrels store them in their cheek pouches. Chipmunks have shorter tails than squirrels and are not as agile on the ground. 


One of the main differences between chipmunks and squirrels is their dietary preferences. Squirrels are higher in the food chain, meaning they eat more seeds and insects than chipmunks. As a result, chipmunks are more likely to eat acorns, while squirrels prefer seeds.

Chipmunks hibernate during the winter, whereas squirrels don’t bother because they can store food for winter. But on the other hand, chipmunks eat a lot of nuts and seeds, while squirrels mostly eat fruits and vegetables. Chipmunk teeth are sharp enough to break into these foods, whereas squirrel claws do the job just as well.

Brown squirrel with nuts


The lifespans of a chipmunk and squirrel differ significantly. A squirrel’s lifespan is around 5 to 10 years, while a chipmunk can live around 2 to 3 years in the wild. A Squirrel’s fur is thick and woolly, while a chipmunk’s fur is thin and sleek. Squirrels are better climbers and have a larger head size than chipmunks. They are also better at caching food, while chipmunks are better at digging up food.


Hibernation is a process by which animals go into a state of deep sleep to save energy by slowing down their metabolic rate and shutting down various functions to preserve food and water stores. Chipmunks undergo this process, while squirrels don’t.

Chipmunks spend the winter in a deep sleep, allowing them to conserve energy and survive harsh weather conditions. They are ready to start their annual mating rituals when they wake up in the spring. 


When it comes to food distribution, the chipmunk has the upper hand. This omnivorous rodent is better at foraging for food than squirrels and can store more of it in its burrow. Their snout is also more prominent, which aids them in finding edible items underground. 

Regarding climbing abilities, squirrels come out on top as they are excellent climbers, can easily navigate through trees, and are also known to be fast runners when needed.