What are the differences between them, and does it really matter?
- Diet requirements
- Mating habits
- Lifespan and known predators
- Destructive traits
Prairie dogs, woodchucks, and marmots are all in the squirrel family too. Although squirrels and chipmunks are closely related, there are some significant differences between them.
Differences Between Their Diet
They're typically grayish rather than actually being gray. Their coat is a mixture of blacks, whites, and browns. They generally grow to around 18-20 inches long and around a pound-and-a-half in weight.
Chipmunks are tan colored with five very prominent black or dark-brown stripes running down their sides and back. They have light-colored underbellies and brown feet.
Differences Between Their Habitat
Squirrels usually live in holes left in trees by woodpeckers, expanded them as they see fit. Their nests are packed with twigs, leaves, moss, and other materials. They prefer to live high up in trees.
Chipmunks on the other hand, live in woodland, parkland, suburban, and urban areas the same as squirrels. However, their optimal habitat is deciduous woodlands that contain a lot of stumps and logs.
Differences Between Their Diets
Chipmunks, on the other hand, are omnivorous. They'll eat just about anything, including garden vegetables, berries, fruit, roots, corn, seeds, and mushrooms.
They'll also eat insects and earthworms, snails, bird's eggs, frogs, salamanders, and small snakes, young birds and mics. From mid-summer to October, chipmunks gather as much food as they can, storing it in their burrows.
Although they don't hibernate the way a bear does, they do go into a state of torpor, fluctuating back and forth between sleep and grogginess when they eat their stored supplies.
Differences Between Reproduction
Differences Between Lifespan
Squirrels are hunted by various snakes such as rattlesnakes and black snakes, as well as weasels, skunks, and foxes. They are especially subject to predation by hawks and owls.
Only 1-in-4 survive their first year. After their 2nd year of life, an experienced squirrel can live for another 4-5 years, but none are known to have lived longer than 7 years.
Age slows down their reflexes and they inevitably fall prey to some predator. Harsh winters that result in a shortened growing season can cause a drop in their available food supply, leading to starvation.
Chipmunks are similar to squirrels in almost every respect in this area. The only difference is that they normally live for two to three years in the wild and five to eight years in captivity.
Which is Worse? Chipmunks or Squirrels?
While chipmunks are generally considered “cute” – witness Alvin and the Chipmunks – they're not known for chewing through power lines, whereas squirrels are famous for it, although perhaps “infamous” is more accurate. Squirrels have caused so many power outages and blackouts in so many places even the New York Times carried an article about them one time.
Chipmunks by contrast, generally don't do any of these things. They just stay outside looking all cute and adorable and posing for pictures.
Do Squirrels and Chipmunks Get Along?
They make their homes in different places so they're neighbors, but nothing more. It's uncommon to see squirrels and chipmunks run right past each other as if the other one was invisible.
Do Squirrels and Chipmunks Mate?
Although they're both members of the Sciuridae family of rodents, they have so little in common there's really nothing to attract them or bring them together.
Cute or Nuisance?
From a human standpoint, the only important difference is that chipmunks are cute and harmless, while squirrels are kinda cute and a dadgum nuisance.
And that's the way it is!
Other Pest Guides
Curious about other squirrel and chipmunk guides? Check out our other detailed guides to help you deal with your pest problems.