Do you hunt squirrels for meat? Or do you spend hours daily trying to eliminate them from your backyard? Whatever the case, chances are that you have spotted this other animal that closely resembles the squirrel – the chipmunk.
The first time I spotted a chipmunk during my Saturday afternoon hunting spree way back in the 90s, I literally paused for some ten minutes to make sure I was only taking squirrels back home. And afterward, I had to do some serious research on the differences between a squirrel and a chipmunk. Are chipmunks and squirrels related? Let’s jump right in to find out.
1. Degree of nuisance
John Campbell of Airgun Maniac identifies the destructive nature of squirrels as one of the main reasons we should eliminate them by shooting.
- Squirrels steal more than half the birdseed left on bird feeders.
- Squirrels damage ceilings more than any other rodent.
- Squirrels cause power outages by nibbling on power cables.
- Squirrels spread filth around the house if they happen to get into your ceiling.
On the contrary, the cute chipmunks are much less likely to make your home their home. And so they never give you as much headache as squirrels.
Chipmunks mostly live underground. They are known to dig long burrows, sometimes more than 30 feet. For this reason, they prefer mature woodlands – exactly what is found in many peri-urban areas. With their burrow as the center point, chipmunks dominate about half an acre.
As for squirrels, most of them prefer to live in tree cavities. You will find them lining their nests with leaves, tree bark, and twigs.
By simply looking through the eye, chipmunks are generally much smaller than squirrels. A mature chipmunk weighs between 60 and 120 grams, with an average length of 16 – 30 cm.
Ground squirrels grow to between 25 and 30 cm in length.
Mature gray squirrels have an average body length of 50 cm and an average body weight of 680 grams.
Red squirrels grow to around 25 cm and 350 grams at maturity.
Fox squirrels are the largest with their body length ranging from 45 to 70 cm, tail length 20 to 33 cm, and weight 500 to 1000 grams.
Here is a summary of the difference in breeding behavior between chipmunks and squirrels:
|Species||Times they mate per year||Breeding Season||Gestation period||Size of litter|
|Chipmunk||2||Early spring, late summer||31 days||2-5|
|Gray squirrels||1||Early winter or early summer||35-42 days||3|
|Fox squirrels||1||Early winter||35-42 days||2-4|
|Red squirrels||1||Late winter||40 days||3-6|
Chipmunks are generally more vocal than squirrels. They make duck calls and high-pitched chips that resemble that of birds.
Squirrels, especially the gray squirrel, usually make a que-que-que call while flicking the tail. They also warn other squirrels by making a call that sounds kuk-kuk-kuk.
Chipmunks feature 5 wide stripes of alternating brown and tan colors on their head, back, and tail, with brown feet and near-white underbellies.
Ground squirrels, on the other hand, feature 13 narrow stripes – seven of them dark brown and the rest tan. The stripes do not extend to the head.
Tree squirrels have no stripes on the head nor on the body.
The underbelly of fox squirrels is usually reddish-brown while that of gray squirrels is white.
The only true hibernator is the ground squirrel. They spend the entire 3-4 winter months underground without waking up. For this reason, they never store food for the cold months.
Chipmunks try to hibernate but you’ll find them waking up every other day to feed. That’s why they store lots of nuts in their burrows for consumption during the chilly months.
8. Climbing skill
Chipmunks can readily climb trees in search of food. Ground squirrels also can climb trees but are not just fond of it. Their cousins, the tree squirrels, love the trees more than the ground.
Chipmunks go wild on nuts, seeds, insect and bird eggs, tiny snakes, and birds, whereas squirrels mainly feed on plants, seeds, and nuts.
Hopefully you now understand the main differences between chipmunks and squirrels! Check out this buying guide on Airgun Maniac to help you choose the best squirrel hunting air rifle. And avoid the chipmunks!