What is the Difference Between a Squirrel and a Chipmunk?
A squirrel and a chipmunk may look similar, but their differences are not as stark as you may think. Both are beneficial members of the ecosystem, and chipmunks play a key role in promoting forest growth by hoarding nuts and seeds. As a result, chipmunks also play an important role in spreading subterranean fungi. These two species are often confused.
While chipmunks and tree squirrels are almost identical in appearance, they are very different animals. Chipmunks are small and usually weigh only two to four ounces. Tree squirrels are about twenty-five centimeters (8-10 in) long, but their bodies are larger. These creatures also have distinctive tan, brown, and black stripes. Chipmunks are also similar to ground squirrels, but they are not the same species.
The major difference between chipmunks and tree squirrels lies in their tails. Chipmunks have long, bushy tails and run with their tails held high. By contrast, the thirteen-lined ground squirrels move with their tails low to the ground. While both ground squirrels and tree squirrels are native to deciduous forests, chipmunks are more common in urban areas. While they do not climb trees, they do climb trees.
The two types of ground squirrels and chipmunks are similar in appearance. Although they live underground, they have distinct features that help distinguish them from one another. Ground squirrels have smaller ears and a large head, whereas chipmunks have small, flat ears. The two species also have different habits, including feeding, defensive tactics, and hibernation patterns. To learn the difference between these two species, read on.
The difference between a chipmunk and a ground squirrel is easily identified by their color and appearance. Chipmunks are brown, with black and white stripes, and have a white belly. In comparison, ground squirrels have a black and white belly, while chipmunks have a gray or brown body and erect ears. Chipmunks have darker fur than their ground squirrel cousins, so you can easily tell which one you’re looking at by their color and pattern.
Similar mating cycles
Like chipmunks, both squirrels and chipmunks have similar mating cycles. Female squirrels typically mate with multiple males. The process usually takes about a minute and involves the male squirrel putting his penis into the female’s vagina. This plug blocks the other males’ sperm. Male squirrels usually sire only one litter per year. Females may also mate with different males.
Male chipmunks emerge about a week or two after the females. They are often chased by more than ten males and the mating is interrupted by the harassing males. This promiscuous mating system may explain why there are multiple matings per female. Chipmunk territories are small (about 20 m) and males disperse rapidly, making them unlikely to breed in the same territory. The juveniles emerge from their mother’s burrow in late May or early August.
The similar mating cycle of a squirrel and a chipmunk has long been a mystery. However, in recent studies of the same species, scientists have uncovered similar patterns in their mating cycles. Using video footage of the two species, researchers have discovered that females and males display similar patterns of mating. Despite the similarity between the two species, researchers are still unsure whether there is a genetic component to the similarities between the two species.
Storing food for winter
Squirrels and chipmunks have similar winter storage methods. Squirrels usually store food in a single location during the winter, while chipmunks store items in several smaller locations. Chipmunks spend four months in semi-hibernation, emerging from this state once or twice per week. Chipmunks store food in the burrows of two to three species, with the western chipmunk storing more than three times the amount of food as the eastern chipmunk.
Many animals store food for winter. Some are famous for this activity, while others toil in the background. While some animals store their food in nests or burrows, others collect and store food in knots, burying it for the winter. Feral cats also store food for winter in tree cavities and kegs, while squirrels and chipmunks store food in mounds.
Jessica Watson is a PHD holder from the University of Washington. She studied behavior and interaction between squirrels and has presented her research in several wildlife conferences including TWS Annual Conference in Winnipeg.