What is major difference between squirrel vs chipmunk?

They both belong to the same family what are other major difference they have in common let me know.

Yesterday one squirrel came in my way during bicycle ride but thank fully they didn’t get harm.

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The physical distinctions are definitely the biggest difference. I assume you’re referring to the gray squirrel and the eastern chipmunk. Gray squirrels are much larger, gray with white undersides, and long bushy tails. Chipmunks, meanwhile, are small enough to fit in the palm of your hand and are a glossy golden-brown with conspicuous stripes running down their backs.

The other big distinction between them is their living habits. While gray squirrels are heavily adapted for arboreal lifestyles, chipmunks will dig elaborate burrows in the ground, sometimes with multiple entryways and escapes. Chipmunks are also capable of climbing trees, but they prefer to stay on the ground, while squirrels come down to forage but nest in, sleep in, and flee to the trees.

Tree squirrels are in subfamily Sciurinae and chipmunks are also squirrels but in the ground squirrel subfamily Xerinae. The facial striping in chipmunks seems to be a distinctive characteristics of all 3 chipmunk genera, perhaps not present in any other squirrels.


Interesting point about the facial striping. I’ve always felt that Golden-mantled Ground Squirrels were basically honorary chipmunks despite not being in the Tamiini Tribe, but as you’ve mentioned, they lack those facial stripes.


Palm Squirrels (in the Funambulini tribe) also have facial striping, so that isn’t indicative of a squirrel vs chipmunk divide, unless Palm Squirrels are no longer being counted as squirrels.

Facial striping probably isn’t unique to chipmunks but it’s a helpful characteristic to look for in a photo when trying to distinguish chipmunks from other ground squirrels in the area such as Callospermophilus or Ammospermophilus (in western US). Telling the species of chipmunks apart in western NorthAm is the real challenge.


It’s worth noting that chipmunks are not restricted to North America, although that’s where most of them are. There is one species, the Siberian Chipmunk (Eutamias sibiricus), that is found in Eurasia.

Where I currently work in SE Asia there are several small squirrel species in the Tamiops genus that most people would mistake for a chipmunk if they were unaware of the ranges of chipmunks vs squirrels (as most people are unaware). The little Tamiops fellows are the same size, colors, and patterns as many chipmunk species, but, like many species here, they are vastly more wary of humans than any chipmunks in North America or Eurasia I’ve encountered.

Yeah, the genera Tamias and Eutamias are not really a problem since there are not multiple species of either. But the Neotamias in western North America are diverse and very similar in appearance and there’s often more than one species present in many locations. And in many places they are very wary, can be a challenge to photo, if not habituated to humans.

California Ground Squirrels are also smaller than arboreal squirrels, and they have low tails. They like burrowing (very much!) and their fur is stippled rather than striped like a chipmunk.

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Many sciurids, including marmots, ground squirrels, and chipmunks, hibernate in winter. To my knowledge none of the tree squirrels are hibernators.


Squirrels are much bigger than chipmunks. They also tend to gray, or black depending on where you live. Chipmunks on the other hand are very small, smaller than a rat I’d say, and are light brown with white, gray, and dark brown stripes.

The biggest difference is them belonging to different parts of that one family, all chipmunks are in one tribe Tamiini that belongs to Xerinae with all the different ground sciurids and quite weird-looking squirrels, but then there’s a subfamily of striped squirrels, subfamily of giant squirrels, standalone pygmy squirrel, and subfamily of flying and regular squirrels that we’re most used to. Easy answer chipmunks are just genetically different and are not closely related to many species of squirrels they live next to.
But if you want a morphological sign, they have 5 dark stripes, squirrels have 4.

On hikes, squirrels scream at me from the treetops from daring me to enter their domain.

Meanwhile, chipmunks scream at my from a fallen log fifteen feet away

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