You see a little critter scurrying around the garden, its back striped dark brown and white.
A chipmunk? A ground squirrel?
The species often get confused, because they are about the same size — 8-11 inches and 5-9 ounces — and they both burrow. However, there are some key ways to tell these creatures apart.
The eastern chipmunk (Tamias striatus) has seven stripes on its body — a single black stripe running down the middle of its back and three stripes on each side going black, white, black. The stripes do not extend onto the head. The thirteen-lined ground squirrel (Spermophilus tridecemlineatus) has just that — 13 lines. It has seven dark stripes separated by six lighter ones, every other of which looks like dash marks or dots. The thirteen-lined ground squirrel’s stripes extend onto the top of its head.
Chipmunks have rounded, erect ears, whereas ground squirrels have short ears that do not even stick out above the head.
Chipmunks have fuzzy, bushy tails. They often run with their tails held high. The thirteen-lined ground squirrel has a long, streamlined tail that is usually low to the ground as it moves along.
Chipmunks are found in deciduous forests or shrublands naturally, although they also live in suburban and urban areas where there is abundant cover. The thirteen-lined ground squirrel is a grassland creature, natively found in the prairies of the central U.S. They have also adapted to urban and agricultural development.
Chipmunks are great climbers, although they don’t climb trees incredibly often. They can also scale some buildings.
Thirteen-lined ground squirrels, however, don’t climb at all.
Now that you know the difference between an eastern chipmunk and a thirteen-lined ground squirrel, do you think you can tell apart and osprey and a bald eagle? Click here to learn seven differences between these birds of prey.