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Chipmunks or Squirrels? Our Study Using the Outdoor Hour Challenge

When you spend as much time outdoors as our family does, you eventually come across squirrels and chipmunks. Squirrels are an everyday occurrence in our yard but we do not see chipmunks at all. Chipmunks sometimes find us when we are out hiking, always when you stop to eat a picnic at Yosemite. I think the Chipmunk study as part of the More Nature Study series of Outdoor Hour Challenges will be one that is on-going since we were unable this week to observe any up close.

This past summer we had an experience where we thought we had seen chipmunks but turns out they too were squirrels.

Golden-manteled Ground Squirrel 2

This little rodent was very curious about us as we sat on the granite rock taking a rest after a long hot hike. He was not afraid of us in the least bit, begging a bite of our granola bars. We know better than to feed wild animals but he didn’t understand that people food is not good for him and insisted that he investigate our pack from the inside out.

Golden-manteled Ground Squirrel 4

We thought he was a chipmunk because of the stripes but when we got home and pulled up the field guide we realized he was a Golden-mantled ground squirrel. Our book says he is “medium sized” but we thought he was rather small compared to our other squirrels that we observe in our backyard, the Western gray squirrel and the Fox squirrel.

Golden-manteled Ground Squirrel

So how can we tell in the future that what we see IS a chipmunk? They have stripes on their head and our little ground squirrel does not.

Interesting facts:

  • Traditional hibernator- subject of much research on hibernation.
  • Eats leaves and seeds of grasses, occasionally eats nuts, roots, bulbs, and other underground plant parts.
  • Lives in the coniferous forest at elevations of 5,200 to 12,500 feet.
  • It is prey for hawks, jays, foxes, bobcats, and coyote.
  • Has cheek pouches for carrying food.
  • Digs shallow burrows (up to 100 feet) with hidden openings.
  • Cleans itself by rolling in the dirt.

Since we don’t have chipmunks in our neighborhood but we know we see them all the time when we are at Yosemite. Sounds like a good reason to take the drive soon!

5 thoughts on “Chipmunks or Squirrels? Our Study Using the Outdoor Hour Challenge

  1. What good information. I know this will help us as we search for a variety of squirrels. Thank you.

  2. I’ve always been confused by the whole chipmunk squirrel, so thank you for this.

    Dani @ ONNO Organic Clothing

  3. How cool. I didn’t realize there was a squirrel lookalike to a chipmunk. Growing up in Washington state, I associated chipmunks with the western side of the state, particularly the fir covered Olympics and squirrels with dryer Eastern parts of the state. Not sure if that was really accurate, but it was my sense growing up.
    We actually have both squirrels and (what I think are) chipmunks in our yard in Virginia. The chipmunks are much less acrobatic and more reticent.

  4. You got some nice pictures of the cute little guy! I would not have known he was a squirrel….Thanks for sharing!

  5. he really does look a lot like a chipmunk – he’s awfully cute! we love our field guides!!!

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