Chipmunks include a group of small, striped rodents native to the Americas and Siberia.
Today, there are 25 living species, only one of which isn’t native to the Americas. However, most chipmunks look remarkably similar, with only small differences in coloration, striping, and size.
Still, these small mammals have captured the popular imagination with films and cartoons. Chipmunks are small and have large eyes, and most people think they’re cute when they stuff food into their cheek pouches.
Of course, that doesn’t mean they’re good pets. Chipmunks aren’t domesticated. In addition, it’s actually illegal to keep them in many states.
However, if you’re looking for cute rodents, there are plenty of animals that are remarkably similar to chipmunks. Some are only superficially similar, others share a significant amount of genetic similarity.
1. Tree Squirrels
Scientific Name (family): Sciuridae
Why Tree Squirrels Are Like Chipmunks: Tree squirrels are the arboreal (tree-dwelling) version of the same family as chipmunks, leading to a significant overlap in appearance and behavior.
Tree squirrels, commonly called just “squirrels”, include over 100 species of tree-dwelling rodents. Almost all of them look exactly the same.
Here, squirrels share coloration and average size with chipmunks. However, squirrels have no or less defined stripes down the back.
Almost all squirrels, though, have a white underbelly – much like the chipmunk.
At the same time, squirrels are very diverse. In fact, some squirrels are black and orange.
Prevost’s squirrel is also one of the largest, averaging close to a foot long and weighing almost a pound. Most squirrels are about half that size.
Unlike chipmunks, squirrels are famous for their long and fluffy tails. These tails often exceed the length of the body when stretched, but many squirrels keep the tail tucked up above the body.
Squirrels live almost exclusively in trees. They also eat a diet of mostly nuts and seeds, which they store in a single repository or bury.
2. Ground Squirrels
Scientific Name (tribe): Marmotini
Why Ground Squirrels Are Like Chipmunks: Chipmunks are actually in the same tribe as ground squirrels, making them the most closely related animal you’ll find anywhere.
Ground squirrels include a diverse range of animals mostly native to the Americas. These include groundhogs or woodchucks, prairie dogs, marmots, and chipmunks.
Most ground squirrels resemble the prairie dog or marmot rather than a chipmunk. However, there are significant physical resemblances.
Some ground squirrels like the Xerini (Native to African and Asian continents) look more like squirrels with short tails. However, almost all other species are stockier and have short necks and tails, just like chipmunks.
Otherwise, the size varies a great deal. The smallest ones are less than half a pound. The heaviest are giant marmots, which can weigh over 24 lbs.
All ground squirrels also burrow, meaning they live underground. In addition, they mostly live in social groups, but some, like the unstriped ground squirrel, are fully solitary.
However, even ground squirrels living in colonies, which may exceed 20 animals, are not extremely social.
3. Flying Squirrels
Scientific Name (tribe): Pteromyini
Why Flying Squirrels Are Like Chipmunks: Flying squirrels share many of the physical characteristics of chipmunks, including striping and build.
Flying squirrels are a distinct group of squirrels with flaps between the front and back legs and the ribs. These skin flaps allow this group of 50 different species to easily jump from tree to tree by gliding.
Unlike chipmunks, flying squirrels also have long tails, which help them stabilize and steer while gliding.
Most flying squirrels are native to Asia, however, three species are native to North America and one to Siberia.
Like other types of squirrels, they also vary significantly in size and coloration. For example, Hodgson’s giant flying squirrel can weigh up to four pounds and may be close to two feet in length.
On the other hand, the Humboldt’s flying squirrel normally doesn’t exceed 5 inches and doesn’t weigh more than 3 ounces.
Some flying squirrels can look exactly like chipmunks but with long tails and gliding flaps. Others can look closer to ocelots or mongooses. However, most look very similar to the traditional “squirrel”.
Scientific Name (family): Geomyidae
Why Gophers Like Are Chipmunks: Gophers have a similar build to chipmunks but in most cases, you won’t mistake one for the other, although both have cheek pouches.
Gophers are a diverse group of burrowing rodents that can superficially resemble chipmunks.
Here, gophers are ground-dwelling and often eat and socialize standing on back legs. In addition, gophers mostly have cheek pouches, which they use to store anything from food to nesting material.
Unlike chipmunks, gophers don’t have stripes. Instead, they’re normally a uniform brown, gray, or tan. In addition, most gophers have flatter feet, more suited for burrowing than chipmunks, although both do burrow.
And, unlike the chipmunk, the gopher is almost always seen as a pest, thanks to its tendency to tunnel and expand its colony.
For most landowners, gophers are synonymous with ruined gardens and laws, although not to the extent that moles are.
Scientific Name (family): Mephitidae
Why Skunks Are Like Chipmunks: While resemblances are few, these mammals share the chipmunk’s classic stripes.
Skunks are the least like a chipmunk of any animal on this list. However, they do share superficial similarities including very similar patterns, although the colors are different.
Like chipmunks, skunk patterns are useful in both hiding from predators and in mating selection.
Skunks also burrow, although they need significantly larger homes than chipmunks. They also rarely live in groups – meaning you’re more likely to see a single skunk than a group.
Otherwise, skunks have no similarities with chipmunks. In fact, Skunks are omnivores and will even eat small mammals if available.
However, most skunks rely on a diet of berries, nuts, and fungi to supplement snakes, lizards, and earthworms.
Scientific Name (genus): Castor
Why Beavers Are Like Chipmunks: Beavers are one of the largest rodents but otherwise share significant resemblance to chipmunks in build, eating habits, and appearance.
Beavers are large rodents native to the Northern Hemisphere, including Asia and North America.
All of them share body type and socializing habits with chipmunks. However, with different coloration, a much larger body size, and a long and flat tail, you’d never mistake one for the other.
Still, they have a lot in common. However, beavers build “lodges” or dams, which they use to live in socially and alone.
Beavers are also very aquatic, meaning they prefer to swim than burrow, and most of their lives are adapted to being in the water.
Beavers are also uniformly brown with no markings. Most have darker feet and tails.
In addition, both living species are significantly larger than chipmunks, with an average weight of 40-70 pounds, or a maximum weight of about 100 pounds.
Scientific Name (family): Gliridae
Why Dormice Are Like Chipmunks: The dormouse is the smallest family of rodents in the “squirrel-like subtribe and can look quite a bit like a miniature chipmunk”.
Dormice are small rodents in the squirrel suborder. However, with 29 species spread across the globe, there’s a considerable difference in size and appearance between species.
Almost all are small, can burrow but mostly live in trees, and have short or medium tails. In addition, they normally have furry tails, like squirrels.
Unlike most squirrels, dormice are more prone to eating lizards and insects. That makes them more like mice, which allows them to survive in colder areas with fewer trees.
Dormice are also normally between 2 and 8 inches in length including the tail and don’t normally weigh more than about 6 ounces.
There are plenty of animals that are very similar to chipmunks. Of these, the ground squirrels are the most similar, because chipmunks are a type of ground squirrel. In addition, most chipmunk-like animals are native to the Americas. However, you can find similarities around the globe.