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Chipmunks and 13-lined Ground Squirrels

People commonly mistake eastern chipmunks (Tamias striatus) and 13-lined ground squirrels (Spermophilus tridecemlineatus) for the same animal, but both species have distinguishing marks and habits.

Chipmunk

The chipmunk has five dark brown stripes that run from its head to its rump. The two outer stripes on both sides sandwich light ones. Two light and three dark stripes also run above and below each eye. It has rounded, erect ears and pouches in each cheek, which allow it to stash and carry food and excavated dirt. (After working on its burrow, a chipmunk carries the dirt away so it doesn’t accumulate near the entrance and attract the attention of predators.)

Chipmunks are active during the day year-round and scurry about with their tails straight up in the air, looking somewhat like zooming remote-controlled cars. They prefer the edges of wooded areas and occasionally climb trees to find food. They eat a variety of berries, nuts and seeds and may also eat small animals, including insects, earthworms, slugs, young mice and birds, and small frogs and snakes. They have two breeding seasons, one in spring and one in late summer, and have five or six young per litter.

13-lined Ground Squirrel

The 13-lined ground squirrel has 13 lines on its back, some spotted, which run from its head to its rump. It has large eyes and small, short ears.

13-lined ground squirrels are active during the day and hibernate in winter in burrows. They prefer open grasslands and often stand on their hind legs to survey their surroundings. They eat equal amounts of plants and animals, including seeds, fruits, nuts, roots, foliage, grasshoppers, moths and butterflies, earthworms, and young birds and mice. They have one litter of six or seven young usually around the end of May.