ID your Chipmunk
The locations where these particular chipmunks live can be found on our Chipmunk Geography page.
The chipmunk is a small, mostly ground-dwelling squirrel that can usually be distinguished from the squirrel by one of the following attributes:
- All chipmunks have stripes on their face.
- When startled, unlike the squirrel, most chipmunks will run away with their tail sticking straight into the air (most squirrels hold theirs horizontally and parallel to the ground).
- The chipmunk is much smaller than most squirrels.
- Unlike the squirrel, the chipmunk has pouches inside of its mouth where it will collect food to be stored - when these pouches are full, they can be as large as the head of the chipmunk.
Often, it may be difficult to tell two differing species of chipmunk apart that habituate a common area due to their numerous similarities. Listing these minute differences are well beyond the scope of this compilation. For definitive identification of similar species, simply perform a web search for your target animals.
North America is home to at least 22 species of chipmunk. Thirteen of these species can be found in California (with some overflow into surrounding states), the nine remaining species are scattered throughout North America. Not all of these species are listed below.
- Eastern chipmunk, Tamias striatus, is often the largest of the chipmunk species. On the back of the eastern chipmunk will be found 5 black stripes separated by stripes of gray, white, or brown. The underside of this chipmunk will typically be yellowish or whitish in color. The tail of the eastern chipmunk will be red-brown in color. Eastern chipmunks will grow to between 8.5-inches and 11.25-inches long and have an average weight of approximately 3.8 ounces.
- Hopi chipmunk, Tamias rufus, is one of the smaller of the chipmunk species weighing in at approximately 1.9 ounces and measuring between 6 and 8-inches in length. The Hopi chipmunks' coloring is typically a pale orange to yellow with faint almost unnoticeable stripes.
- Least chipmunk, Tamias minimus, is the smallest chipmunk found in North America. This chipmunk has three dark and two light stripes on the face and five dark and four light stripes on its back. The center stripe on the back of the least chipmunk will run to the end of its tail. The fur surrounding the stripes is typically orange-brown in color and its underside will be a white or off-white hue. The least chipmunk will grow to between 6 and 8-inches long and weigh between 1.5 ounces and 1.9 ounces.
- Townsend's chipmunk, Tamias townsendii. is one of the larger western chipmunks and will be most often found with dark colored fur and distinctive stripes. The Townsend's chipmunk will grow to between 8.7-inches and 12.5-inches long and have an average weight of approximately 3.5 ounces but can weigh up to 5 ounces.
- Dusky chipmunk, Tamias obscurus, is found with a grayish colored head, distinctive black and white colored facial stripes, and rather indistinct body striping that tends to blend in with its brownish background coloring. The dusky chipmunk will grow to between 8.25-inches and 9.25-inches long and weigh between 2 and 3 ounces.
- Yellow-cheeked chipmunk, Tamias ochrogenys, the yellow-cheeked chipmunk is very similar in appearance to the Hopi chipmunk in its pale yellowish-orange coloring. The yellow-cheeked chipmunk will grow to an average length of 10.25-inches and have an average weight of approximately 3.4 ounces.
- Siskiyou chipmunk, Tamias siskiyou, is found with a dull brown or grayish coat and is another of the larger chipmunk species. The Siskiyou chipmunk will grow to between 9.75 and 10.5-inches long and weight between 2.25 and 3.5 ounces.
- Colorado chipmunk, Tamias quadrivittatus, is one of the smaller of the chipmunk species averaging in at approximately 2.5 ounces in weight and measuring between 7 and 9-inches in length. The coloring of the Colorado chipmunk is yellowish brown with 3 black median stripes on its back that are typically margined by yellow-orange. The outer stripes are usually brown and the underside of the Colorado chipmunk is often an off-white or gray.
- Uinta chipmunk, Tamias umbrinus, is found with broad, brown colored body stripes edged with white and a grey or grey-brown colored head with black facial stripes. The Unita chipmunk has an off-white or gray-white underside. The Unita chipmunk is a medium sized chipmunk that grows to an average of between 8.5 and 9.5-inches long and weigh between 1.8 and 2.6 ounces.
- Lodgepole chipmunk, Tamias speciosus, is another of the small to medium sized chipmunk species found in North America. The lodgepole chipmunk will grow to an average of between 7.75 and 9-inches long and weigh between 1.8 and 2.5 ounces. This chipmunk is typically easy to identify in relationship to other neighboring chipmunk species that habituate the same area due to its sharp coloration and distinctive markings. The facial and body striping of the lodgepole chipmunk tend to be very dark and usually are a sharp contrast with the lighter colored border stripes. The underside of the lodgepole chipmunk will typically be a cinnamon color.
- Sonoma chipmunk, Tamias sonomae, is identified by rust colored body fur with 5 black body stripes separated by gray or brown colored stripes that are not sharply distinct. The facial stripes of the Sonoma chipmunk are usually white and its underside is typically found to be a creamy white hue.
- Allen's chipmunk, Tamias senex, also known as the shadow chipmunk, is a large chipmunk found with gray colored fur and one clearly discernable black body stripe. The underside of the Allen's chipmunk is typically white in color. The Allen's chipmunk will grow to between 9 and 10.25-inches long and weigh between 2.5 and 4 ounces.
- Red-tailed chipmunk, Tamias ruficaudus, is a large and deep orange-brown colored chipmunk with distinct contrasting colors. Its dark colored or black body stripes typically alternate with or gray or white. The facial stripes of the red-tailed chipmunk alternate brown and milky-white with a black eye stripe. The red-tailed chipmunk will grow to an average length of 9.25-inches and have an average weight of approximately 2.1 ounces.
- Long-eared chipmunk, Tamias quadrimaculatus, is easily distinguished by white patches of fur behind each of its long slender ears, dark body striping, and white-fringed tail. The bulk of its body is typically red hued with a white underside. The long-eared chipmunk will grow to between 9 and 9.5-inches long and weight between 2.6 and 3.7 ounces.
- Panamint chipmunk, Tamias panamintinus, is colored a bright tawny or yellowish color with mostly faded markings except for its uppermost stripes, which are typically dark with a brown center stripe. The Panamint chipmunk usually has a gray head and underside. This chipmunk will grow to between 8. 5 and 9.5-inches long and weight between 2.6 and 3.7 ounces.
- Palmer's chipmunk, Tamias palmeri, is one of the smaller of the chipmunk species averaging in at approximately 1.75 to 2.5 ounces in weight and measuring between 8.25 and 8.75-inches in length. The coloring of the Palmer's chipmunk is tawny and tan with distinctive solid black and solid white stripes and a pale underside.
- Merriam's chipmunk, Tamias merriami, is found with grayish-brown fur and dark colored body stripes of equal width on its back. The Merriam's chipmunk typically will have a white underside and white cheeks. The Merriam's chipmunk is a larger sized chipmunk that grows to an average length of 9.5-inches long and may weigh between 2.5 and 2.75 ounces.
- Cliff chipmunk, Tamias dorsalis, is primarily a gray-brown colored chipmunk with dark body stripes on its back that are typically more distinct during the summer than the winter. This particular species tends to not have white stripes alternating with the darker body stripes. The underside of the cliff chipmunk will often be a off-white color. The cliff chipmunk will grow to an average of between 8.5 and 9.5-inches long and weigh between 2.1 and 2.6 ounces.
- Gray-collared chipmunk, Tamias cinereicollis, is easily identified by its distinct black, pale gray, and off-white body stripes and gray hood. The gray-collared chipmunk will grow to an average of between 8.1 and 9.5-inches long and weigh between 1.9 and 2.5 ounces.
- Gray-footed chipmunk, Tamias canipes. The distinguishing feature of this chipmunk is its gray colored fur on its hind feet. The primary body striping of this chipmunk will be brown or black alternating with stripes of gray-brown and gray-white. The underside of the gray-footed chipmunk is typically creamy-white in color. The gray-footed chipmunk will grow to between 8.25 and 10.25-inches long and weigh between 2.3 and 2.6 ounces.
- Yellow-pine chipmunk, Tamias amoenus, has 5 black, evenly spaced body stripes alternating with stripes of gray or white. The bulk of the body fur of the yellow-pine chipmunk will typically found to be a cinnamon or light-brown coloring. The yellow-pine chipmunk is one of the smaller North American chipmunks. It will grow to between 7 and 9.25-inches and weigh between 1 and 1.75 ounces.
- Alpine chipmunk, Tamias alpinus, , is a small chipmunk of pale yellow-gray coloring and slightly contrasting body stripes. The belly of the alpine chipmunk is usually found to be a bright orange color. This chipmunk will grow to between 6.5 and 8-inches long and weight between 2.6 and 3.7 ounces.
- David E. Williams, 1994. Chipmunks: Prevention and control of wildlife damage. State Director. USDA-APHIS Animal Damage Control. Lincoln, Nebraska
- University of Michigan Museum of Zoology - Animal Diversity Web