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Is a Chipmunk Considered a Rodent?

Is a Chipmunk Considered a Rodent?

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Contrary to what you may have seen in movies, chipmunks don’t usually belt out pop songs! However, they do make distinct chirping sounds.

Because of their small size, some people can confuse them with rats or other rodent species. This might leave you wondering: Is a chipmunk a rodent?

Yes, chipmunks are part of the rodent family! But what makes them different from other rodents, we hear you ask?

Well, let’s explore their unique characteristics and their similarities to their rodent cousins together!

Species Overview: Chipmunk

Chipmunks are small, striped, and furry mammals with large cheek pouches, similar to hamsters. They use these pouches to store and transport food.

For the most part, chipmunks scamper and forage on the ground. Still, they’re also excellent climbers when they need access to nuts and other food sources from trees.

They’re omnivores, so their diets include berries, acorns, nuts, insects, seeds, fungi, and sometimes baby birds. They store their food supply in burrows, which is also where they sleep.

Some chipmunks, such as the Eastern chipmunks, use their burrows as their hibernation spot. In contrast, Western chipmunks only use them as food stores because they don’t hibernate.

Chipmunks vocalize to communicate with one another. They make a shrill chirping or a “chip, chip” sound, hence the name chipmunk.

Is a Chipmunk a Rodent?

Yes, they are. Chipmunks belong to the Sciuridae family, which is under the order Rodentia.

Animals under the rodent family have upper and lower paired incisors. Rodentia is a highly diverse order, which means chipmunks have many cousins.

Some of the other members of the rodent family include rats, mice, squirrels, hamsters, and guinea pigs.

Common Chipmunk Species

Chipmunks are usually classified into a single genus, Tamias. However, some references further classify them into Tamias, Eutamias, and Neotamias.

Regardless of the genus, all species are primarily found in North America, except for the Siberian chipmunk, which is found in Asia.

There are a total of 23 chipmunk species across all of the genera. Below are some of the most common species.

Eastern Chipmunk

The Eastern chipmunk, or the Tamias striatus, is the only living member under the Tamias genus. They’re common in the US and southeastern parts of Canada, and there’s a high probability that you’ve seen one if you live in these areas.

These chipmunks have a reddish brown coat color, a white stripe above and below their eyes, and white and black stripes that run from their neck to the base of their tail.

They’re diurnal, so they spend most of their nights asleep and then wake up at dawn and forage throughout the day. This is why they’re mostly seen during daytime around forests and suburban or rural parks.

Least Chipmunk

The Least chipmunk, or the Tamias minimus, is the smaller counterpart of Eastern chipmunks. They’re the smallest chipmunk species, with a maximum length of around 7 to 9 inches.

They share many features of the Eastern chipmunk, including their distinctive stripes and coat coloration, but they can also appear gray.

However, they don’t hibernate like the Eastern chipmunk. They spend their winters in a deep sleep, but they wake up occasionally to eat.

Final Thoughts

So, if anyone asks, is a chipmunk a rodent? The answer is yes!

Chipmunks are the small and striped members of the rodent family, specifically the Sciuridae family or the squirrel family.

They’ve been called ground squirrels and chip squirrels because they’re primarily ground foragers that make chirping sounds.

While they aren’t naturally movie stars, they do make exciting chipping and chirping sounds. On top of that, their small size, furry bodies, and striped patterns make for a cute rodent!


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