Cyclists riding with Mountain Madness Tours along the Icefields Parkway often see both chipmunks and golden-mantled ground squirrels. These cute little rodents are entertaining to watch, as both species are curious and will approach people. They zoom about during the day, busily gathering food – pine and spruce seeds, berries, grass and sometimes mushrooms and a few insects. They’re also cautious, always on the look out for enemies such as hawks and coyotes. Both the chipmunk and golden-mantled ground squirrel spend winters underground in burrows. In the Alberta Rockies, they may spend more than 8 months underground.
What’s the Difference?
The chipmunk and golden-mantled ground squirrel are very similar in appearance. Both are small rodents with stripes. The golden-mantled ground squirrel is a little larger than the chipmunk, but how will that help if you don’t see both together to compare their sizes?
There’s one secret to differentiating between the two. The chipmunk has stripes on its face, while the golden-mantled ground squirrel does not.
|Chipmunk||Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel|
|Smaller, 8 – 9.5 inches (20 – 20 cm) in length||Larger, 9 – 12 inches (23 – 30 cm) in length|
|Coat: yellowish brown||Coat: yellowish brown|
|Three wide black/dark brown stripes on the back||Three wide dark stripes on back|
|Three dark and three pale stripes on each side of face||No stripes on face|
|Black ears||Brown ears|
|Light grey belly||Light buff to grey belly|
|Tail is longer||Tail is shorter|
|No mantle||Hair on shoulders is reddish or yellowish, which makes it look like it’s wearing a cape, or mantle|