Abundant in both urban and rural habitats, squirrels are a common sight to many. Some people consider them pests, while others enjoy the sight of these animals scurrying along the trees or nibbling on acorns and peanuts. If you are a squirrel lover, read on to learn about other animals that are similar to squirrels, in terms of diet, habitat, morphology, or social interaction.
Scientific Name: Sciuridae spp.
Squirrels are small mammals that belong to the Sciuridae family. Their name is derived from the Greek word “skiouros” which means “shade tail”, describing the iconic bushy tail of these rodents.
Squirrels are identified by their slender bodies, fluffy tails, and small heads with blunted muzzles. Their fur comes in a variety of colors, grey being the most common. Rarer morphs include red, black, and white.
Nuts, seeds, and fruits make up the majority of a squirrel’s diet, but these animals are actually omnivores. Small insects and eggs may be consumed when plant food is scarce.
List of Squirrel Lookalikes
Below is an alphabetical list of animals that look like squirrels.
- Alaska Marmot (Marmota broweri)
- Alpine Chipmunk (Tamias alpinus)
- Black-Tailed Prairie Dog (Cynomys ludovicianus)
- Cliff Chipmunk (Tamias dorsalis)
- Groundhogs (Marmota monax)
- Hoary Marmot (Marmota caligata)
- Hopi Chipmunk (Neotamias rufus)
- Kha-Nyou (Laonastes aenigmamus)
- Least Weasel (Mustela nivalis)
- Lodgepole Chipmunk (Tamias speciosus)
- Long-Tailed Chinchilla (Chinchilla lanigera)
- Minks (Neovison vison)
- Muskrats (Ondatra zibethicus)
- Nutrias (Myocastor coypus)
- Olympic Marmot (Marmota olympus)
- Panamint Chipmunk (Tamias panamintinus)
- Raccoons (Procyon lotor)
- Stoat (Mustela erminea)
- Utah Prairie Dog (Cynomys parvidens)
- White-Tailed Prairie Dog (Cynomys leucurus)
Animals That Look Like a Squirrel
This article lists a variety of different animals that appear similar to squirrels, outlining their geographic location, physical description, diet, and behavior.
Scientific Name: Chinchilla lanigera
Chinchillas are medium-sized rodents that are valued for their very soft and dense fur. As such, they were almost hunted to extinction in the wild. They have round, compact bodies with large ears and bushy tails. Their fur is generally blue-grey in color.
The chinchilla resembles a squirrel due to its grey coloration which is shared by many squirrels, as well as its bushy tail. However, chinchillas are larger and more rotund than their squirrel counterparts.
During the day these animals hide between rock crevices and cavities. They emerge during the evening to forage for vegetation such as grasses, roots, and berries. Commonly, chinchillas are mainly kept as pets.
Chinchillas are distributed across South America where they frequent the rocky slopes of the Andes Mountains at elevations of up to 15 thousand feet.
Scientific Name: Tamias rufus
There are 25 species of chipmunk. They have large cheek pouches that are used to store and transport food. Chipmunks resemble squirrels due to their slender bodies and long, bushy tails.
Chipmunks can be distinguished from squirrels due to their characteristic stripe that runs along their back. The stripes may be dark or light and contrast with their grey or red-brown body fur.
Berries, nuts, seeds, fruits, and arthropods make up the majority of this animal’s diet. they forage on the ground for food among logs, rocks, and foliage where they can hide from predators.
Every species of chipmunk, apart from one, is found across North America. They live in a variety of environments ranging from shrubby deserts to alpine forests. Some species will dig tunnels and burrows to live in, while others form nests among the foliage.
Scientific Name: Marmota monax
Both groundhogs and squirrels are rodents meaning they share many characteristics. In terms of appearance, both have slender, bushy tails and blunted muzzles. The biggest similarity between both species is their food-storing behavior. During summer, groundhogs consume vast amounts of food, to build up fat reserves for the winter.
Groundhogs are also called woodchucks and whistle pigs.
Unlike squirrels, groundhogs spend most of their time on the ground, although they are very capable climbers. They consume mainly grasses, plants, insects, and fruits.
Groundhogs are widely distributed across North America. They dig long and elaborate burrows, that can reach up to 66 feet in length. They prefer open habitats such as fields, mountainous regions, and rocky slopes.
Scientific Name: Laonastes aenigmamus
The kha-nyou is the only extant member of the Diaomyidae family. It somewhat resembles a squirrel in terms of its slender body and bushy tail. Its face, however, is more elongated and closely resembles a shrew than it does a squirrel.
Vegetation such as leaves, grasses, and seeds makes up the majority of its diet, although it will consume the occasional arthropod. They have strong and splayed hind feet, perfectly adapted for walking over rocky terrain in search of food.
The kha-nyou is found in Central Laos and West-Central Vietnam. They are restricted to sparsely vegetated areas of rocky limestone that provide an abundance of cracks and crevices for shelter and protection from predators.
Scientific Name: Marmota spp.
The marmot is a species of large ground squirrel. These rodents can weigh up to 7kg, depending on the species. They have short, stocky legs, fluffy tails, and dense fur covering their body, including their ears. Their fur is usually brownish in color.
Despite being much larger than a squirrel, they look similar due to their body shape. These omnivores consume grass, leaves, seeds, fruits, and insects. Their continually growing incisors must be gnawed down on bark and other tough plant matter.
Marmots are found in Northern Mexico and Eurasia. They occupy open habitats such as mountains, meadows, rocky regions, and forest edges. They live in burrows which they dig out using their strong, sharp claws.
Scientific Name: Neovison vison
Minks have long and slender bodies, fur-covered tails, and small heads, much like squirrels. Generally, their fur is rich, chocolate brown in color, and is regarded as luxurious by many, making them a highly valued animal. Many are raised in captivity for their fur.
Unlike squirrels that consume mainly plants, the mink’s diet is predominantly meat-based. They are solitary, territorial, and aggressive animals that actively hunt for prey. They consume animals including fish, frogs, and aquatic birds and mammals.
Minks are located across North America where they frequent wetlands, marshlands, and coastal habitats.
Scientific Name: Ondatra zibethicus
Muskrats are not too dissimilar to squirrels in appearance. However, unlike the busy tails of squirrels, muskrats have long, scaly tails that somewhat resemble that of a rat. They also have webbed feet. They get their name from the musky odor they secret to mark their territory.
Aquatic plants make up most of this aquatic rodent’s diet, but they also consume fish, insects, and crustaceans. They are amazing swimmers and can remain underwater for 20 minutes at a time and swim at a rate of 5km per hour.
The muskrat is indigenous to North America where they can be found in wetland habitats such as marshes, lakes, and flooded woodlands. Like squirrels, they dig and live in burrows.
Scientific Name: Myocastor coypus
The nutria closely resembles the muskrat in appearance as they are cousins. It is another large, amphibious rodent with dense fur, webbed feet, and a long, scaly tail. Similarly to squirrel, they have long, slender body that becomes apparent when they stretch out.
In terms of diet, both the nutria and the squirrel consume similar food items. They are often in competition for nuts that have fallen from trees located near the water’s edge. Nutrias are agile on both land and water.
The nutria is found exclusively in South America where they frequent both freshwater and saltwater habitats.
9. Prairie Dogs
Scientific Name: Cynomys spp.
Despite their name, these animals are actually rodents, not dogs. They look very similar to squirrels in terms of their morphology, specifically due to their slender bodies, fluffy tails, and small, blunt heads.
During the day, prairie dogs forage for herbs, grasses, and plants. They are much more social than squirrels and are generally double their size. Elaborate burrow systems are excavated by prairie dogs using their sharp claws, where they live in colonies.
The prairie dog inhabits the plains, montane valleys, and high plateaus of North America.
Scientific Name: Procyon lotor
You can certainly be forgiven for mistaking a raccoon for a squirrel. Like most squirrels, their fur is greyish in color and they have a long, bushy tail. However, they are around twice the length of a squirrel.
Raccoons are opportunistic omnivores and will consume virtually anything they can get their paws on. Such foods include fruits, insects, eggs, rodents, and even garbage. They may even steal from a squirrel’s nut store. Raccoons are great climbers and use their long tails to help them jump from tree to tree.
Both squirrels and raccoons share the treetops, though squirrels are mainly diurnal while raccoons are nocturnal. The raccoon can be found across North America and occupies both rural and urban environments.
Scientific Name: Mustela altaica
Weasels are small mammals that resemble squirrels due to their elongated bodies, short legs, and small heads. During the winter, all weasels become white, but the rest of the year they may be brown, grey, or black.
The weasel is a carnivore and consumes up to 40% of its body weight every day. Small mammals, birds, and insects make up the majority of this animal’s diet.
Weasels can be found in Eurasia, the Americas, and North Africa. They frequent a range of habitats including towns, woodlands, and meadows.
Scientific Name: Mustela erminea erminea
The stoat, like weasels and minks, belongs to the Mustelid family. This carnivorous mammal boasts a slender body, small head, and bushy tail, somewhat resembling a squirrel. Their fur is brownish on top and like squirrels, they have white underparts.
Rabbits are the favorite food of stoats, but they also consume rodents, fish, birds, eggs, and frogs. Stoats may be confused with squirrels when they climb up trees in search of bird nests to raid for eggs and chicks. They also chase mammals into their underground burrows.
The stoat lives across North America and Eurasia, inhabiting a variety of environments including gardens, forests, wetlands, coasts, and grassland.