Last updated on December 22nd, 2023 at 11:19 pm
Ever spotted animals and thought, “That look like squirrels”? You’re not alone! Numerous creatures share similarities with these agile mammals. With over 200 squirrel species globally, their distinctive traits, such as large eyes and bushy tails, set them apart. However, these characteristics aren’t exclusive to squirrels. This article unveils the world of animals resembling squirrels, highlighting their habits and diversity.
The type of squirrel species you encounter depends on your location. In the U.S., the American red squirrel is common, while unstriped ground squirrels thrive in African regions. Each locale adds its unique touch to the world of squirrel look-alikes.
How Big Are Squirrels?
Red squirrels have a maximum length of about 45cm (18 in.), including a tail of up to 20cm (8 in.). Grey squirrels, larger than Reds, reach a maximum of 55cm (almost 2ft), with a tail of 25cm (10 in.). Typically, Red squirrels measure about 21cm (8in.), while Greys reach approximately 26cm (almost 1ft) with the tail.
Red squirrels weigh between 200 and nearly 500 grams (7 – 18 oz.), commonly averaging 280 to 300g (7 – 10.5 oz.) in Britain. Grey squirrels weigh between 400 to 700 grams (14 – 25 oz.), with most European specimens ranging from 450 to 650g (16 – 23 oz.). In the UK, Grey squirrels average about 550g (19.5 oz.).
If squirrels bring you joy, you’ll find delight in animals that look like them, sharing similarities in diet, size, habitat, and social interactions.
10 Animals That Look Like Squirrels
1. Lodgepole Chipmunk
Scientific Name: Tamias specious
How are they like prairie dogs: Both squirrels and Lodgepole Chipmunks boast cheek pouches, a handy feature for storing food while on the move.
In Western North American mountain forests, Lodgepole chipmunks thrive with a unique appearance—white cheek stripes, black backside stripes, and a white belly. Identified by black paws with white toes, they’re easily noticeable.
Similar to squirrels, Lodgepole Chipmunks store food in cheek pouches, enabling them to carry it to secure spots like tree branches or caves for a safe and secluded feast.
2. Hoary Marmot
Scientific Name: Marmota caligata
How are they like prairie dogs: Being members of the rodent family, squirrels and hoary marmots share a similar appearance, despite the latter being larger and boasting a darker gray color.
The hoary marmot, often dubbed “the squirrel of the Rocky Mountains,” shares a striking resemblance with squirrels, albeit being larger.
More sociable than other ground squirrels, hoary marmots live in family groups called “coteries.” Despite their similar appearance, hoary marmots have a darker gray color than squirrels, both possessing bushy tails for balance. Found in North America and parts of Russia, these rodents can reach lengths of up to 2 feet and weigh up to 8 pounds.
Scientific Name: Talpidae
How are they like prairie dogs: Both moles and squirrels share the common behavior of hoarding food.
Moles, small subterranean mammals, reside in self-dug tunnels, feasting on worms, insects, and snails.
Similar to squirrels, moles exhibit hoarding behavior, storing food in their burrows for later consumption. While squirrels stash nuts, moles, diligent earthmovers, stockpile earthworms from beneath the ground—uniting both species as avid hoarders.
Scientific Name: Cricetinae
How are they like prairie dogs: Both hamsters and squirrels share the feature of cheek pouches, using them to store food for later consumption.
Hamsters, small rodents with short ears and hairless tails, are nocturnal creatures that spend most of their day sleeping.
Similar to squirrels, they are herbivores, favoring grains, seeds, fruits, and vegetables. Hamsters, when threatened, can display aggression but are generally friendly to humans.
Like squirrels, they utilize cheek pouches to transport food to their burrows or nests without needing to set it down, showcasing a handy adaptation for their herbivorous lifestyle.
5. White-Tailed Prairie Dog
Scientific Name: Cynomys leucurus
How are they like prairie dogs: At first glance, both white-tailed Prairie Dogs and squirrels share similar appearances, making it easy to mistake one for the other.
White-tailed Prairie Dogs, the predominant prairie dog species in North America, form colonies that can reach up to 50 individuals.
Sharing similarities with squirrels, they boast a long tail aiding in balance during running and jumping. Both species exhibit the behavior of storing food for winter and constructing intricate underground burrow systems.
Prairie dogs utilize sharp claws for burrow excavation, fostering colony living reminiscent of their rodent counterparts, the squirrels.
Scientific Name: Marmota monax
How are they like prairie dogs: Both groundhogs and squirrels share the behavior of hoarding food for the winter season.
Groundhogs, closely related to squirrels, are native to eastern North America, spending most of their time on the ground rather than in trees like other rodents.
Omnivorous by nature, they consume grasses, weeds, leaves, berries, insects, and small animals. Sharing rodent status with squirrels, groundhogs exhibit similar characteristics, including storing food for winter.
Despite their resemblance, groundhogs, also known as woodchucks or whistle pigs, are less active, spending most of their time in burrows.
Widely distributed across North America, they prefer open habitats such as fields, mountainous regions, and rocky slopes, creating elaborate burrows that can reach up to 66 feet in length.
Read Also: Important Animals of North America
7. Plains Pocket Mice
Scientific Name: Perognathus flavescens
How are they like prairie dogs: Both the plains pocket mouse and the squirrel possess cheek pouches, a common feature that aids them in storing and transporting food efficiently.
The plains pocket mouse, a North American rodent, features long, soft fur and prominent eyes, weighing between one and two ounces. Adapted to grasslands, it has a unique method of storing food in its cheeks, similar to squirrels.
Both species, when storing food, place it in their mouths backward, then move it into their cheek pouches, allowing them to chew on the food without losing their grasp. This clever adaptation contributes to their survival in grasslands without falling prey to predators.
Muskrat floats on the pond | image by Pixabay
Scientific Name: Ondatra zibethicus
How are they like prairie dogs: Both muskrats and squirrels share the common behavior of living in burrows.
Muskrats, similar to squirrels in appearance, live in water habitats and boast a long tail for swimming, webbed paws, and a thick fur coat.
While not closely related, both muskrats and squirrels are rodents that inhabit burrows, adapting to different types of burrows but sharing a similar lifestyle. Despite their divergent evolutionary paths, both species spend their lives underground to evade predators.
9. Short-tailed Shrews
Scientific Name: Blarina brevicauda
How are they like prairie dogs: Both the short-tailed shrew and squirrels exhibit the behavior of storing food in their burrows and trees for later consumption.
The short-tailed shrew, a small mammal in North American marshes and forests, relies on its keen sense of smell due to poor vision.
Similar to squirrels, it collects materials for nests and is labeled a “hoarder” for gathering and storing food. While a short-tailed shrew carries food to its nest, a squirrel stores food in tree cavities or ground holes near its dwelling.
Both species possess acute senses of smell, aiding in food location and predator avoidance.
Image Source Pixabay
Scientific Name: Myocastor coypus
How are they like prairie dogs: Both species share the habit of storing food for later consumption.
The nutria, a cousin of the muskrat, shares a close resemblance with dense fur, webbed feet, and a long, scaly tail, making it another large, amphibious rodent.
Like squirrels, both have long, slender bodies that become apparent when stretched out. Both nutria and squirrels share a similar diet, often competing for fallen nuts near the water’s edge.
Agile on both land and water, nutrias are exclusively found in South America, inhabiting both freshwater and saltwater habitats.
In conclusion, animals that look like squirrels, such as Hoary Marmots, White-Tailed Prairie Dogs, Groundhogs, and Nutria, bear resemblances to squirrels. While they share some commonalities in appearance, each of these creatures possesses distinctive features that distinguish it from the others. Nature’s diversity showcases the unique characteristics of each animal, contributing to the rich tapestry of wildlife.
1. Do animals that look like squirrels hibernate during winter like squirrels do?
Hibernation habits vary among different species. While some may hibernate, others remain active throughout the year. It depends on the specific characteristics of each animal.
2. How many types of squirrels are there?
There are more than 200 species of squirrels worldwide. The Sciuridae (squirrel) family includes tree, ground, and flying squirrels, and they are found on every continent except Australia and Antarctica.
3. What animal looks like a squirrel but is black?
Black squirrels, although rare, exist due to a melanistic genetic mutation. However, minks, with their dark brown-black fur and slender bodies, are more common and can be mistaken for squirrels.
4. How many different types of squirrels exist in the world?
There are various types of squirrels worldwide, that adapt to different environments. At least 10 squirrel types are found in the United States alone, showcasing their ability to travel and adapt.
5. How often do squirrels mate?
Squirrels mate and have litters twice a year, typically in early spring (February to March) and at the end of the summer season (September). They keep their babies in the nest until they mature and can fend for themselves.
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