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Stripes don’t just look sharp, they provide effective camouflage for many rodents. Some species sport many stripes over their entire bodies, while some only have one defined stripe decorating their coats. Species of chipmunks, squirrels, hamsters and mice have all earned their stripes.
Perhaps the most well-known striped rodents are chipmunks. The tiny chipmunk is a member of the squirrel family. Chipmunks are common in North America with 24 of 25 species of chipmunk calling it home. When most people picture a chipmunk, they’re imagining the eastern chipmunk, common throughout the eastern U.S. and Canada. They have reddish-gray fur with five dark stripes along their back. Other species of chipmunk are similar in appearance, but vary in size.
Striped Ground Squirrels
Unlike their arboreal cousins, ground squirrels live in burrows in the ground. There are 62 species of ground squirrel, many of whom have striped coats. Golden-mantled ground squirrels resemble chipmunks with their yellow-gray body and black and white striped back. Antelope squirrels are small squirrels with a gray-brown body and black and white stripes on their backs. Their tails aren’t as long and bushy as most squirrels, but it’s large enough to provide shade in the desert. Thirteen-lined ground squirrels, native to the central US, have 13 alternating light and dark stripes on their backs.
Most mice don’t have stripes, but a few species do. Barbary striped grass mice use a series of light and dark stripes running along their back to keep hidden in the desert region of Northern Africa. These little guys only reach about 5 inches and are sometimes kept as pets. Birch mice are more closely related to jumping mice than true mice as they hop rather than run. They have pale bodies with a dark stripe running down their spine. Striped field mice are found in Eastern Europe and Asia in fields and forests. They have yellow-brown bodies with a dark black stripe running down the middle of their back.
When looking at rodents commonly found in the pet store, there are a couple varieties of dwarf hamsters who have stripes. The Campbell's dwarf hamster is native to Asia and only grows to about 4 inches in length. They have a dark gray to black stripe running from the top of their head to their tail. Winter white hamsters have a gray coat with a dark stripe running along their back as well as squiggly stripes on either side of their bodies. Chinese hamsters are sometimes called striped hamsters. While often referred to as a dwarf hamster due to their small size, they are considered rat-like hamsters because of their slender body type and short tail. The normal color is gray-brown with a dark stripe down the center of the back. The dominant stripe variety has a white coat with a dark gray-brown stripe.
- National Geographic: Chipmunk
- Animal Diversity Web: Eastern Chipmunk
- Encylopedia Britannica: Ground Squirrel
- Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife: Oregon Wildlife Species
- The Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management: Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrels and Their Control
- World Association of Zoos and Aquariums: Barbary Striped Grass Mouse
- Encylopedia Britannica: Birch Mouse
- Animal Diversity Web: Strped Field Mouse
- Doctors Foster and Smith: 5 Most Popular Hamster Breeds
- Hemera Technologies/Photos.com/Getty Images