Chipmunks are adorable little creatures that scurry around our gardens and parks. But have you ever wondered if these furry friends can take a dip and go for a swim? Their small size and rapid movements make chipmunks seem like unlikely swimmers.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Yes, chipmunks can swim, but they generally try to avoid water and are not strong swimmers. They have some natural buoyancy thanks to their fur coats and will dog paddle if necessary, but prefer to stay on dry land.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll take a close look at chipmunks in water. We’ll cover whether they can swim, how well they can swim, if they like water, how their swimming ability compares to other rodents, and if their babies can swim too.

We’ll also look at some amazing photos and videos of chipmunks swimming. So let’s dive in!

Do Chipmunks Know How to Swim?

Chipmunks Have Some Natural Buoyancy

Chipmunks are small, furry creatures that many people may assume cannot swim due to their size. However, chipmunks do have some natural buoyancy and can in fact paddle to stay afloat for short periods of time. Their light body weight compared to their surface area gives them some advantage in water.

A chipmunk’s fur coat and air trapped within it provides some natural buoyancy, similar to a life jacket. This helps keep them from immediately sinking. While chipmunks don’t have webbed feet or other adaptations for swimming, their natural buoyancy gives them a bit of an advantage when entering the water.

They Dog Paddle to Stay Afloat

When chipmunks do enter water, they often dog paddle with their front and back paws in an alternating motion to keep themselves up. They use a bit of a scrambling motion, moving all four limbs at once to paddle along the surface.

Their tails can also help stabilize them as they move through the water.

While not graceful, their dog paddle swimming stroke allows them to temporarily stay afloat and paddle short distances. It may look more like frantic scrambling than coordinated swimming, but it works temporarily thanks to their natural buoyancy.

Swimming is Not Their Strong Suit

While chipmunks can temporarily stay afloat and paddle, swimming long distances is not their strong suit. They tire easily and can only dog paddle for short bursts of time before needing to rest or find an exit from the water.

Prolonged swimming would lead to exhaustion and put them at high risk for drowning. Chipmunks are also susceptible to hypothermia when wet for too long. So while they have some Limited abilities to paddle in water, it’s not an effective form of travel or escape for them.

Chipmunks lack adaptations like webbed feet or water-resistant fur that make other rodents more adept swimmers. While they can scramble along the surface for a short time, they don’t thrive in the water. Given the choice, chipmunks will always opt to avoid entering water and stay on dry land.

Do Chipmunks Like Water and Swimming?

Chipmunks Generally Avoid Water

It is quite rare to spot a chipmunk intentionally going near water or swimming (1). The small rodents inherently avoid water, as they do not possess any biological adaptations that make them proficient swimmers (2). Their fur coats seem to repel water as much as possible (1).

When a chipmunk accidentally falls into a body of water, it hurriedly swims to shore or the nearest shallow area (3). They prefer staying on completely dry land (2).

They Prefer to Stay on Dry Land

Chipmunks spend nearly all of their time on solid ground in wooded, bushy areas (4). Their surroundings typically contain trees, logs, burrows, rocks, and other dry surfaces. If given a choice between a patch of dry land or terrain with puddles or a water source, a chipmunk would certainly opt for the dryer choice (2).

The small critters only head towards water if the area has a very shallow edge they can easily climb out of (4). Otherwise, chipmunks intentionally avoid all contact with water bodies in their habitat. They will always gravitate toward dry logs, trees, branches, leaves, nuts, and berries (3).

Exceptions: Mating Season and Droughts

There are two exceptional scenarios when a chipmunk might willingly approach water (5). The first case is during mating season in early spring, especially March and April (4). If a female chipmunk’s burrow happens to be across a stream or pond, a male chipmunk might swim across the water to reach her.

However, the amorous rodents only cross very narrow gaps of shallow water (3).

The second special circumstance is a dry season or drought when food and water sources are scarce (4). While chipmunks can survive on the water content from nuts, seeds, fruits, berries, buds, and leaves, extreme hot weather may drive them towards nearby water bodies out of thirst and desperation (1).

They might drink from puddles, small streams, or ponds if no other hydration sources are available nearby (3). However, chipmunks immediately retreat back to dry land afterwards.

How Do Chipmunks Compare to Other Swimming Rodents?

Squirrels are Better Swimmers than Chipmunks

When compared to other common rodents, chipmunks are not the most adept swimmers. Their close relatives, squirrels, are actually much stronger swimmers due to some key differences in physiology and behavior.

Squirrels have flatter, more paddle-shaped tails that provide thrust and propulsion in water. Chipmunk tails are smaller and rounded. Squirrels also have loose skin between their legs that helps them swim, whereas chipmunks do not have this adaptation.

In addition, squirrels are more likely to live in tree cavities over water and regularly cross rivers and streams. They are very agile jumpers and climbers and can easily navigate branches overhanging water. Chipmunks prefer drier habitats like bushes, rocks and logs.

There are some documented cases of chipmunks swimming short distances if needed. But in general, squirrels are far more comfortable and maneuverable in the water compared to chipmunks.

Rats are Also Adept Swimmers

Rats are another rodent that is a rather accomplished swimmer. Their physiology is well-suited for swimming with webbed hind feet and a long, bald tail for propulsion.

A rat’s front paws are nimble enough to grasp items or pull themselves through the water when needed. Rats are also intelligent animals with good spatial awareness and route-planning abilities that translate well to navigating obstacles in water.

Species of rats such as the Polynesian rat and Copenhagen rat are especially adept swimmers, having adapted to semi-aquatic environments over many generations. They can swim continuously for hours and tread water for days.

Beavers Are the Michael Phelps of Rodents

When talking about great rodent swimmers, beavers stand in a class of their own. They are specially adapted for an aquatic lifestyle in every respect.

Beavers have webbed hind feet, dense waterproof fur, and closable nostrils and ears to keep water out. Their paddle-shaped tail provides powerful propulsion in water. Extra fat deposits under their skin also improve buoyancy.

In addition, beavers can hold their breath underwater for up to 15 minutes. They use their strong front teeth to construct complex aquatic dwellings and have excellent swimming skills from a very young age.

While most rodents can swim to some degree, beavers are the undisputed Michael Phelps of the rodent world when it comes to specialized adaptations for life in the water.

Can Baby Chipmunks Swim?

Baby chipmunks, called kits, have some limited swimming abilities that may surprise you. Even young chipmunks are able to paddle around for short periods if needed. Here’s a closer look at why kits can manage short swims.

Baby Chipmunks Are Called Kits

A baby chipmunk is called a kit. Kits are born hairless and blind in early spring. Chipmunks usually have litters of 4 or 5 kits. The kits remain in the underground burrow for about 6 weeks before venturing outside.

During their first few weeks, the kits are nursed by their mother and grow rapidly. By 3 weeks old, their eyes open. By 5-6 weeks, they have fur and can start eating solid food gathered by the mother.

Kits Can Swim Short Distances If Needed

Even though they are small, kits can paddle and doggie paddle to cross short distances of water. Their natural buoyancy helps keep them afloat.

Kits may need to swim if they fall into a creek or pool near their burrow. While not natural swimmers, they can paddle across a few feet of water to climb out the other side.

Kits have also been observed voluntarily going into water on hot days. The water may help them cool down their body temperature if they get overheated.

So while chipmunks prefer dry land, kits have some basic swimming skills to cross short distances. Their quick reflexes and paddling can help them get out of a bind near water.


While chipmunks can swim if absolutely necessary, water and swimming are not their forte. Their small size, fur coats, and ability to dog paddle may keep them afloat for a short time. However, they will quickly head to dry land given the chance.

Overall, chipmunks prefer to stay far away from water and remain on solid ground. But in rare cases, such as mating season or severe drought, you may catch a glimpse of a chipmunk taking a quick dip.

We hope this detailed look at chipmunks swimming abilities cleared up whether these cute critters can handle water. Next time you see a chipmunk, look closely and you might notice them scurrying to avoid puddles. Their speed and agility helps them steer clear of liquid hazards in their environment.

But with some paddling power in their back pocket, chipmunks can take a plunge if the situation calls for it.

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