About Nuisance Chipmunks
Chipmunks are tiny rodents that belong to the same family as squirrels. There are 25 species of these mammals. All are found in North America, although there is one species that can be found in Asia. In North America, chipmunks can be found from Canada in the north all the way to Mexico in the south. They inhabit a very wide range of habitats all across the United States.
These critters might seem cute, and they’ve certainly had their fair share of screen time in Hollywood, but in reality, they can be damaging to property and landscaping. Other than that, they are really no threat to anyone or anything. They are extremely small and usually quite skittish. Read on for more information about these swift little rodents.
Chipmunks are very small rodents, typically measuring under eight inches in length, although some species can grow to almost a foot in length. They spend much of their time on the ground and are most often seen scampering away from humans and into the undergrowth, rocks, bushes, holes in the ground, or logs. That said, they are also expert climbers like their squirrel cousins.
The typical chipmunk habitat is a forest. They can be found throughout the alpine meadows, coniferous and deciduous forests, and shrublands of North America. These habitats give them lots of places to hide and are also excellent sources of food.
Chipmunks live in burrows which they dig themselves. These burrows can be quite large, sometimes with more than eleven feet of tunnels and multiple hidden entrances. They even make specific tunnels for sleeping and others for trash.
Chipmunks typically forage for food on the ground. Their usual diet consists of seeds, plant buds, fruits, grasses, certain fungi, small frogs, worms, and even bird eggs. They can also use their climbing abilities to scale trees in search of acorns and other nuts. Chipmunks have specialized cheek pouches which make it easy for them to carry food while climbing and running.
In early fall, most chipmunk species begin storing food for the winter. This is where those cheek pouches really come in handy. Chipmunks will make a food storage area in their burrows and begin stockpiling food there. The reason for this is that certain chipmunk species hibernate in the winter and will rely on these stockpiles to get them through those cold months.
Problems They Cause
The main problems that arise from chipmunks have to do with the destruction of landscaping and plant life around homes and other manmade structures.
- Chipmunks love to eat plant buds and will certainly go after any special vegetation you’ve planted on your property. They can wreak havoc on ornamental plants and flowers when they forage for food.
- Chipmunks are great at digging and love to construct elaborate burrows, so they can also cause problems for your landscaping. They will often dig up flowering bulbs for food, or dig into freshly manicured flower beds or mulched gardens, destroying your hard work in the process. Despite their habit of digging, there are no reported cases of chipmunk burrows or tunnels causing structural damage to homes. That said, their elaborate tunnels might cause some unwanted warping of driveways, sidewalks, patios, and walkways.
- Chipmunks can sometimes end up inside homes, but they definitely don’t want to be there. If you find one in your home, you should try to corral the animal and close off any routes further into the home or into enclosed spaces like closets. Give the animal a clear path to the outside and with a little encouragement, it will run out as quickly as it can.
If you want to reduce or remove the chipmunk population on your property, there are a few practical things you can do to discourage them.
Install an L-Shaped Fence Footer
One of the best ways to stop these critters from digging under your home, sidewalks, decks, retaining walls, and patios is to install what’s known as an L-shaped fence footer. This is basically a horizontal wire mesh fence that is buried about a foot under the ground around structures that you want to protect from burrowing animals.
The footer doesn’t need to be buried if it’s not possible and can be laid horizontally on top of the ground. If you choose this method, make sure to secure the footer to the ground and then cover it with soil or mulch. For chipmunks, you should use wire mesh with gaps no larger than one inch by one inch.
Remove Hiding Places
Another easy step to take is to remove woodpiles and rock piles from your yard because these will provide cover for chipmunks to hide. You should also trim back low-hanging bushes or plants for the same reason.
Install a Gravel / Plants Border
You can also try installing a gravel border around planters and gardens which you want to keep chipmunks away from. You should dig this down at least a foot to discourage digging.
In addition, planting certain plants underneath wire or plastic screens will help protect the bulbs and young buds from hungry chipmunks. Just make sure that you use mesh with large enough holes to allow the plants to sprout through them.
Professional Removal Tactics
If chipmunks are a big problem on your property, there are some ways you can remove these animals.
Pest control professionals use a variety of methods to remove chipmunks, but the best method is live trapping. Specialized traps must be used because chipmunks are so small and can easily escape the typical rodent live trap. Your expert will try to place the traps in areas with heavy chipmunk activity, and will likely use bait like peanut butter.
Other non-lethal methods are available too but are not as effective. Some sources report that various repellents will work to discourage chipmunks. There are no repellent products out there made specifically for chipmunks, but commercial squirrel repellents are a close alternative.
Most repellents are designed to affect the chipmunk’s sense of taste and discourage the animal from eating. Other repellents create nasty odors in order to repel the animals. With all these repellents, any effects are only temporary so your pest problem won’t really go away.
There are also lethal removal methods like poison, but this is the worst option of them all for a few reasons.
- You might end up with dead chipmunks underground around your yard. This can cause nasty odors and make it unpleasant to spend time outside on your property, and might even attract more unwanted creatures which are looking to scavenge the carcasses.
- Poison will likely kill animals other than chipmunks, causing undue harm to innocent creatures. In the worst case, your own pets or children could ingest the poison and become seriously ill.