Chipmunks in cartoons, movies, and music (Alvin, Simon and Theodore) are cute, but in real life these critters sometimes can spell T-R-O-U-B-L-E.
So, how can you get rid of chipmunks damaging your lawn and garden? The best, most humane methods are exclusion, habitat modification, repellents, and trapping, and we will cover that ground.
First, let’s take a closer look at chipmunks, which usually aren’t troublesome by nature.
What is a Chipmunk?
Akin to the squirrel, the chipmunks we are most familiar with have brown with black stripes and grow to be about the size of a teacup.
There are 25 chipmunk species in total — 24 of which live throughout North America, according to National Geographic. These include the Eastern and Western chipmunks, the least chipmunks, the yellow-pine chipmunks, the Hopi chipmunk, and the gray-collared chipmunk.
Ground-dwelling woodland creatures, chipmunks can thrive in all sorts of climates, from deserts to mountains. Their homes can be underground burrows or nests in logs and bushes. A chipmunk’s foods of choice consist of nuts and berries, as well as grains, fruits, seeds, and insects.
Chipmunks’ habit of digging and eating are what cause problems.
The earth underneath your patio, sidewalk, or foundation may be an appealing place for a burrow-dweller. And those fruits, veggies, and even flower bulbs you’re growing out back? Chipmunks find them delicious and can damage plants while grabbing a bite (or several bites).
Here’s how you can get rid of chipmunks if you’re worried about damage to your property:
How to Get Rid of Chipmunks
First, unless the chipmunks in your yard damaging your landscaping, it’s best to leave them be.
Introverted by nature, these rodents prefer living alone until mating season arrives in spring and summer. According to the PennState Extension, populations of chipmunks range from two to 10 per acre, so infestations aren’t anything much to worry about.
Furthermore, these small mammals don’t breed terribly fast. Mating twice a year, female chipmunks birth between two and eight babies after a month-long pregnancy. Once chipmunks reach adulthood, they can live another two to three years.
To keep these critters from digging in and around your home and garden, try these techniques to get rid of your chipmunks problem:
Protect flower beds, gardens, foundations, and hardscaping by burying hardware cloth 6 to 8 inches beneath the ground. This will prevent chipmunks from being able to dig up anything. You also can install dome-shaped mesh canopies over plants to keep these small squirrels at bay. Removing wood piles close to your home can keep them away, too.
Seal off any holes, cracks, and other potential entryways to your home, too, so they don’t accidentally wander inside. (If a chipmunk does get in, set a trail of breadcrumbs from its hiding place to an open door to help the animal find its way back outside.)
2. Habitat modification
“Landscaping features, such as ground cover, trees, and shrubs should not be planted to continuously connect wooded areas with the foundations of homes,” according to Penn State’s Extension service.
Such features protect chipmunks from prey and help conceal entrances to their burrows. By removing this type of shelter, chipmunks will venture to those areas less frequently, resulting in less contact with your home and garden.
There aren’t any registered repellents for chipmunks, but ingredients also found in deer, rabbit, and squirrel deterrents can work. These taste repellents contain either bitrex (a bitter substance), thiram (a fungicide), or ammonium soaps. The latter can work on edible plants, but bitrex and thiram are only safe to use on foliage and flowers not intended for human consumption.
Use live traps to catch chipmunks near their burrows with bait of peanut butter, cereal, seeds, or grains. Once trapped, release them back into the wild.
Note: Freeing these creatures in a place unfamiliar to them can be fatal, as they’ll be away from their homes and regular sources of food.
Do Chipmunks Bite?
While chipmunks do not purposely set out to attack humans, if they’re cornered and feel threatened, they may bite to protect themselves. As with other wildlife, there’s a chance that such a bite could transfer diseases, such as rabies, tick-borne illnesses, and the plague (yes, the plague).
You can easily avoid these diseases by not approaching chipmunks — they’re adorable, but they are still wild animals. Also, never touch dead chipmunks and don’t camp near chipmunk burrows or nests.
When to Call Pest Control Professionals
Remember, chipmunks are relatively harmless to humans, and it’s best to coexist with them. But, if your acreage has become overrun with the rodents and they’re ravaging your flowers, sidewalk, patio, garden veggies, and the like, ask a pest control or wildlife removal expert for help.
After assessing your problem, these pros, who are oftentimes wildlife biologists, will create a customized plan for the humane capture and release of your chipmunks.
Soon you can start fully enjoying your new, chipmunk-free yard — and watching Alvin and the Chipmunks movies, animated series and music at home or on your phone again.
Main Photo: Ashley Lee / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 4.0