Chipmunks in cartoons, movies, and music (Alvin, Simon, and Theodore) are cute, but these critters can sometimes spell T-R-O-U-B-L-E in real life. So, the question of how to get rid of chipmunks in your lawn and garden might be more prevalent than you thought.
The best, most humane methods are exclusion, habitat modification, repellents, and trapping. First, let’s take a closer look at chipmunks, which usually aren’t troublesome by nature.
How to Identify Chipmunk Damage
The most common signs of a chipmunk problem are structural damage from burrowing under patios, foundations, or stairs. You may also find bags of various foods (dog or bird) bitten or gnawed on. Occasionally, they can get into gardens or flower beds and dig up plant bulbs or seeds to eat.
A concern of most homeowners is the yard and foundation damage caused by the burrowing tunnels of these small rodents. These burrows are lengthy underground tunnels that may reach 30 feet or more in length. You may see the burrow entrances near a tree stump, large stone, or pile of logs.
These tunnels are most damaging because they undermine structures. 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 damage your landscaping, it’s best to leave them be.
Introverted by nature, these rodents prefer living alone until the mating season arrives in spring and summer. According to the Penn State Extension, populations of chipmunks range from two to 10 per acre, so infestations aren’t much to worry about.
Furthermore, these small mammals don’t breed 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 chipmunk problem:
By blocking off or removing areas of interest, chipmunks may be less likely to stop by.
- Bury 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.
- Remove wood piles close to your home. Chipmunks often hide burrows next to wood piles, buildings, or other objects in the landscape.
- 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.)
- Fill entry holes: If there is an active chipmunk burrow near your home, prevent potential damage to your property by putting up the No Trespassing sign. Wait until the chipmunk leaves and fill the hole with soil, rock piles, and other heavy obstacles.
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 chipmunk repellents, but ingredients also found in deer, rabbit, and squirrel deterrents can work. These taste repellents contain either:
- Bittrex (a bitter substance)
- Thiram (a fungicide)
- Ammonium soaps
The latter can work on edible plants, but Bittrex and thiram are only safe to use on foliage and flowers not intended for human consumption. There are other products such as:
- Big Game Repellent
You can find these in both granular and liquid forms at any supply or feed store and forestry catalogs.
Some people want to try DIY methods for getting rid of chipmunks by using moth balls or cayenne pepper. But these are not recommended to be used against chipmunks and may cause unnecessary harm.
Setting up a chipmunk trap is the easiest method of capturing chipmunks. Many people prefer this method because they can safely catch and release chipmunks quickly.
Live traps: Wire-mesh traps are a humane way to trap chipmunks near their burrows or places they usually travel.
- Bait the traps with peanut butter, cereal, seeds such as sunflower seeds, or grains.
- Securely place these so that when the animal enters, the trap doesn’t move.
- Be ready to catch the chipmunk once the animal is in the trap feeding on the bait. Then you are free to release it back into the wild.
Rat snap traps: While not the most humane, these traps will help eliminate your chipmunk problem. These are the same ones used to catch and kill rats. These lethal traps can be baited with the same foods as the wire-mesh traps, but the bait should be tied or smeared on to the trigger.
- Set these traps along the chipmunk’s familiar paths or perpendicular to the path. Or face them in pairs along this route with the triggers towards each other.
- Set the trigger arm on the sensitive setting so that it will spring shut easily. These should be in areas not accessible to children and pets.
Pro Tip: For the best results, pre-bait the traps. Here’s how: Bait the trap, and wire it open (or set out the snap trap without engaging the kill bar). Leave the traps alone for 2-3 days. This will allow time for the chipmunk to familiarize itself with the trap and become comfortable, making trapping easier. Traps should be checked frequently.
Note: Freeing these creatures in unfamiliar areas can be fatal, as they’ll be away from their homes and regular food sources. Also, be aware of your state guidelines. Federal law does not protect chipmunks, but some states have game commission regulations. Check with your state before choosing a lethal method.
How to Prevent Chipmunks
Exclusion and habitat modification work to make your home less appealing to chipmunks. These tips could help keep chipmunks away from your lawn and home’s foundation.
- Bury hardware cloth to protect flower beds, gardens, hardscaping, and foundations.
- Seal holes, cracks, and potential entryways that chipmunks could get through.
- Remove wood piles near the home.
- Break up uninterrupted lines of trees, shrubs, and ground cover to make your lawn less appealing.
- Keep grass short around your home, so they have fewer places to hide.
- Birdseed feeders should be contained and at least 15-30 feet away from your home.
What is a Chipmunk?
Chipmunks are those deceivingly cute rodents that scurry around your lawn during the spring and summer. So what are chipmunks exactly, and how can you tell them apart from other common pests?
Appearance: 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 (five to six inches).
What chipmunks eat: Chipmunks’ digging and eating habits cause problems. A chipmunk’s food of choice consists of nuts and berries, as well as grains, fruits, seeds, and insects. 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).
Where chipmunks live: There are 25 chipmunk species in total — 24 of which live throughout North America, according to National Geographic. These include the Eastern chipmunk and the Western chipmunk, 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. The earth underneath your patio, sidewalk, or foundation may also be an attractive place for a burrow-dweller.
Do Chipmunks Bite?
While chipmunks do not purposely set out to attack humans, they may bite to protect themselves if they’re cornered and feel threatened. 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 still wild animals. Also, never touch dead chipmunks, and don’t camp near chipmunk burrows or nests.
FAQ About Chipmunks
Chipmunk repellents and traps are the quickest ways to get rid of chipmunks.
There aren’t any specific chipmunk repellents, but having rodent repellent around the perimeter of your yard is one of the fastest ways to get rid of these small animals. Bittrex (a bitter substance), thiram (a fungicide), and ammonium soaps work well as repellents.
Traps are a common and effective way to capture already established chipmunks.
• Set up traps near where the chipmunks burrow or where they often travel.
• Bait the traps with cereal, seeds, peanut butter, or grains.
• Set the trap to catch chipmunks.
• Release in a safe area away from your home.
Or you can deal with your chipmunk control problems by hiring a pest control pro near you to check the cost of a rodent exterminator.
To keep chipmunks away from your property, use rodent repellents, modify their habitat, and exclude them from buildings and garden beds.
Rodent repellents (Bittrex, thiram, ammonium soaps) help to keep chipmunks away.
Modify their habitat to make things look less appealing. This means getting rid of:
• Wood piles near home
• Open bird feeders within 15 feet of home
• Tall grass
• Trees and shrubs
Exclude them from structures and ornamental beds. Take these preventative measures, and chipmunks may not even look twice at your property:
• Bury hardware cloth underground in order to protect plants
• Install mesh fencing around gardens and flower beds
• Seal any holes or cracks around the home
Chipmunks do carry some diseases, such as the plague (you read that right), tick-borne illnesses, and rabies. Although rabies is possible, it isn’t extremely likely. According to the Centers for Disease Control, chipmunks “are almost never found to be infected with rabies and have not been known to transmit rabies to humans.”
Regardless, it’s best not to touch these cute, small animals in any condition, dead or alive. If you do happen to get bitten, experts recommend you wash the area with warm soapy water. Consider contacting your doctor, especially if you are behind on a tetanus vaccination or if the wound becomes infected.
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 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, frequently wildlife biologists, will create a customized plan for humanely capturing and releasing your chipmunks.
Soon you can start thoroughly enjoying your new, chipmunk-free yard — and watching Alvin and the Chipmunks movies, animated series, and music at home or on your phone again.