How To Get Rid of Chipmunks
Cute and a little mischievous, we take a closer look at chipmunks and why you may want to get rid of (or at least discourage) them.
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Most of us can agree that chipmunks are adorable. From the chirping sound they make to their fat, puffy cheeks and feather boa-like tails, who doesn’t love watching these furry little critters scampering about?
Although chipmunks don’t usually cause extensive destruction to property, they do dig up gardens while harvesting fruits and nuts. And their burrowing can damage patios, retaining walls, stairs and foundations.
Here, we take a closer look at chipmunks: What they are, what they eat, if they’re dangerous or not, and reasons why you might want to get rid of them.
What Is a Chipmunk?
Often confused with tree squirrels, chipmunks are mostly ground-dwelling rodents that live primarily in wooded, forested habitats. To the untrained eye, chipmunks and squirrels may seem similar, but they’re not.
Unlike squirrels, chipmunks have tan to reddish-brown coats with five dark stripes running down their backs and heads. They also carry their bushy tails upright, and are quite a bit smaller. The average chipmunk is around five to six inches long; squirrels run 11- to 13-inches long.
What Do Chipmunks Eat?
Chipmunks are omnivores, so they’ll eat almost anything: vegetables, berries, roots, bulbs, nuts and seeds, bugs, snails, bird’s eggs and even snakes. After stuffing their cheeks with food, they carry it to their burrows and store it for the winter.
Why Are Chipmunks a Problem?
They’re more a nuisance than a problem. The biggest issue homeowners have with North American chipmunks is their propensity to engineer a system of tunnels under walkways, stairs, patios and foundations.
Another common complaint: Chipmunks dig through flower beds and uproot vegetable patches when foraging for food. Like squirrels, they can also steal bird seed from feeders.
Are Chipmunks Dangerous?
Chipmunks aren’t particularly aggressive. They elude predators with speed and agility, quickly darting and ducking into a hole or scaling up a tree.
If cornered, a chipmunk will defend itself by scratching or biting its way free. In the rare event that you do sustain a chipmunk bite, immediately clean the wound thoroughly, then apply an antibiotic cream and bandage. If the area shows signs of infection, seek medical attention right away.
Chipmunks aren’t considered high risk for spreading infectious diseases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified certain viruses and bacteria known to be carried by chipmunks, including Colorado Tick Fever and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Fortunately, chipmunks have not been known to transmit rabies to humans.
Warning: Do not attempt to hand-feed a chipmunk. If you do, you’re just asking for trouble.
How To Get Rid of Chipmunks Outdoors
Many humane methods exist to deal with problematic chipmunks. Whether you’re looking to repel or kill chipmunks, here are some helpful tips.
- Make a spray mixture of cayenne pepper and water.
- Use an ultrasonic zapper. The vibrations send chipmunks packing.
- Plant toxic daffodils or grow onions, hyacinths and marigolds. Chipmunks hate the scent.
- Soak non-edible bulbs in thiram, a fungicide that deters all kinds of rodents.
- Scatter mothballs around the basement, garage and shed. Mothballs are poisonous if ingested, so don’t use them if you have children or pets.
- Hang pie tins, CDs or beach balls in trees to scare chipmunks away.
- Catch chipmunks with a humane trap.
- If permitted in your state, drop aluminum phosphide tablets into a burrow. They react to the moisture in the soil to create a toxic phosphine gas to suffocate rodents. (See note below.)
- Sold in many hardware and garden stores, gas cartridges produce carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide gas in tunnels, killing chipmunks by asphyxiation. (See note below.)
- If legal in your area, kill them with a small-gauge shotgun or .22-caliber rifle with birdshot. Don’t try this unless you’re experienced with firearms. Per the Firearm Industry Trade Association (NSSF), don’t shoot unless you know exactly what your shot is going to strike. More importantly, be sure your bullet will not injure anyone or anything beyond your target.
Note: Fumigants create toxic fumes that can be harmful to humans and pets. Gas cartridges have a risk of igniting and starting fires, so don’t use them near structures or buildings.
How to Get Rid of Chipmunks Indoors
If a chipmunk enters your home, it’s probably by accident. Follow these steps to remove them:
- Isolate dogs and cats in a room or crate;
- Close all interior doors;
- Open windows and doors leading to the outside;
- Wait for the chipmunk to find its way out.
If that doesn’t work, try this:
- Set a humane trap with sunflower seeds, pumpkin, raisins, cereal or nuts to lure it;
- Release the chipmunk back into the wild.
How To Get Rid of Chipmunk Tunnels
As we’ve learned, chipmunks harvest and store food underground in burrows. There are two types of tunnels: shallow summer tunnels and deeper winter tunnels (up to 30 feet).
“Because these tunnels have a network of several different connections, there can be a multitude of different, unsightly holes scattered throughout your yard,” says Ed Spicer of Pest Strategies. “Not only are these tunnels ugly, but over time, the hollowness of the ground below your home, garage or storage shed can do damage to its structure.”
Here’s how to plug up chipmunk burrows:
Eliminate the chipmunk population (see above), otherwise filling burrows is an exercise in futility. They’ll just make new ones.
Find tunnel entrances. Look for holes two to three inches in diameter around walls, foundations, woodpiles and stumps.
Grab a spade and fill the holes with dirt, a mixture of dirt and fine gravel or used cat litter, packing down as you go. Traces of cat feces and urine signal a predator may be lurking.
Note: Sand capped with quick-dry cement can be effective along foundations and walls. After stuffing the holes, cover with two or three inches of topsoil so ground cover can grow back.
If these efforts fail, it may be time to call in a professional exterminator.
How To Deter Chipmunks
Simple things you can do to deter chipmunks indoors and out include:
- Use caulk to seal entry points around the home.
- Remove dead tree stumps, rock piles and brush near the house, garage or other buildings.
- Plant seeds and bulbs beneath a wire or plastic screen.
- Install L-shaped footers (mesh barriers) to keep chipmunks from burrowing under foundations, sidewalks and porches.
- Place bird feeders at least 15 feet away from your home.