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Chipmunks may seem like harmless critters, but their relentless burrowing and voracious appetite for bird seed and flower bulbs can wreak havoc on your landscaping. This guide will walk you through how to get rid of chipmunks humanely and includes preventive measures and do-it-yourself (DIY) solutions.
You might see chipmunks darting around your yard, digging in your flower bed, garden, or raiding your bird feeders. Understanding these critters’ methods and motivations can be helpful when their behavior turns pesky.
Characteristics of Chipmunks
Chipmunks are known for their striped fur and bushy tails. These small rodents are skilled diggers who create intricate underground burrows where they nest and hide from predators. These burrows are essentially underground tunnels that can extend several feet and often have multiple entrances. The burrow entrances are often near stumps, fallen logs, large stones, or walls. Chipmunks store food in their cheek pouches, which they use to carry seeds and nuts into their burrows for storage.
The eastern chipmunk and the least chipmunk are the two most common chipmunk species in the United States. They can be found in various habitats across North America, such as wooded areas, suburban neighborhoods, and gardens. The eastern chipmunk is larger at 8 to 10 inches long, with reddish-brown fur and distinct black and white stripes down its back. The least chipmunk is smaller and its stripes are more subtle than the eastern chipmunk.
Why Do Chipmunks Invade Yards and Gardens?
Chipmunks eat nuts, seeds, grains, mushrooms, berries, fruits, flowers, insects, worms, bird eggs, and even baby mice and birds. That means that yards and gardens provide them with plentiful food sources and loose soil that is ideal for burrowing. During fall, chipmunks actively seek and stockpile food for winter, when natural resources become scarce.
Because chipmunks are territorial, severe infestations are rare. However, it only takes a few chipmunks to cause noticeable damage. Chipmunks dig up and eat flower bulbs, gnaw the bark from shrubbery, steal nuts and fruits from your garden, and generally disrupt landscaping features.
How to Prevent Chipmunks in Your Yard
To maintain a chipmunk-free yard, take steps to make your outdoor space less appealing to them. Trim back overgrown vegetation, as dense shrubs and groundcover can provide hiding spots. Remove wood piles, rock piles, and other clutter. Line garden beds with gravel or mulch, which is less attractive for burrowing. Install L-shaped barriers of galvanized hardware cloth around features you wish to protect from chipmunk damage.
You should also consider what chipmunks may see as potential food sources. Store pet food and bird seed indoors or in a sealed container. Clean up fallen bird seed regularly or use nets or platforms to catch seed. You can also remove bird feeders or make them less accessible to chipmunks by caging them in. To protect your garden, use bulb cages or plant bulbs within wire mesh to prevent chipmunks from reaching them. You can also purchase ultrasonic critter repellent devices that won’t hurt animals but will keep them away by emitting a sound that deters them.
DIY Solutions for Chipmunk Infestations
Rarely do chipmunks bite humans or cause structural damage. But if you are worried about chipmunk burrows in your garden or near your home’s foundation, here are a few humane methods you can use to keep them from becoming a problem in the first place.
You can create your own humane trap with a bucket and a bag of sunflower seeds. Fill the bottom of the bucket with water, then sprinkle a layer of sunflower seeds on top. Place the bucket near a ledge or lean a board against the top to form a ramp. Chipmunks will fall into the water and be unable to climb out, effectively trapping them until you arrive to rescue them. Make sure to use enough water to trap the chipmunk, but not so much that it will drown.
Alternatively, you can bait a store-bought live trap with peanut butter or sunflower seeds to attract chipmunks. Once the chipmunk enters the trap, you can safely move it and release it elsewhere. Place traps near chipmunk burrows or hiding spots, such as under porches and patios, and check them at least once a day. Freshen bait daily. Live traps can be purchased from Amazon or your local hardware store.
If you find a chipmunk in your home, rest assured that it is there by accident. In most cases, you won’t need to do much to get it to leave. Secure your pets and then open the doors and windows to let the chipmunk find its own way out.
If there is no possible exit, you can set a bait trap or perform a hands-on chipmunk removal using heavy gloves and a towel. Approach the chipmunk slowly, with the towel held in front of your body, then drop the towel over the chipmunk and quickly roll it up inside the towel. Don’t apply too much pressure. Carry the chipmunk to a safe outside area and gently unroll the towel on the ground.
Certain plants are natural repellents to chipmunks. Daffodils, ornamental alliums, and hyacinths are a few flowering bulbs that chipmunks will avoid. Planting them strategically will discourage chipmunks from foraging in your garden. Chipmunks and other rodents also dislike the strong smell of certain plants, such as peppermint, lavender, garlic, onions, and chives.
Several do-it-yourself (DIY) and natural commercial chipmunk repellents can help keep chipmunks away from plants they would normally eat. Sprinkle cayenne pepper on the leaves of plants you want to protect, or fill a spray bottle with a mixture of water and vinegar and apply it to areas where you suspect chipmunk activity.
Commercial repellents designed to deter squirrels, raccoons, skunks, and other pests may also be effective in repelling chipmunks. Look for products with thiram as an active ingredient. Soak bulbs in a thiram-based repellent before planting to discourage chipmunks from eating them or spray foliage with taste repellents that contain Bitrex or capsaicin. Predator urine is another effective repellent.
Avoid using mothballs and other repellents that are not labeled for use on mammals.
Professional Solutions for Chipmunk Infestations
If you are facing destructive or persistent chipmunks and DIY solutions have not been effective, consider reaching out to animal control or a reputable pest control company.
Trusted providers such as Terminix and Orkin have the knowledge and skill required for humane chipmunk control. These companies offer comprehensive pest management services, such as targeted treatments and long-term prevention strategies tailored to your specific needs.
If the chipmunks around your house have transitioned from neighbors to nuisances, take steps to humanely deter them from damaging your property. Modify your landscaping, remove food sources, install some L-shaped barriers, and apply natural repellents. In most cases, these simple DIY solutions will be enough to solve your chipmunk problem.
As a last resort, you can use live traps to capture and relocate chipmunks, or call animal control or a reputable exterminator. Paying for professional pest control services may be worthwhile if you have a large chipmunk population or have exhausted DIY options.
How do I get rid of a chipmunk in my house?
Follow these steps to get rid of a chipmunk in your house:Secure pets in another room.Open a door or window to provide an exit.Use a broom to guide the chipmunk toward the escape route.If there’s no viable exit strategy, set up a baited live trap.Release the trapped chipmunk outside.Find and caulk or seal the original entry point.
What do chipmunks hate the most?
Chipmunks hate strong odors and bitter tastes, such as cayenne pepper, vinegar, garlic, and peppermint. They are also deterred by the scent of predator urine, which creates a fear response. Plants that chipmunks dislike include daffodils, hyacinths, marigolds, and alliums.
What is the best bait for chipmunks?
The best bait for chipmunks is peanut butter. Chipmunks will be attracted by the taste and smell of peanut butter, and it is difficult for them to remove it from a trap without springing it. Sunflower seeds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and other nuts also make good chipmunk bait.
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