How to Get Rid of Chipmunks
There are 16 species of chipmunks native to North America, the most prevalent being the eastern chipmunk (Tamias striatus). The eastern chipmunk, found across the eastern United States, is 5 to 6 inches long with two tan and five black lines down its back. Easily identified, chipmunks are a common sight in woodlands and suburban areas. Foraging omnivores, they feed on grains, nuts, seeds and insects. Chipmunks will also consume flower bulbs and small seedlings. In most circumstances, a chipmunk presence is tolerated without management.
Most active in the early morning and late afternoon in warm weather months, chipmunks gather food, carrying their bounty in large cheek pouches until it may be stored. In fall and winter, chipmunks retreat into underground burrows as “restless” hibernators and remain fairly inactive, relying on these food reserves until the return of spring.
Chipmunks have a home range of up to half an acre, but remain close to territory on which they have established burrows. A primary tunnel of roughly 25 feet anchors a complex burrow system, including a nesting chamber, multiple food storage chambers and several escape routes. Entrances are well-hidden, often obscured by stumps, brush or wood piles or along building foundations.
Chipmunks are communal for purposes of mating, but are usually solitary, with ranges overlapping at a typical population density of 4 to 6 chipmunks per acre. Numbers increase during early spring and late summer mating seasons and may also increase if food supplies are abundant. They will announce their presence or warn chipmunks of predators though distinct chirps or clucks. Coexistence with other chipmunks is genial, except in cases of territorial dispute or competition for mating.
Chipmunks do not usually have a measurable impact on crops or landscape unless a population is high. Structural damage to sidewalks, retaining walls or building foundations from elaborate tunneling may also occur at these times and repair can be costly.
Chipmunks may be discouraged from tunneling under structures, by reducing ground clutter along foundations or around patios, decks or outbuildings. When landscaping, avoid continuous ground cover between wooded areas and homes or garages to allow less protection for potential tunnel entrances.
A solution of water and cayenne or another hot pepper can function as a repellent for chipmunks, but must be reapplied frequently. Because tunnel entrances are difficult to spot, it is challenging to pinpoint where repellents will be most effective. Hidden entrances and the complexity of burrows also make fumigation of tunnels impractical.
In most situations, trapping is the most effective defense against a growing or invasive chipmunk population. A trap baited with nuts, cereals or peanut butter placed along fences, shrubs or in places where chipmunks have been previously spotted have a high success rate. No-kill traps are widely available and are the most humane way to deal with chipmunk overpopulation. Trapped chipmunks should be relocated several miles from their home site and away from other property where they may become a nuisance.