Chipmunks are cute and sometimes mistaken for squirrels, but they can wreak havoc on your lawn and be carriers of the disease. While a handful may go unnoticed, if you’ve got an infestation of chipmunks, your lawn and home could suffer. Let’s take a look at what it takes to get rid of chipmunks safely and effectively.
What Are Chipmunks?
Chipmunks are often mistaken for squirrels and vice versa, but the two species have slightly different looks and habits. They belong to the same family, but identification is slightly different.
Chipmunks are much smaller than squirrels with brown bodies and white markings. Their tails aren’t as bushy, and perhaps the biggest tell is that they typically weigh less than six ounces typically.
There are several species of chipmunks, and while getting rid of them may not depend on the species, it can be helpful to identify what you have.
- Eastern Chipmunks – reaches up to a foot in length, including the tail, and weighs up to five ounces. It’s rust-colored and found in the midwest to eastern USA.
- Western Chipmunks – even smaller on the scale, not even reaching a foot in length with the tail included. They sometimes weigh as little as a couple of ounces and have a variety of colors. They’re found in the Western USA and Canada.
What is a Chipmunk’s Lifecycle?
Chipmunks live just a few years long and reach maturity relatively quickly. They stay in their burrows after birth for a long while, until they’re ready to move out. They’re ready to breed in the first year, and once you see them above ground, it’s only a matter of time.
Chipmunks have two breeding seasons per year but live mostly solitary lives outside of that season. The first season happens later in winter as the season approaches milder weather. The second occurs during the early summer. Gestation is just one month, and litters appear in the spring and fall.
They typically have two to eight offspring per litter, but are low on the food chain, helping control populations. As a food source for a variety of predators, they don’t typically get too large in population, but you can still find their effects in your yard.
Are Chipmunks Dangerous?
Chipmunks are too small to be a problem with attacking humans, but they are considered disease vectors. They scavenge the types of insects that can transmit disease, so larger populations could present problems for humans in that arena.
Usually, what happens is that Chipmunks are bitten by parasites such as fleas or ticks carrying disease. These diseases can include
- Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
- Colorado Tick Fever
If a Chipmunk bites you, you should see a professional even if the bite doesn’t seem that bad. With many of these conditions, symptoms may not occur for weeks, long after you’ve forgotten about the bite. It’s best to go ahead and get treated for any potential issues right away.
Why Do I Have Chipmunks?
Chipmunks are often attracted to lawns because these areas harbor things they eat and offer protection in hidden locations. If you’ve got a chipmunk problem, it’s because something about your property is attractive.
Chipmunks are omnivores, so your garden, bird eggs, insects, even nuts and seeds from flowers or trees are on the table. Humans grow the types of things that chipmunks eat and also what attracts other things chipmunks eat. It’s a relaxed buffet.
Chipmunks require cover, so brush piles, gardens, woody areas, and other things are subject to chipmunk infestation. The areas around your house that hide small animals are excellent places for chipmunks to move right in. There are lots of places for chipmunks to hide around your property.
Since Chipmunks live all over the United States and Canada, you’ll probably see at least a few in your yard at any given time during any season. The species will depend on the area, but they are always going to be around.
Can Chipmunks Damage My Property?
Chipmunks can do a lot of damage to your property if left unchecked. It won’t be massive damage that can cause significant, expensive repairs, but the nuisance can drive you crazy. It comes in two forms, usually.
- Light damage to structures – as chipmunks dig burrows, they can cause some damage to the structural integrity of the ground. That can translate into weakened support around things like retaining walls, porches, stairs, fences, and the foundation.
While most chipmunk burrows will be out of the way, if you’ve got any of these burrows near these features, it can get irritating to see them losing their support. It’s just a precaution you’ll need to take.
- Gardens – everything in your garden is an easy target for a hungry chipmunk. They’ll dig up flower bulbs, eat the seeds and stalks, eat your veggies, and decimate the ground around your plants. The damage to your gardens isn’t the end of the world, but it can be annoying to try to keep up with chipmunks as they go through your garden.
Even the trees and shrubs and landscaping around your house can house chipmunks, giving them access to your gardens to both eat and hide. Any garden you have is a potential food source and hiding place.
Where Do Chipmunks Hide?
The signs of their burrows aren’t hard to spot if you know what you’re looking for. The holes are small on the surface but can extend several feet into the ground. The entrances are free of dirt and look like small holes two to three inches in diameter.
The first thing to do is to check around brush piles and wooded areas like the shrubs around your landscaping. These offer a lot of cover for burrows to help protect the areas around the burrow. These places are often the first places to check.
Next, look for the burrows around your covered places like stairs or patios. Even outdoor furniture that doesn’t get a lot of use offers protected areas for the chipmunks. You need to check for the burrows there.
How Do I Get Rid of Chipmunks?
So how do you get rid of chipmunks naturally? If you’re interested in getting rid of chipmunks, there are some things you can do to make that happen. Protecting your gardens and yard features is a big part of being a homeowner. Here are a few things to keep in mind.
It’s going to be a lot easier to prevent chipmunks than it is to get rid of them. Prevention is a better way how to get rid of chipmunks naturally. If you notice one or two in your hard, it’s time to move fast to make sure they don’t have to take over. Make sure the prevention methods stick around to help keep future populations away.
- Build a fence – a basic fence can help discourage all animals out of your gardens. If your fence is around eight inches below the ground, this can really go a long way to ensuring that chipmunks can’t (or don’t want to bother) digging underneath the fence.
- Seal your home – not only do you want a fence, but you may want to cut down on areas where they can get into and under your home. The less space they have to burrow around and under your house, the better. Basic weather stripping can help in some areas, and underneath the house, the same fencing is a great idea.
Treating an Existing Problem
If it’s too late for prevention measures alone, it might be time to treat the existing problem. Go through the prevention methods to ensure that chipmunks don’t return once you’ve gone through the treatments.
- Keep your yard clean – get rid of those brush piles and ensure that your landscaping is clean. The areas where they hide get less attractive if you don’t have a cover that helps hide them and protect them from predators.
Make sure that you handle any fruit or vegetables that have fallen off. Those can attract chipmunks really easily. It’s best to make sure you’ve gotten everything cleaned up in your garden.
- Use traps – you can find a lot of different types of traps around. It’s best to use this method for small infestations as large populations could overwhelm your traps. Live traps are more ethical, but if you don’t want to deal with that, there are other kinds of traps too.
- Find repellants – repellants won’t handle chipmunks on their own, but they can make your yard less appealing as a complement to other solutions. You can research these as well.
- Consult a professional – for large populations or if you still aren’t sure what to do, consulting a professional can help take care of your chipmunk problem. They’ll have the experience to identify the burrows and take care of the populations.
Handling Your Chipmunk Problem
Chipmunks are more of a nuisance than a real problem, but if you want to protect your landscaping and yard features, knowing how to kill chipmunks can really help. Plus, it protects you from various diseases and offers a better chance of maintaining the structural integrity of your property. Consult a professional exterminator if you need to, but an ounce of prevention goes a long way.