Two animals familiar to homeowners and those residing in suburban environments are the squirrel and chipmunk. Chipmunks are smaller members of the same family of animals as tree squirrels and are distinguishable by the broad stripes along their backs. Squirrels and chipmunks primarily consume plant matter, and their diet varies with the seasons. They typically eat and store acorns and other nuts underground, which provide caches of food for the winter. Spring flowers and growing buds are also eaten as the weather warms, and in the summer squirrels and chipmunks often eat fruits and berries.
Although they are good climbers, chipmunks prefer to live in burrows they often dig below tree stumps, fallen logs, woodpiles, retaining walls, and rock piles. Chipmunk burrows are 2 inches in diameter, plunge steeply downward, and have loose dirt around the entrance.
POSSIBLE CONFLICTS & SOLUTIONS
Chipmunks rarely cause extensive damage to yards and homes, and the enjoyment they provide to homeowners often outweighs any damage they cause. However, chipmunks are known to dig in lawns, eat ornamental plants and bulbs, and steal food from bird feeders. During the winter months, it is important to remember that chipmunks are only doing what is natural to them to find food during an often limited and sparse time of the year. Tolerance is especially important during this time of year.
Bulbs can be protected by soaking them in certain repellents before planting, or by planting them below 1 x 1 inch wire or plastic screening. Spraying repellents on ornamental plants can help deter inquisitive squirrels and chipmunks. Wrapping ripening fruit trees with netting and using various squirrel-proof bird feeders can also keep them away. Most gardening and hardware stores sell netting and squirrel-proof bird feeders. Click here for our links and resources page to find vendors that sell repellants.
Sprinklers triggered by motion detectors can also discourage chipmunks and squirrels from investigating gardens. Click here for a list of vendors that sell these devices.
PUBLIC HEALTH CONCERNS
Chipmunks are generally not a significant source of infectious disease transmittable to humans.
MSPCA CHIPMUNK FACT SHEET pdf