The Chipmunk – Chubby-Cheeked Destroyer

Alvin, Simon, and Theodore might be cute on the screen, but you don’t want to see them in your back yard. In our look at mammals that can really damage your lawn, chipmunks are right up there with moles as far as the ones to worry about the most.

The United States has around 24 different species of chipmunks, with 23 of them being located in the midwestern and western parts of the country. Even though there are many species, they all have a similar appearance – mostly brown, with white, black, and gray highlights to their coat. Most noticeable are the stripes that run along their bodies. Most, but not all, have bushy tails, sometimes leading to them being confused for squirrels.

While you may get a laugh out of the chubby cheeks of a chipmunk storing food, it’s not as funny when you realize the chipmunk is storing your plant bulbs and seeds in it s cheeks. As omnivores, chipmunks have a wide variety of food sources, which includes grass, shoots, fruit, nuts, buds, and insects. This makes pretty much anything in your yard fair game – they even been known to eat small frogs and bird eggs, so if you’re trying to attract a variety of wildlife, they can wreak havoc.

On top of their eating habits, they are burrowing animals, meaning that decks and patios can fall victim to them trying to build a home. Unlike moles and voles, they don’t tunnel, but the burrows can be very large in area.

Also unlike moles and voles, chipmunks are a bit harder to fight against. They are fast, so introducing predators into the area such as cats will only have a minimal effect – it will be countered by their high reproductive rate and long natural life span. They are comfortable in the open, and can climb. They best way to protect plants is to sink a layer of wire mesh under the surface, large enough for a plant to grow through but small enough that a chipmunk can’t burrow through it.

Chipmunks will go after fruits and vegetables, so to protect them the best bet is mesh bird netting. The fruits and vegetables will need to be completely covered. Even so, a chipmunk is capable of gnawing through the plastic netting, although they rarely will do so.

Setting traps is the best way to get rid of chipmunks, but even that can be difficult. Chipmunks are one of the smarter garden pests, and will sometimes become familiar with baited traps, learning how to get the bait without tripping a trap. If you use live-catch traps, you’ll need to release the chipmunks at least three miles away from your property – they have an acute ability to find their way to an area they know well. The next option is an aggressive, fatal trapping approach, but even these types of traps can be outsmarted by the pest. However, they can do a good job reducing the overall number of chipmunks making their home in your yard.

One last thing – don’t bother with alternative ideas, such as sonic emitters, hot-pepper sprays or the like. Chipmunks are incredibly resilient, and none of these alternative methods – some of which have been shown to work on moles and voles – have any sort of effect on the chipmunks.

About AndrewT

Written by Andrew T for LawnEq - The specialists for Lawn Mower Parts and Small Engine Parts. We offer genuine premium OEM parts for Land Pride, Toro and many more dependable brands.