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How To Get Rid of Chipmunks When They Go Wild In Your Garden

While chipmunks can be cute and charming to watch, they can also cause damage to gardens and landscapes. These small rodents can dig up bulbs, damage plants with their underground tunnels and steal garden produce. Their small size and acrobatic abilities can make them difficult to control, but homeowners have several options for getting rid of chipmunks. Below are some tips for how to get rid of chipmunks.

4 Tips to Get Rid of Chipmunks

Gardeners can keep chipmunks out of the garden and landscape in several different ways including using repellents and traps, making the landscape less inviting and using birds.

1. Chipmunk Repellent

Chipmunks don't care for several smells, including garlic. Natural repellents with garlic and hot pepper can be sprayed on plants. If chipmunks are digging up flower bulbs, consider planting bulbs that they don't like, such as narcissus, muscari and allium. Other plants that may act as repellents include marigolds, peppermint and lavender.

Usually commercial repellents that deter squirrels can also deter chipmunks. Follow the label directions when using them. Avoid using mothballs, as they are toxic to humans and pets.

2. Chipmunk Traps

Humane traps can also be effective. To effectively trap chipmunks, first identify where the chipmunks are living or burrowing. Place the trap near the location. Bait the trap with peanut butter, peanuts or sunflower seeds. When baiting the trap, wear gloves so that you don't leave human scent on the trap. Check the trap frequently. Check your local ordinances about relocating chipmunks.

3. Preventative Landscaping

Because chipmunks are attracted to certain locations and food sources, make your landscape less attractive to them. First, don't leave out pet food. If you have bird feeders, clean up the bird seed underneath the feeders frequently. Next, don't leave attractive nesting spaces in your yard. Chipmunks find both rock piles and wood piles attractive. They're also attracted to foundations and rock walls where leaves, shrubbery and other plants are growing.

Wire mesh and hardware cloth can also be used to keep chipmunks away from foundations, downspouts and gardens. Bury the hardware cloth around home foundations, porches and walkways to keep chipmunks from burrowing. Wire mesh fencing can be used around gardens and flowers. (One-quarter inch mesh is recommended). To protect flower bulbs, use bulb cages.

4. Birds

If you can attract owls to your landscape, they can provide natural pest control. Some gardeners build own boxes to attract owls. These nighttime predators feed on chipmunks as well as other rodents, including mice, rats, moles and voles.

Chipmunk FAQs
  • What do chipmunks eat?
  • Chipmunks are omnivores and have a varied diet. They'll eat nuts, seeds, fruits, grains, earthworms, fungi and insects.
  • Where do chipmunks live?
  • Chipmunks may live on the edges of woodlands, meadows, parks and backyards. They prefer places where there is both shelter and a food source. They often burrow underground in tunnels that may be up to 30 feet long and 3 feet deep.
  • How many chipmunks live together?
  • Chipmunks are solitary and territorial, and only one adult chipmunk lives in a burrow.
  • What time of day are chipmunks most active?
  • Chipmunks are usually most active in the early morning and early evening hours.
  • Are chipmunks friendly to humans?
  • Chipmunks are not friendly to humans. If cornered or trapped, they may bite or scratch.

Expert Advice

Q: Mike: We have a terrible problem with chipmunks. They ruin the bark mulch we put down every year. The chipmunks dig in it and push so much soil up onto the bark, you can't even tell there is bark there. It's a mess! They dig holes all over and even dig up our plants! Is there any thing we can do to stop them or get rid of them? Thank you!
    ---Donna in Hebron, Indiana
We have a problem with Chipmunks burrowing along the foundation of our house and also under the blocks that our air conditioner sits on. I tried to discourage them with fox and coyote urine but it doesn't seem to work.
    ---Chuck in Marlton, New Jersey
How can I rid my vegetable and flower gardens of chipmunks? They tunnel three to six inches underground and the tunnels cause some of my plants to die. Please help—they have outsmarted me for eight years now!
    ---Gene in Bowie, MD
Mike: A family of chipmunks has taken up residence in our small garden of perennial and annual flowers. They are adorable and we love to watch them, but I worry about what they might be doing. The annuals they can have, but this is my third year cultivating the perennials and I would hate to lose them as they are finally looking lush. I can't see any damage yet, but the chippies run in and out of the garden constantly—sometimes stopping to look in the glass door at me. I don't want to evict them unless I have to; but if I have to, how do I do it?
    ---Linda in Paoli, PA
PS: My children and I LOVE your show; my 11 year-old son especially—I think your humor targets his age!

A: Nice parting shot, there, Linda. But my wife disagrees—she says it's the humor of an eight year-old. So there.

Anyway, I always felt that chippies were just cute little guys; we see them around all the time and they've never touched my plants or tunneled into my garden. But we have had a flurry of questions about putting the brakes on Simon, Alvin and The odore lately. And just last week, one was caught red-pawed nibbling away at some of the extra tomato plants I had given to a friend. Extension service Bulletins seem to back these impressions up—warning that they can be around for decades just being darned cute and then suddenly become pests one season.

As you can imagine, exclusion is pretty much impossible—chipmunks are almost as acrobatic as that most evil of garden foes, the squirrel, and much smaller to boot. You'd have to fence the entire area off in hardware cloth sunk a foot or two into the ground—with a hardware cloth roof—to keep them out. Even Donald Duck wasn't pushed to such extremes in his epic battles with Chip and Dale. (Apparently Walt Disney was trying to warn us in those classic cartoons.)

But it should be easy to protect plants from being eaten with a bad tasting repellent. You can use a commercial deer repellent—chippies don't like the taste of rotten eggs any more than Bambi does.

Or mix up a batch of my personal repellent recipe, which also deters rabbits and many insect pests: Whiz up one clove of garlic and one hot pepper in a pint of water, strain, pour into a sprayer that has never held chemicals, add one drop each of liquid dish washing soap and vegetable oil and spray on the plants you wish to protect, shaking frequently. (The container, not you.)

Predator urine do not work. Their 'collection' is also cruel in the extreme. And they don't work—did I mention that? I'd try castor oil instead; it imparts a smell to saturated soil that burrowing creatures can't stand. Use one of the packaged castor oil products—wet or dry—sold for vole and mole control. You can also make a home-made version—IF you can find old-fashioned, stinky, bad-tasting castor oil as opposed to the new and improved deodorized version. Simply pour a quarter to a half-cup of the fully odorized stuff into a watering can that's about half full of lukewarm water, add a couple drops of dish washing soap and stir frequently.

Spread or water your castor oil stuff wherever you see their holes. It's fine to get some IN the holes, but the point is to saturate the ground. Start back at the house or other area you wish to protect and treat outward, so you don't inadvertently push them towards your plantings or under your home, where researchers warn, they really can damage the foundation—not so much from the tiny little tunnels themselves, but from water flowing down through those holes and causing untold mischief.

If they're undermining rock walls—a problem posed by listeners in years past—or that air conditioner support, try spraying that area heavily with deer repellent, liquid castor oil or one of those garlic sprays sold for mosquito control.


And finally, back when I was Editor of ORGANIC GARDENING magazine, we ran a piece in which Dr. Thomas Barnes, a professor at the University of Kentucky, explained that live trapping could be very effective. Use a very small trap (Havahart, Sherman and Tomahawk were the brand names mentioned), conceal it so that just the entrance is poking out of a pile of leaves, and bait it with a mixture of "cheap, greasy peanut butter, oatmeal and something fruity".

Warning: If you ARE going to "Have a Heart", the captured chippies must be taken to a rural area far away—like 20 to 40 miles far, warns a wildlife relocation specialist we consulted. Drop them off within five or ten miles and…. they'll be baaaack!

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