While chipmunks are cute and fuzzy and sometimes fun to watch, for some homeowners they are also a major pest. Chipmunks -also known as ground squirrels- can dig burrows under and around patios, pools, stairs, retention walls, or foundations causing structural damage. Chipmunks are also known to dig up flower bulbs, empty bird feeders of seed and steal pet food.
Chipmunks are between 3.5 inches to 6 inches long (depending on sex and species) and weigh between 1 and 3 ounces. Most chipmunks have reddish brown colored fur with 3 to 5 dark colored stripes that run from the face down the length of the body and tail. Chipmunk tails are often described as looking like a bottle brush, and are pointed straight up.
Chipmunks mate two times a year, during early spring and again during the summer or early fall. There is a 31-day gestation period. 2 to 7 young are born in April to May and again in August to October. Chipmunk pups appear above ground when they are 4 to 6 weeks old - 2/3 the size of an adult. Pups will leave the burrow at 6 to 8 weeks. The young are sexually mature within 1 year. Adults may live up to 3 years.
Although chipmunks are ground dwellers they do often climb tress in search of food. Chipmunks regularly consume foods such as grains, nuts, berries, seeds, mushrooms, insects, and other scavenged items.
Typically only 2 to 4 animals per acre occur in most areas. There may be as many as 10 chipmunks per acre, however, if sufficient food and suitable burrowing sites are available. Territories often overlap among individuals.
In most cases chipmunks are only a minor nuisance, perhaps stealing birdseed from feeders or pet food from dishes. Chipmunks may also damage gardens by digging up plants, bulbs or seeds for food. In situations where populations are more dense, it is possible for these little rodents to cause structural damage to stairs, pools, retention walls, patios, or home foundations. This damage is done by the chipmunks' burrowing activities. They excavate dirt to form underground chambers for their living quarters leaving structures unbalanced and unsound.
- Prebait first. It helpful to"prebait" traps for 2-3 days prior to setting out a "live" trap. Prebait by putting your choice of bait (peanut butter, nutmeats, pumpkin or sunflower seeds, raisins, prune slices, or common breakfast cereal grains) in and around a trap with the doors wired open. This allows the chipmunks time to get used to the trap and the food source it provides.
- Activate the Trap. After the prebaiting time period is up, set the live trap in the same area with the same type of bait.
- Check traps often, releasing non-target animals.
- Release. After chipmunks are trapped they should be driven several miles away from your property and released or otherwise dispatched according to your local and state ordinances.
You may also use a snap trap designed for rats, following the same baiting methods described above for the live trap.
Another chipmunk pest control method involves gassing and killing chipmunks in their burrows. Giant Destroyers produce a gas when ignited and dropped into burrows asphyxiating the chipmunks. It is not recommended to use the Giant Destroyer under a deck, shed or other confined space where you would be unable to retreat in a timely fashion after the Giant Destroyer fuse has been lit because of the increased chance that you may inhale the smoke emitted from the gasser. The Giant Destroyer will only be effective if the target pest is "home" at the time of the application. Before using Giant Destroyers you should first check local and state ordinances in regards to chipmunks to be sure you operating within local and state laws.
Exclusionary practices as well as habitat modifications may keep chipmunk numbers down or drive them off of your property completely.
- Remove wood piles, debris, or plantings of ground cover that provide above-ground protection.
- Place bird feeders at least 15 to 30 feet away from buildings so spilled bird seed does not attract and support chipmunks near them.
- Put away pet food dishes after feeding time.
- Chipmunks should be excluded from buildings wherever possible. Use metal mesh, caulking, or other appropriate materials to close openings where they could gain entry.
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