Discover everything you need to know about chipmunks in our guide below.
Scientific Name: Tamias
What Are Nuisance Chipmunks?
Chipmunks are members of the squirrel family. Despite their close relationship, chipmunks and squirrels look very different.
In addition to being smaller, chipmunks also have characteristic light and dark brown stripes running down their cheeks and backs.
Adult chipmunks grow to be 4-7” long and weigh about 1-5 ounces.
The Behavior, Diet, and Habits of Chipmunks
There are 25 species of chipmunks worldwide. Surprisingly, 24 of those species can be found in North America. They live in various habitats, including deserts, forests, plains, and mountains.
Usually, chipmunks live alone in underground burrows unless females are breeding or raising young. Female chipmunks give birth in the late spring, and babies stay in the nest for about six weeks. Female chipmunks give birth to one or two litters yearly, with 4-5 babies in each litter.
Unlike other burrowing pests, chipmunks hibernate during the winter months. Before they can tuck in for this hibernation, though, they need to gather food, which they spend all summer doing.
In optimal conditions, a chipmunk can collect and store enough food to last through the winter. Chipmunks live on a diet of grain, seeds, nuts, mushrooms, small insects, and carrion when they can find it.
Chipmunks may also eat domestic dog food or bird seed or destroy flower beds to eat the bulbs within them.
What Damage do Chipmunks Cause?
When chipmunks are present in large numbers on a property, they can cause extensive damage. When burrowing under patios, stairs, foundations, or retention walls, they can cause soil shifting, leading to structural instability.
Chipmunk holes also present a danger for livestock and pets and can damage yards, gardens, pastures, and ornamental plants.
How to Get Rid of Chipmunks
There are three main tactics to eliminate chipmunks: trapping, exclusion, and poisoning. Trapping and exclusion are the easiest, most humane, and most effective methods.
In California, trapped animals must be euthanized immediately, or released in the vicinity of the area where they were trapped.
We recommend sealing holes where utility lines enter your home and installing chipmunk-proof fencing around high-interest areas to exclude chipmunks.
Poison baits can also be used in outside areas inaccessible by children and pets, but we advise caution whenever poison is involved.
Check out our recent blog for a more comprehensive breakdown of chipmunk control methods.
Like all rodents, chipmunks are susceptible to Lyme disease. Additionally, they may contract and carry the bubonic plague.
Most states allow landowners to control chipmunks if they’re causing damage to crops, landscaping, or gardens, but shooting them is likely illegal in residential areas. We never advise shooting as a euthanasia method since it is unreliable and dangerous for adjacent property owners, pets, and other animals.
The most common chipmunk in North America is the Eastern Chipmunk. These pests live in deciduous forests, shrub habitats, along the edges of forests and wildlands, and in suburban and urban areas.