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At home in the woods and your garden Chipmunks

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Pam Baytos, OSU Extension Master Gardener Volunteer

Lichen on tree bark.

By Sheila Cubick

Ohio certified volunteer naturalist

My cat Milka is a student of mammology. She loves to spend her days watching the chipmunks chase one another through our yard.

Many homeowners and gardeners, however, aren’t amused by them. They often complain of burrowing activity that weakens walls and foundational areas.

The most common complaint from gardeners is the loss of bulbs and plants due to predation and disturbance.

Gardeners can help to reduce this damage by keeping in mind their needs for food and shelter and eliminating these opportunities on your property.

Eastern chipmunks are 3 to 6 inches long, reddish brown in color with five dark stripes running down their backs with various colors of white, gray, and brown between the stripes. White stripes above and below the eyes are quite prominent.

Chipmunks are members of the squirrel family and reside in the ground in burrows they dig by removing the soil and carrying it away from the hole in the pouches in their cheeks.

Burrows can extend 20 to 30 feet and have multiple rooms and exits.

They primarily live in deciduous woods or brushy areas with a lot of ground cover that can hide their burrow entrances.

Removing such plantings from flower beds and near foundations and avoiding creating a continuous vegetative corridor from woods, plantings, to flower beds, and house that provides cover from predators can help to eliminate burrowing activity near the home.

Chipmunks eat nuts, seeds, fruits, insects, meat, eggs, mushrooms and bulbs.

Placing bird feeders 15 to 30 feet away from buildings and flower beds and mowing grass short around them to reduce cover will discourage chipmunk activity in these areas.

Placing quarter-inch hardware mesh around foundations and walls and placing within flower beds creates a barrier that helps to keep out chipmunks.

If creating a new bulb bed, remove soil and cover with mesh, plant bulbs, cover with soil, cover with mesh until bulbs begin to appear, then remove.

Stones and crushed shells can be placed in the bottom of holes to deter digging if planting bulbs in holes in an existing bed.

Chipmunks, however, can be difficult to control with deterrents.

Chipmunks provide a means of seed dispersal for plants and trees in the forest by collecting and storing them in their cheek pouches for transport to burrows for storage.

Chipmunks live on their stores during the winter, so they don’t fully hibernate.

On warmer, sunny winter days, they will come out to bask in the sun.

Milka and I watch them as they soak up every ray with expressions of ecstasy on their little faces.

Providing entertainment for my cat is worth the loss of a few tulip bulbs to me.

I hope you enjoy watching the antics of these amusing rodents, too.

For details on these understanding chipmunks, visit; dealing with chipmunk issues, go to