If chipmunks have become a nuisance in your area, reading reviews of chipmunk traps could be one of the first ideas that comes to mind. However, to make sure you are not just wasting your time and money, you might consider finding out more about these cute tiny creatures that can cause such a big mess.
Chipmunks are small members of the squirrel family. They are well known for their love of nuts and burrowing habits. Unlike their relatives, the squirrels, that spend most of their lives up in trees, chipmunks spend most of their time on the ground or burrowing in it. The burrows are used both for nesting and as food storage areas.
The reproductive cycle of these animals is interesting considering how small they are and their quite short life expectancy. You would think they have lots of babies every year, but not so much. A female chipmunk will give birth twice a year, every spring and summer, to litters of four to six babies. Baby chipmunks are naked and blind at birth, but they grow up fast.
Chipmunks are quite small, measuring two to six inches in length, with a 3-in long tail and weighing less than a pound. In the wild, chipmunks have a life span of two to three years. How can you tell if it’s a chipmunk? Well, their fur has shades of brown, yellow and grey with black and white stripes down their back.
All chipmunk species are native to North America, with one exception: the Siberian chipmunk. There are over 23 species of these cute animals, being classified into eastern and western chipmunks, according to the area they are native to. Eastern chipmunks are found throughout the eastern half of North America and Canada, while western chipmunks inhabit the western part.
Chipmunks are omnivores, eating mostly food found on the ground, like nuts, seeds, insects, fruits, plants and plant roots, mushrooms and bulbs. Their diet is varied during the warm season, and they use this time to gather nuts and seeds in their burrows, so they can feed on that during the winter.
They communicate with each other in various situations, such as warning their young of danger. Since they are very protective of their burrows, chipmunks will use a range of sounds and body language letting others know that the burrow is taken. Also, females have a specific mating call that sounds like a high-pitched vocalization.
Chipmunks prefer areas that have plenty of ground cover, such as deciduous forest, woodland or brushland. They feel most at home in these areas that are covered by logs, trees, shrubs, and stones. This does not mean they have not adapted to living in other areas, as well, such as farms, urban parks, and fence lines. The important aspect is to have plenty of ground cover.
Their natural behavior regarding burrowing is amazing. Since chipmunk’s lives depend on their burrows, they have developed an interesting and complex burrowing system. They dig two types of burrows: a shallow one, used for escaping predators while foraging for food, and a deeper, more complex one, used for nesting, storing food and spending the winter months in.
The burrow entrance is very well camouflaged to the surrounding area since chipmunks carefully take away all the dirt they dug out while creating the burrow’s tunnels. They use the cheek pockets to do so, and will not stop until the entrance is all clean. After that they will use ground materials to cover it up, making it blend with the surrounding area.
The burrow’s tunnels are not very wide, but they can be quite long and they all lead to different chambers of the burrow. The central chamber is the nesting zone, floored with dried leaves to make it comfortable for the newly born babies. Other chambers are used for storing food and also turning around if the tunnel space becomes quite narrow.
Though narrow, these tunnels can reach up to 30 feet in length, which is quite a lot, considering how small the animal creating them is. The chambers are placed far away from the entrance, for protection reasons. Chipmunks also have a waste chamber in their burrow, which helps them keep the other ones clean, especially during the harsh winter time.
Can chipmunks damage your yard?
If your property is appealing to chipmunks, there are two possible ways they could inflict damage to it. Since they prefer ground covered areas, if you have a lot of trees in your yard, old sheds filled with wood logs, piles of rocks for decorative reasons, or any other such materials covering the land, then you have created the ideal environment for these cute animals.
One way they can become destructive to your property is by their habit of digging burrows, which can cause damage to light-weight structures such as your driveway, patio, porch or sheds.
Their burrow digging habits loosen the soil underneath the foundations, causing their structural integrity to weaken. Under normal circumstances, their burrows are not extensive enough to actually cause real damage; if, however, their number increases significantly, so will the damage.
The second way chipmunks can become destructive to your yard is by eating the bulbs and roots of the plants you are growing for your own enjoyment. Although this is more of a nuisance than real structural risk, it is still something you would like to avoid. Ways of eradicating them may come to mind, but research shows the success rate is pretty slim there.
Rather than trying to eradicate them from your property, which could prove to be quite hard to do given their complex burrowing system, think of ways to make the space unwelcoming to them. Clean, open areas of frequently mowed lawn are definitely not on their list of favorite areas to live in. Moreover, the noise and vibration of the lawn-mower bothers them.
How to tell a mole hole from a chipmunk hole
Another category of animals that can be a nuisance in your yard are moles. Just like chipmunks, they too live in underground tunnels that they dig themselves. There are quite a few similarities and differences between mole holes and chipmunk holes. If you observe them closely and have a bit of knowledge on these two animals, you will easily tell which is a mole hole and which is not.
First of all, and the main difference between these two possible holes, is the amount of dirt they have around them. Chipmunks always make sure to thoroughly clean their tunnel entrance from any dirt leftovers. Moles, on the other hand, are known to create big dirt piles while digging their tunnels. This is one easy way to tell the difference.
Another difference is the hole’s location. If you notice a hole that has been dug in a rock garden, near stone walls or underneath wood logs, you most probably have a chipmunk visitor on your property. However, if the hole is located in a moist, damp area, with grass coverage nearby, you may be dealing with a mole.
One similarity is the width of the holes they dig. Both moles and chipmunks dig narrow entry holes, not larger than three inches in diameter. Since both moles and chipmunks are fairly small animals, and of about the same size, it only makes sense to dig holes that are close size wise.