Eastern chipmunk Tamias striatus
IDENTIFICATION — You’re looking out your window and you see it — a striped rodent feasting on your birdseed. At first, you’re enraged. But you can’t take your eyes off the tiny critter — it’s just so entertaining. Before you know it, the chipmunk has run off with a good portion of birdseed and you’re left wondering what happened. Irritating as that is, it gets worse. Chipmunks don’t stop at birdseed — they can be bad news for your plants, too.
DAMAGE — Chipmunks are voracious pests, and though they prefer seeds, they’ll eat almost anything. They devour fruit, vegetables, seedlings, flower bulbs (crocuses are a particular favorite), mushrooms and flowers. They stuff their cheeks with nuts, birdseed and grains to bring down to their underground tunnels — one chipmunk can store up to 30 cups of food for the winter. They do eat insects and slugs, but this is small compensation for all the pilfering they do in the garden. These little pests can also weaken structures when they burrow around or under them.
CONTROL — Keeping chipmunks out of your garden isn’t easy — the striped bandits can be persistent. But you can protect your plants. Plant bulbs to their deepest recommended depth to make it harder for chipmunks to dig them up. Include daffodils, which chipmunks avoid, among your bulbs to dissuade them from digging. Laying a screen or hardware cloth over the newly planted area may also help deter them.
If you enjoy watching their antics, you can put out a few ears of dried corn and give them access to water, like a birdbath. This might prevent them from eating your plants. If not, you can sprinkle plants with cayenne pepper. (You’ll have to re-apply after a rain.)
You can also spray predator urine near plants to keep chipmunks at bay. Products like Shake-Away® contain fox urine, and the smell scares rodents off.