Chipmunks 

Tamias striatus

chipmunks                                chipmunks                                chipmunks

chipmunks

Description   

 

The chipmunk is truly a remarkable creature. Although very small in size (only 3-4 inches in length and 3-4 ounces in weight, it can carry an enormous amount of food in its mouth. One biologist counted no less than 13 prune pits in one chipmunk’s mouth. This kind of storage capacity is necessary because the chipmunk needs to be able to maintain its mobility while carrying food. Otherwise it would be extremely vulnerable to its many predators. If you see a hole in your yard about the size of a silver dollar that goes straight down, you have discovered a chipmunk den. Often these types of dens will be found when the chipmunk doesn’t have access to a stone wall.

Like many animals, chipmunks don’t hibernate in the winter time. The closest they come to hibernation is what is technically called torpor. Topor is a state of being where the animal slows its metabolism and respiration for short periods of time. Hibernation, on the other hand, occurs when the animal’s metabolism drops to an even lower state only to awaken the following Spring. Usually torpor occurs during periods of extremely cold or harsh winter conditions. Then during the winter thaws, the animal awakens and goes about its normal activities. In the chipmunk’s case, this would consist of eating from the vast stores of food gathered the previous summer. Chipmunks often collect and store more food than they could possibly consume all winter. It is their tendency to store food that makes poisoning chipmunks a bad idea, not to mention that it is also illegal. For the chipmunk may simply store the poison rather than eat it.

If you can watch the chipmunk try to listen for the three distinct sounds they can make. The first is a loud "chip" like in a robin’s song. This is the one you will often hear when walking through the woods. It is the chipmunk alarm sound, warning that a potential danger is near. The second is a "cuck-cuck" that may be repeated for a few minutes. The third is a loud chip with "rrr" at the end. These last two seem to be sounds used to defend a chipmunk’s territory from other chipmunks.

Fortunately, homeowners can live harmoniously with chipmunks. For most chipmunk damage occurs with gardens, where the chipmunk will dig up and eat various bulbs. Despite these occasional irritations, the chipmunk is truly one of the most enjoyed creatures in the eastern forest.

Habitat

If you have stone fences nearby or live near a mature wood lot, chances are chipmunks are nearby. These adorable little rodents are commonly found throughout the eastern half of the United States. Many of you may have noticed that chipmunk populations were way up in 1995. This peak in their population was obviously due to a moderate winter and excellent mast production (acorn production) by various hardwoods. Always remember that animals are true believers in supply side economics. Where there is a supply of food, the demand will soon rise up to consume the supply.

Damage

 

Distinguishing Marks

 

House Damage

Typically chipmunks enter buildings through the following ways:

Before you seal these openings, cover them with newspaper to see if they are active. If the newspaper remains undisturbed for a five days, (wait longer in winter time) then you can close the hole as it is no longer being used.

For equipment to seal these opennings click Sealants.

Landscape Damage

Chipmunks can damage flowers and bulbs in your garden. The easiest solution is to trap the population down. One of the reasons why people have these problems stems from their careless use of a bird feeder (or use of birdfeeder by a neighbor). Food availability allows populations to rise as does harborage. If you must try a non-lethal method to control chipmunks then fence your garden with 1/4 inch mesh that extends at least 6 inches below the ground and then over your plants (yes, chipmunks can climb).

Diseases and Getting Bitten by a Chipmunk

Normally chipmunks are not a potential threat for diseases (at least that we are aware of at this time). However, according to the October 1999 issue of the Probe, newsletter of the National Animal Damage Control Association p. 5., a twelve year old girl in Ohio was bitten by a chipmunk that tested positive for the raccoon strain of rabies in April of 1999. So as we have said elsewhere, Rabies , avoid contact with wildlife.

Here is one letter to WDC

Mr. Vantassel,
A friend of mine was bitten by a Chipmunk that came into the kitchen of a private home. My friend picked up the Chipmunk and it bit him on the hand and ran out the door when he was dropped. The wound is superficial, however it did break the skin. I have tried to get him to go to a doctor but he says he's OK. Is he? I told him that it takes a few days or longer for symptoms to appear. Macho man that he thinks he is, he still insists he is OK. Thank you for any advice you can give me.

WDC replied

I can't tell you if your friend is okay. Depends on your state. Some states have rabies some don't. Certainly chipmunks are not a major rabies vector species. But even if rabies aren't a threat, and I am not saying it isn't, your friend needs to consider the lock jaw infection. Have your friend consult a doctor and the CDC.

Myths

Sorry, there is no plant that will drive away chipmunks. Remember, these animals are free roaming mammals. If a plant bothers them they only need to walk past it upwind. Don't bother with mothballs either. All the animal has to do is move on by it. Think of it from the animal's perspective. The animal can either breath some funny smelling stuff or freeze to death. However, those of you who have chipmunks in your home the best control method is to trap them. (We sell chipmunk traps and instruction on their capture chipmunkbooklet.php).  We do not recommend relocation, especially in the winter time, as this is not humane. If you decide to relocate, you should move the chipmunks at least one mile away from your property. We do not recommend poison because not only is it illegal in various states but it raises the risk of secondary poisoning. Chipmunks store food. If you put out poison they may actually store the poison for the winter rather than eat it. At some point in the future another creature may come across this store of poison and get sick or killed by it. Mothballs are also not recommended as the chipmunks will simply push it out of the way.

"Providing responsible and effective solutions to animal damage problems"

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7/13/06

 

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