How to deal with chipmunks in your garden

chipmunk
Photo courtesy Kevin D. Arvin, Bugwood.org

by Connie Oswald Stofko

I’ve been hearing a lot of complaints lately from gardeners who are having problems with chipmunks.

I talked with John Farfaglia, extension educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension in Niagara County, and my first question was whether we have more chipmunks in Western New York.

“We have been getting occasional calls on chipmunks for many years, so I don’t think their populations have increased significantly,” he said.

But they can be a problem for gardeners.

“If their populations build up in a particular area, gardeners may experience issues with them feeding on young plants, flowers, vegetables and bulbs,” he said.

There are several things gardeners can do if they are having a problem.

Don’t attract chipmunks

First, don’t attract chipmunks to your yard, Farfaglia said. Bird seed spilled from feeders can lure them in, so control the bird seed as much as possible.

Don’t fertilize with bone meal or fish emulsion, which also attract chipmunks, according to this factsheet from Cornell Cooperative Extension in Rockland County.

Landscape modification

Landscape modification is the most effective long-term management method, according to the factsheet.

Don’t plant ground covers, trees and shrubs in a continuous fashion that connects wooded areas to foundation plantings.

You should also place rock walls, gardens and firewood piles away from the house because these features provide cover for chipmunks.

You can also build fences to keep chipmunks away from plants. See details in the factsheet under “Exclusion.”

Repellents

Some people have had success with hot-pepper-based commercial repellents, Farfaglia said.

A number of other taste repellents are listed in the factsheet, too.

Live trapping

Live trapping and relocation is worth a try, Farfaglia said.

However, the only place you can relocate a chipmunk (or any other wild animal) to is another area of your own property.

If you want a wild animal removed from your property, contact a Nuisance Wildlife Control Operator. See more here from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

Lethal method

The factsheet also includes information on killing chipmunks using rat traps to reduce the population.

18 Comments on “How to deal with chipmunks in your garden

  1. As for flower pots, I have placed large stones or small rocks around the bases of the plants on the pots. It works much better than mulch which the critters just dig out. Seeds and plants in the ground are fair game for squirrels and chippies and they always seem to find that newly loosened soil.
    By the way my cat enjoys watching both squirrels and chipmunks from the safety of my screened in back porch.

  2. As for flower pots, I have placed large stones or small rocks around the bases of the plants on the pots. It works much better than mulch which the critters just dig out. Seeds and plants in the ground are fair game for squirrels and chippies and they always seem to find that newly loosened soil.

  3. I’ve sacrificed quite a few flower pots and vegetables this year, but I enjoy seeing the wildlife in my backyard (especially this year since I’ve been home alot more than usual).

  4. I have tons of chipmunks and enjoy having them. I don’t have problems because I choose my plants wisely and spray repellent occasionally if needed. If I can garden with deer I can certainly garden with chipmunks. If you are battling the wildlife rather than enjoying them then something is wrong.

  5. It is illegal to live trap an animal such as a chipmunk and to relocate it in a park or other place in nys.

  6. Dear Carol Hadley,I’m not an animal hater but it gets very frustrating to have every flower pot dug up just after planting it. I love gardening and have had to change what I plant, no tulips or lilies of any kind, Glad for the animal control tips!

  7. I’ve never seen a chipmunk in my yard, just squirrels and bunnies. As a gardener and an animal lover I let them feed on anything they find in my yard. They make me laugh and that’s worth a few plants/ vegetables here and there. And chipmunks are cute.

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