A burrowing cousin of the squirrel, chipmunks feed on fungi, plants, nuts, grains, seeds and the occasional insect and can be detrimental to a garden or landscape. These rodents favor areas with stone walls or rotting logs and heavy ground cover. When they burrow, they excavate the dirt, keeping tunnel entrances well-concealed. If you find plants and bulbs dislodged right after you plant them, there’s a good chance that a chipmunk is the culprit. Like squirrels, they will also eat food and seed intended to attract birds.
Some key methods used in deterring chipmunks from a garden are trapping and removal, limiting their food sources, chemical repellents and keeping natural predators around such as cats and owls.
Trapping and Removal
Live chipmunk traps are a humane way to control a chipmunk population on your property. They are sold in the form of a small cage and can be baited with nuts, seed, oats or whatever your chipmunks like to eat. Once they are inside the cage, simply drive them to the nearest park or the other side of town and set them loose.
Limiting Food Sources
There are natural remedies for chipmunk damage that can be sprayed on your plants such as a hot pepper/pureed garlic solution, store-bought hot sauce or castor oil. For the solution, steep pureed garlic and hot peppers in one cup of hot, soapy water until the water is cool. Strain it and add one tablespoon of oil. Shake and pour into a spray bottle. Chipmunks strongly dislike these smells and tastes and will steer clear of garden plants coated in them. If this does not work, providing a food source away from where the damage is occurring can be a good fallback plan. If the chipmunks have access to an easy source of food, they will avoid the more difficult garden and bird feeder options.
Moth balls and flakes are a common chemical repellent to chipmunks, although they should be used with caution according to label instructions. Shake Away coyote urine and ammonia soap sprayed carefully in the desired area are also effective when chipmunks are the specific target.
An owl box in your yard can really go a long way towards keeping a chipmunk population down. Owls are generalist predators when it comes to rodents and will not only nocturnally hunt chipmunks but moles, voles, mice, rats or any rodent species that could potentially cause damage to your garden. An outdoor cat will serve very much the same purpose. Chipmunks are not the climbers that the closely-related squirrels are, making them natural prey for cats.