What Do Chipmunks Eat and How Their Feeding Habits Affect You

Eating Habits of a Chipmunk And How They Can Affect You

The cute, little chipmunks gained a lot of prominence due to shows like “Alvin and the Chipmunk” and “Chip n Dale.” These little critters belong to the squirrel family; however, unlike normal squirrels, these little rodents have adapted to burrowing in the ground.

In this guide, you will learn about:

  • Natural Feeding Behavior of Chipmunks
  • The Eating Habits of Chipmunks
  • Do Chipmunk Eating Habits Harm My Land?
  • Can Chipmunk Transmit Diseases To Humans?
  • Where Can I Find Chipmunk Burrows on my Property?
  • How To Keep Chipmunks Away From Your Home?
  • What To Do If I Find A Chipmunk Inside My Home?

Natural Feeding Behavior of Chipmunks

Although chipmunks are skillful climbers and usually populate trees in forests and woods, there are several species of the wild chipmunk that also likes to live in hollowed-out tree logs and underground burrows. Some also make their nests inside thick shrubs and bushes.

These animals are crepuscular animals, preferring to scavenge for their food during twilight or dawn hours, to defend themselves from predators, like eagles, owls, and cats. The little rodents take a lot of naps during the day and spend the rest of the day hunting for nuts. A chipmunk can gather up to 165 nuts in a single day, according to National Geographic.

During warmer weather, these chipmunks run all over the forest floor looking for food that has a long life and doesn’t rot. When they find any food to store, they stuff them into their mouth and expand their cheeks three times their normal size to accommodate the nuts. They then take these nuts back to the burrows they dig up to prepare for hibernation and store their cache there.

Chipmunk eating habits

Do you remember the time former House Speaker Paul Ryan claimed a family of chipmunks chewed the wiring in his car? Since chipmunks are omnivorous, they can literally chew on anything.

Food Acquired From Nature

Chipmunks eat both plants and animals, which means their diet varies depending on their surroundings. Wild chipmunks primarily get their nutrition from nuts, fruit, vegetables, seeds, grain, new shoots, frogs certain kind of fungi, worms, grass, eggs of some small birds, small snakes and more. They also eat certain insects like grasshoppers, crickets, and mealworms.

Food Acquired From Humans

Like many rodents, chipmunks not just enjoy natural foods but food acquired from humans as well. Chipmunks will feed on bread, baked goods, chips and like all animals, love sugary treats like candy and cookies. Although chipmunks enjoy eating these varieties of food, too much sugar or dough can cause major harm to their bones and tissue.

Do Chipmunk Eating Habits Harm My Land?

These animals are generally non-aggressive and are not capable of doing significant harm to your land or house. However, they can leave some less-than-savory marks on your property.

Slight Structural Damage

Since chipmunks are burrowing animals, they can cause light structural damage to your property. These rodents can dig burrows near the deck, patio, staircase or foundations of houses, built in suburban or rural areas. Take note that a single chipmunk burrow can mean an extensive network of underground tunnels that can run over 30 feet. These tunnels can weaken some supports in the area. Their burrow holes can cause damage to your lawn. If you have trees running close to your home, these chipmunks can gain easy access and find shelter inside your home.

Chewed Up Produce

Since chipmunks enjoy snacking on fruits, nuts, veggies, and bulbs, these little critters can dig up all the produce and wreak havoc in your vegetable gardener. They can also find their way into your store of pet food and bird seeds. If you suspect chipmunks visit your garden, it is a good idea to keep these eatables inside your home.

Can Chipmunk Transmit Diseases To Humans?

Although chipmunks rarely come close to humans, these rodents can bite if they are trapped or if a human comes to close to their nest, to defend themselves. When that happens, if the chipmunk is infected by ticks or fleas, it can cause a variety of diseases. Some of them include:

  • Rabies: This illness can be potentially fatal to all mammals, including chipmunks and humans. Rabies can cause inflammation of the brain, high fever, muscle ache and tingling on the site of the bite. Symptoms can take a few days to a year to appear.
  • Plague: The term “Black Death” causes a chill of dread through every person’s spine. The illness, referred to as “bubonic plague,” is carried by rodents and an infected chipmunk can transmit the disease to human through its bite. Symptoms include fever, chills, nausea, aches and causes death in 63 to 93 percent of people.
  • Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever: This disease can be transmitted if a chipmunk bitten by an infected flea bites you. The symptoms include high fever, headaches, and If not treated early, the disease can turn fatal.

Chipmunks are repeat visitors so keep in mind a few things: first off, do not try to get close or make friends with a chipmunk; and two, don’t ever touch a sick or injured chipmunk. A frightened and hurt chipmunk can bite you which can spread the illnesses through their saliva. If you find one lying on the ground, do not approach it; instead, call animal control.

Where Can I Find Chipmunk Burrows on my Property?

Unlike many other rodents, chipmunks make their burrows free of dirt at the entrance and exits. Hence, their burrows cannot be as easily spotted. These holes can be quite small and may extend to two or three feet into the ground. Fallen trees, rotting logs, tree stumps, and stony areas provide good cover and comfort to the chipmunks and are ideal nesting grounds for the animals.

These rodents can also burrow near patios, decks, basement and any other site that provides them some nice hiding spots outside a building. Hiding underground also protects these tiny animals from predators like hawks, foxes, cats, skunks, and snakes.

How To Keep Chipmunks Away From Your Home?

As chipmunks are relatively non-dangerous animals, killing them should be a last resort. Instead, you can keep them out using various methods:

Storing Away Food

Chipmunks come in search of food to your garden. If you have bird seeds and pet food lying outside, it is wise to keep it inside. Also, don’t let leftover food lying in the garden as the smell can attract the animals. These include fruit, veggies, nuts, and even compost garbage. Install your bird feeder far away from your house so that chipmunks don’t have an incentive to come near your home.

Get Rid of Shelter

Don’t allow the chipmunks any space to live in your yard, Remove any tree stumps, fallen logs or wood piles in your yard and put mesh and caulking in areas like your patio and house foundation, where chipmunks can reside.

Items That Exude Certain Smells

Chipmunks are very sensitive to the smell of some items and stay away from them. One such thing is a thistle. You can also place chewed up fragrant bubble gun near their holes. Also, spread some blood meal near the roots of your plants. They also hate the smell of rotten eggs.

Place Beach Balls and CDs

Chipmunks won’t approach a place where there is a lot of activity. You can place beach balls in your yard and hang CDs on trees that will easily move with the breeze. The motion will frighten off these animals.

Seal Your Home

Chipmunks can easily gain access to your home if a door or window is left open or if your house has overhanging tree branches. To make your house chipmunk-proof, you can seal your windows and doors tightly with rubber. Make sure the tiny holes in your siding are also plugged up with construction foam since chipmunks can make use of two-inch of space to gain entry. Cover your chimneys, vent, and pipe with mesh or other breathable material that keeps the animals out.

Build Fences

If your vegetable garden has become for a buffet for chipmunks, create a boundary fence of strong mesh around your plants. This mesh needs to go deep underground to at least eight feet since chipmunks are adept burrowers. It should also be modified to be closed at the top so that chipmunks cannot climb over it.

What To Do If I Find A Chipmunk Inside My Home?

If you find an errant rodent inside your home, here is what you should do:

Open Outside Doors and Windows

If a chipmunk has scampered its way into your home, you can open all the doors and windows leading to the outside. Keep all points of entry into other rooms of your home closed so that the rodent has nowhere to go but out.

Prop a Board to the Window

If the room only has windows and no door leading to the outside, prop a wooden board against the window so that the animal can climb its way to the outside.

Use a Blanket

If the chipmunk does not want to go out, take a big blanket, hold it spread out and use it to herd the animal towards the door. If it climbs on the blanket, quickly roll up the blanket with the chipmunk inside, take it outside and dump the rodent out.

If a chipmunk has gotten into your attic or basement and has died down there, don’t go up to it and try to remove it yourself; the animal may be infected. Call animal control and let them do their job.

The Takeaway

Chipmunks love to eat food, both natural and human-made and would use every option to find their way to the food source. Their favorite types of food include fruit, nuts, veggies, and grains and they may come into your home, foraging for snacks.

If these chipmunks keep munching on your veggies, scampering into your house or building tunnels in your well-kept garden, don’t immediately go on a killing spree. Try the above methods to get rid of them. If you feel that your methods are not working, call an expert to handle the problem.

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