Chipmunks and Squirrels
Posted: December 3, 2012
Chipmunks burrow around areas where they are well hidden, such as wood piles, brush, basements, and garages. The damage these spunky little creatures can do is surprising. By tunneling under patios, retention walls, stairs or foundations, they can cause structural problems. They consume flower bulbs, seeds, seedlings, and even pet food.
Exclusion is the best way to manage chipmunk damage. Close all openings where chipmunks can enter the home with caulking or hardware cloth. Covering your landscape beds with this mesh will protect your bulbs and seeds. Spread soil over the hardware cloth. Exclusion also is the best way to prevent damage.
Certain landscape features provide protection for chipmunks, such as ground covers and shrubs. These make it easy for chipmunks to gain entry to your home. Remove piles of debris and keep grass cut short. Modifying your landscape for the winter will keep chipmunk activity down.
Related to chipmunks, is the squirrel. This omnipresent rodent derived its name from the Greek word meaning “to shadow” referring to their big bushy tails. Once inside your home, they can damage insulation, walls, and electrical wires. Squirrels do damage because of their propensity to gnaw on structures. Once inside they chew on insulation and electrical wires. This is dangerous as bare wires are a fire hazard.
Of less of a danger, but still a nuisance, is a squirrel’s relentless pillaging of bird feeders. Adding to the list of annoyances is their habit of damaging your landscape through their quest to find or hide their cache of nuts. They feed on seeds, mature fruit, and grains. As squirrels clip shrubs and trees to build their nests, they make them susceptible to winter damage.
Exclusion is the first step. It is important to make certain no squirrel is inside your home before blocking entrances. Squirrels will do even more damage trying to get out. Baited box traps in an attic may catch a locked in squirrel. Lighting attic space has been a deterrent. Chemicals and repellents are costly and have shown only modest success.
Habitat modification is effective. Trimming trees six to eight feet from buildings will keep squirrels from jumping onto roofs. If they are attacking bird feeders, consider nailing an ear of corn to a fence post far away from the problem area. There are squirrel baffles and many kinds of squirrel resistant feeders on the market.
For more help on protecting your home and landscape from these four-footed nuisances, contact the Penn State Master Gardeners in Lackawanna County at 570-963-6842 or email LackawannaMG@psu.edu and request the free publications on chipmunks and squirrels
Master Gardener Coordinator
Penn State Extension -Lackawanna County