Troup extension agent: Controlling chipmunks

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 10, 2016

Chipmunks are a lot fun to watch on cartoons or on the big screen in modern animated features.

These 8 to 10 inch little guys with the three black stripes on their back running with tails straight up in the air are certainly eye catchers. The problem arises when chipmunks are in your backyard tunneling under your patio or concrete pool skirt causing cracks.

Their tunnels can be as long as 30 feet. Shrubbery, gardens and flowers attract chipmunks because they offer food and protection.

Their tunnel system usually comprises a hollowed out cavity to raise their young and are located near stumps or fallen logs as well as walls and large stones. A chipmunk burrow system has entrance and exits and are usually devoid of excavated soil. Chipmunks are solitary creatures and live one per tunnel.

Chipmunks also use their tunnel system to store food which they transport in their cheek pouches. They can hold up to two tablespoons in their pouches.

Carrying their food this way shortens their exposure to predators. The stored food is used during the winter season where they sleep and eat during this dormant season. They can collect up to a bushel of seeds in three days for storage.

Chipmunks feast on all types of seed, especially corn, sunflower and acorns, among others. They will also eat mushrooms, insects and occasional dead animals.

They also can gnaw into plastic containers containing dog food or bird seed and dig up flower bulbs. One characteristic of chipmunks is that they like to eat sitting up using their four clawed toes and their thumbs to hold their food. The moisture in their food supplies their water requirements.

The easiest control method is trapping using large wooden-base snap traps used in rat control. They are fond of peanut butter or peanut butter mixed with oatmeal. Snap traps should be placed perpendicular to the wall and near the entrance of their burrow.

If you would prefer to use live traps, Hav-A-Hart number 0 or Tomahawk number 102 work well. They can be found at most garden and feed stores.

Releasing a trapped animal away from its home territory usually results in death. Releasing trapped animal on someone else’s property or county, state or federal property is usually illegal in most states.

Poison baits are not a good option. It may result in the death of nontarget species and is not recommended in areas where children and pets play. Poison baits are carried into the burrows and homeowners do not see an immediate effect. There are registered poisons for use in Georgia.

Always remember that nature abhors a vacuum. Destroying a population may be effective only in the short term. A niche will open and a new population may enter it.

There are no repellents registered for use in Georgia for chipmunks. Using “moth balls” containing naphthalene is illegal because it is not labeled for use on mammals.

What really is the best option? If you enjoy pets, having a dog or cat or both is very effective. Most chipmunks will vacate the territory rather than put up with a dog or cat in the neighborhood. The biggest advantage is not having the opportunity to remove dead animals from traps.

What’s going on in Extension?

Master Gardener Extension Volunteer class will begin Aug. 9 and run through Oct. 20. Classes will be held Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. The cost is $150. Call or stop by the office an application.

Georgia Master Cattleman Program starting Sept. 6. Call for more information.

Market on Main: Every Saturday morning from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. starting June 4. Come by and enjoy the pick of the day. Carmike Cinemas LaGrange 10 parking lot.

June 9: MGEV meeting, 7 p.m. at the Ag Center.

July 13-17: Up Camp with 4-H, Come get two thumbs Up by growing Up, dressing Up and acting Up with Troup County 4-H. Lots of fun activities. Ninth–12th graders; cost $45.

June 20: Beekeepers, 7 p.m., Ag Center.

June 21: Troup County Cattleman; Dan Wallace, NRCS guest speaker. Topic: soil mapping; 7 p.m. Tuesday. Program will start at 7:30 p.m. The $6 meal will be served at 7 p.m. Ag Center.

If you have any questions or concerns, stop by or call the office.

By Brian Maddy

Contributing columnist

Brian Maddy is the ANR Agent for Troup County Extension. The Troup County Extension office is located at 114 Church St. in LaGrange and may be reached at 706-883-1675, Monday–Friday 8 a.m.–noon and 15 p.m.