You won’t find many critters cuter than a chipmunk. Little striped balls of fur that bounce around and run through the grass, occasionally standing on their hind feet and nibbling an acorn, they are definitely adorable. Sometimes you’ll even see a pair of them chasing each other and it almost looks like they’re playing. (Of course, I think you see that mostly during mating season. They tend to be loners otherwise.) That cuteness is probably why they’ve been a popular choice through the years for cartoon characters like Alvin and the Chipmunks or Disney’s Chip & Dale.
But they’re not so cute when you have large numbers of them digging holes in your yard and maintaining a network of tunnels. Sometimes they even establish dens in the crawlspace under the house, where you can occasionally hear them scratching or gnawing on God knows what. We’ve had them for years, but intermittently. Sometimes they’ll not appear for a year but they always come back. I’ve tried to learn more about them, and have discovered that ours are the Eastern Chipmunk, the variety that slows way down in the winter. It’s not a true hibernation but they are very inactive and often in a state of torpor. But spring is on its way, so that means our chipmunks will soon be out and around.
We’ve tried to get rid of them several times but because of state laws there are things you can’t do — like use poison — but that would be tough to do anyway. (Did I mention how cute they are?) I checked with a pest control guy, and because of those same laws all they can do is capture them in humane traps and then release them elsewhere. Not only is it expensive, but you would also always wonder if they were going to release them a couple of blocks away, and later retrap them over there and bring them back here.
I tried various remedies that I read about online, because you can believe everything you read on the internet, right? For example, I bought a bottle of fox urine concentrate — that’s right, there is such a thing — and sprinkled it around their holes. The theory is that it scares them into relocating — to your neighbor’s yard, I suppose. It didn’t seem to bother the chipmunks but when I walked through the grass some of the potent stuff got on my shoes and they were so stinky I could barely stand to wear them. Even after several cleanings I couldn’t walk near any dog without getting a low growl, and a stray cat also gave me the stink-eye. (Come to think of it, that’s the default for stray cats.)
I then bought a box of mothballs and poured a few of them down all the holes. When I checked the next day, they’d all been kicked out onto the grass. I scooted them all back in and the next day they were out again. I knew that I was smarter and more persistent than a little rodent with a pea-sized brain so I kept doing it. Finally the mothballs stayed in but a few days later I noticed the chipmunks had dug a bunch of new holes. So now we had twice as many holes and just as many chipmunks, maybe more.
The final indignity was when I looked out one day and saw a chipmunk with a peanut. Scratching my head I asked Mrs. BG about it, and found out that she had given them a handful, because she figured they were probably hungry. Besides, they were so cute.
Hmmm. . .maybe I can put down a trail of peanuts that will lead them over to my neighbor’s yard.