FINDING ANSWERS

CHIPMUNK CHALLENGE

Q

The apartment complex I care for has a terrible infestation of chipmunks. They have tunneled under some of the patios and around rock walls, in addition to tunneling through flowerbeds. I'm worried the sidewalk and patios will start to shift or collapse. Do you know of a reliable method for controlling them? — Baltimore, Md.

A

Chipmunks, sometimes known as ground squirrels, are cute to watch but can be destructive in your landscapes. Chipmunks and ground squirrels are members of the rodent family and there seems to be some related species causing joy and havoc all over the country. It's helpful to determine the species you are trying to control, in order to better target your efforts. In general, they dig tunnels to live, breed and hibernate (or something similar) and for protection. They may eat seeds, fruit, flower bulbs, seedlings or insects. Controlling chipmunks can be a challenge and should include a variety of tactics. The Eastern Chipmunk (EC) tends to be active in the morning and late afternoon; however, some related species prefer to run around during the middle of the day. Take time to observe their habits and identify tunnel entrances. EC prefer closely mown areas, so leaving a strip of vegetation that grows tall and dense may help prevent new EC from moving in. Fencing may work in some situations. Use ½-inch or smaller wire mesh, where possible. You will need to bury the fence at least 6 to 8 inches deep. Plant tulips and other spring bulbs encased in wire mesh, buried in the ground. The bulbs will need 1-inch wire mesh so that they can grow up and out of the ground. Once up, you may need to spray them with pepper wax to prevent nibbling. Traps can be effective if used correctly. Bait traps with peanut butter, cracked corn or nuts, without actually setting the trap for two to three days to get the EC comfortable with the new metal monster. The trap should be hidden or partially covered if you're using it where kids, pets and ground-feeding birds could roam. If possible, set the trap into a burrow; if that's not possible, set the trap opening perpendicular to a runway. Once the EC are comfortable, set the trap and inspect often. Traps intended for a live catch present the problem of disposal. If you transfer the chipmunk to a new location, it may introduce a disease to a healthy population of chipmunks or the released chipmunk may be so stressed that he is more susceptible to attack by predators in the new location. There may also be poisons and fumigants labeled for your particular situation and in your state. Check with your local wildlife control agent for a list of labeled products.

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