Are Chipmunks on the Rise in Massachusetts?
August 5, 2020
You are not going nuts, there are more chipmunks this year than in the past. You may have seen them scurrying across the road, digging in your garden and flower pots, or even attempting to infiltrate your bird feeders. Chipmunks may look adorable as compared to their cousin, the squirrel, but they can make just as big a mess.
Chipmunks, those lively, jumpy critters are, indeed, related to the squirrel family. These small, fast critters have pudgy cheeks, large, glossy eyes, red stripes, and bushy tails that make them beloved in the movie industry but often loathed by homeowners who have to deal with their antics.
According to National Geographic, “Chipmunks generally gather food on the ground in areas with underbrush, rocks, and logs, where they can hide from predators like hawks, foxes, coyotes, weasels, and snakes. They feed on insects, nuts, berries, seeds, fruit, and grain which they stuff into their generous cheek pouches and carry to their burrow or nest to store. Chipmunks hibernate, but instead of storing fat, they periodically dip into their cache of nuts and seeds throughout the winter.”
Chipmunks don’t usually damage property, but they may injure ornamental plants when they harvest fruits and nuts. Occasionally chipmunks dig up and eat spring flowering bulbs and burrow in flower beds or under sidewalks and porches. But there are no documented cases of a chipmunk burrow causing structural damage.
Other behaviors, beyond digging and making a mess of plantings and gardens, include creating nests in gutters, firewood stacks, and occasionally inside structures. For homeowners that are unlucky enough to find that chipmunks have made a home in the eaves, attic, or chimney, may need to call in exterminators to remove and exclude the pests.
Other dangers associated with chipmunks include the fact that they are mammals, and therefore, can carry rabies and are often carriers of ticks which can cause Lyme Disease in humans.
Recent Chipmunk Numbers
Wildlife experts report that this year chipmunks are flourishing. Wildlife specialist at the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension, Matthew D. Tarr explains that there is much anecdotal evidence, along with last year’s abundant acorn crop that indicates that it’s a strong year for the pint-sized rodents. In addition to a good acorn crop, this winter’s mild temperatures likely played a role in their survival.
If you have found that chipmunks have made their way into the interior of your home or have become a problem on your property, call our wildlife experts who can identify the source of the problem and create a plan to resolve the chipmunk issue.