Learn How to Get Rid of Chipmunks With These 7 Humane Tactics

Ginny Bartolone
Written by Ginny Bartolone
Updated September 29, 2022
A chipmunk standing on a piece of wood
Photo: Mariakray / Adobe Stock

It doesn't take a lot for a chipmunk infestation to drive you nutty

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From their little paws to their chubby cheeks, chipmunks are pretty adorable when you have a normal amount of them in your yard. But if you want to know how to get rid of chipmunks or deter them from making your yard their home, you’re not alone.

These fluffy thieves steal seeds, eat plants, and can even threaten the structure of your patio in large numbers. Thankfully, there are plenty of chipmunk repellents and removal tactics that will not hurt your local furry friends.

What Attracts Chipmunks to Your Yard?

Chipmunks are members of the Sciuridae family—the same family as the squirrel. They’re only 3 to  6 inches long and have small paws, brown-striped fur, and large cheeks for carrying food.

As omnivores, chipmunks love backyards for everything from bugs to bird seed. They will eat flowers, flower bulbs, fruits, and vegetables. In other words, they love to dig up your garden.

Chipmunks are rarely dangerous and do not pose a threat to humans or pets unless they are directly threatened. And according to The Humane Society of the United States, chipmunks are not a primary means of spreading disease and are often more beneficial to our local ecosystem than a threat.

However, like all animals in your backyard habitat, there can always be too much of a good thing. Chipmunks in great abundance can wreak havoc on gardens and—on rare occasions— burrow tunnels that can eventually threaten the structure of the earth under walkways, patios, porches, and your lawn.

This is why some homeowners try to get rid of chipmunks by making their homes less appealing to these adorable invaders.

Signs of a Chipmunk Infestation

You may spot the damage caused by chipmunks before spotting the chipmunks themselves. Chipmunks are small and quick and they don't have any interest in getting caught.

They are also adept at hiding in small spaces, especially if you have a dense landscape or a lawn with multiple structures.

A few major signs of a chipmunk problem are:

  • Seeds and bulbs removed from your garden

  • Small holes and dirt piles in your yard or garden

  • Destroyed flowers and leaves

  • Nibbled fruits and vegetables in your garden

  • Toppled or emptied bird feeds

A sunken lawn or damage to your foundation by a chipmunk is rare. However, if you notice sunken areas around the edge of your foundation from chipmunks or other burrowing animals, it's best to call a foundation specialist in your area for a look.

How to Get Rid of Chipmunks

Like any garden pest problem, consider natural chipmunk repellents, exclusion tactics, or—in severe cases—physical removal. Keep in mind that it's best to use several of these tactics in tandem to get ahead of a major infestation.

Here’s how to get rid of chipmunks and deter them from coming back: 

Build a Barrier

Building barriers both under and above ground are a major part of integrated pest management. Keep chipmunks out of your garden by adding a permeable barrier a few inches under the earth or over the area in danger. You can use a barrier of gravel, wire mesh, or garden fabric, to name a few.

Here's how to go about it.

  1. Dig a thin trench around your garden, fence, porch, or other trouble areas.

  2. Bury a permeable mesh, pour loose gravel, or line the trench with garden fabric.

  3. You can also place the barrier above the ground, surrounding the base of your flowers and vegetable plants.

  4. The Human Society recommends bending the barrier into an L-shape to keep the chipmunk from easily digging around it.

Swap Out Your Bird Feeder

Your bird feeder could be one of the first items attracting chipmunks to your lawn. Keep all bird feeders and birdbaths off the ground. Yes, chipmunks can climb, but they are less likely to go out of their way for bird seed out of reach. Additionally, always be sure to clean up any fallen seed knocked to the ground by the birds.

Remove Food Access

Other than seeds in your feeder, your yard is packed with delicious treats for chipmunks. While you shouldn't have to give up on planting a vegetable garden to get rid of chipmunks, you can discourage access.

A few tactics include:

  • Remove low-hanging vegetables when they sprout and ripen.

  • Pick up fallen fruit from trees and bushes as soon as they fall.

  • Rake up acorns and pine cones in the fall. 

  • Control the bug population in your yard and garden.

Leave a Repellent

There are plenty of odors that chipmunks detest. The smell of humans will scare them away, so consider spreading hair clippings, old clothing, or old kitchen towels in the garden, even as barriers. They also detest the scent of items like peppermint, garlic, hot spices, eucalyptus, and cinnamon, just to name a few.

You'll find many of these mixtures in store-bought chipmunk repellents that come in spray or powder form. Always follow the instructions on any pest repellent, even with organic or “natural” ingredients.

Also, be careful about spreading essential oils or hot spices in areas where your pets roam, as they can get them on their paws and fur.

Install an Ultrasonic Device

Ultrasonic devices emit a low tone—so low that humans can't hear it—that will scare away chipmunks and other animals and insects from your lawn. Just remember that your dog may pick up the sound as well and not love roaming through your yard.

However, these devices are natural chipmunk repellents that can deter all above-ground creatures from taking over your outdoor living space. 

Plant Natural Repellents

You'll notice that some of the chipmunk's least-favorite flavors and scents are also common or easy-to-plant garden items.

Consider creating a barrier around your flower beds or veggie garden by planting:

  • Daffodils

  • Marigolds

  • Alliums

  • Garlic (to deter underground chipmunks)

  • Peppermint

  • Chives

  • Echinacea 

  • Lavender

  • Sage

Trap and Release

If a team of chipmunks insists on ruining all your gardening work, it may be time to relocate them to another area. However, we recommend calling an animal control specialist in most instances to avoid injury to yourself or the animal. Be sure to find a team that ensures they use humane trap-and-release methods.

However, with the proper precautions, you can purchase baited traps that do not harm the chipmunk and keep you from having to handle them. Still, always wear thick clothing and gloves when releasing chipmunks from the traps.

It is important to drive at least five miles from your home to an area with ample food, water, and shelter to keep the chipmunks from coming right back. Speak with your local animal control department about the best place to bring them.

How to Prevent Chipmunks From Coming Back

Now that you know how to get rid of chipmunks, you’ll want to think about how to keep them away for good. Prevention is always the safer and more effective approach to long-term pest and animal control.

You can begin these prevention methods at the same time as getting rid of your current chipmunks. Prevention, like control methods, also comes down to removing food, hiding places, and water sources.

  • Remove leaf piles, piles of stones, and firewood to deter chipmunks from hiding from sight.

  • Keep your yard tidy from any plants that drop seeds throughout the season.

  • Trim tree branches to deter chipmunks from making the leap to your roof.

  • Control pest population on your lawn.

  • Dig up old tree stumps after removing a tree.

  • Cover your garbage and recycling areas.

DIY Chipmunk Removal vs. Calling Animal Control

Learning how to keep chipmunks out of your garden is an entry-level DIY that is easily managed with preventative measures. If you're concerned that a few chipmunk visitors have tipped into an infestation, we recommend calling a local animal removal company before risking handing the little creatures.

Animal removal costs between $200 and $600 for squirrels and similar rodents, but this depends on how far the pro will travel and their particular methods. Many companies will offer longer-term monitoring services to make sure your large chipmunk population is under control for good.

Frequently Asked Questions

Coffee is just one of the pungent smells that chipmunks steer clear of, so spreading the grounds around your garden can be a great way to deter them from eating your veggies. However, you may need more than coffee grounds to keep a large infestation away, such as barriers or physical removal.

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