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Chipmunks Damage Slabs

By Chris Williams on June 30, 2011.

Q. Our front sidewalk has cracked in several places and a contractor said it was because of chipmunks burrowing under the sidewalk. Can a little chipmunk cause that kind of damage?

A. In a word…yes. Chipmunks are cute; there’s no denying that. They are high energy and everyone loves to laugh at their cheek pouches bulging with collected food. Sometimes those pouches are full of soil that they have cleared out of their burrows under your sidewalk! Chipmunks can become pests in residential areas in the following ways:

1) Their extensive burrows, often under patio slabs, foundations, concrete steps, stone walls, or sheds are unsightly and can result in collapse of the slab or wall

2) They can make a mess in a garden by digging up garden seeds and flower bulbs, and feeding  on berries and other fruits

3) They raid bird feeders and pet food left outside

Chipmunks are members of the squirrel family which means they are also rodents but, unlike tree squirrels, chipmunks are smaller ground dwellers. The eastern chipmunk is rusty brown with five black and two beige stripes on its back, is about 6 inches long, and weighs only 2.5 to 4 ounces. It has a hairy 3-4 inch long tail that it carries upright when it runs. Chipmunks mostly live at ground level but they can climb trees and will climb downspouts to get to rooftops.

chipmunkChipmunks nest in underground burrows. Their burrow entrances are neat, round holes about two inches in diameter which have been cleared of loose dirt. Burrows are often located under an object like a rotten log, stump, or rock. Unfortunately, a concrete slab like a sidewalk or patio serves just as well as a rock. From the entrance, the burrow plunges straight down for a few inches, then gradually descends to a depth of about 3 feet. Now for the really bad news! After four or five years, the average chipmunk’s burrow may have been extended to a length of 30 feet, with several openings and as many as six nesting or food chambers. Over time, the amount of soil excavated from under a slab can undermine the slab causing it to crack or collapse.

Chipmunks are particularly attracted to homes on wooded lots, or with dense shrubbery, or with rock walls or outbuildings for den sites. Chipmunks are solitary, living in separate dens. The home range of a chipmunk is usually less than a half acre, and often no more than 12,000 square feet. They rarely travel more than 75 yards from their den.  The outer fringes of one chipmunk’s range may overlap with that of another chipmunk.  Populations as high as 10 chipmunks per acre are possible if sufficient food and cover are available. In late October or November, chipmunks retire to their dens for a semi-hibernation. They plug their burrow entrances during cold weather and live on food cached inside. In early spring, they emerge to breed.

Chipmunks are protected in some states. Live trapping is one control method when chipmunks become a problem that you just can’t live with. Call our wildlife relocation experts at Colonial for a chipmunk consultation and removal services. We can also help you make your property less desirable to chipmunks by removing food sources, blocking their travel routes, protecting crops and ornamental plants, and chipmunk-proofing your house.

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