Chipmunks at Lathrop: Omnivorous and Omnipresent

by Barbara Walvoord

Around any garden on either campus, you may hear  imprecations directed at those frenetically active, omnipresent and omnivorous little creatures that like to eat our seeds, bulbs, plants, and berries (plus acorns, nuts, mushrooms, insects, and bird eggs).

You’d think that a critter that weighs only 3 ounces wouldn’t eat much, but in fact, they not only eat on the spot, but they store up to 8 pounds of food in their extensive burrows.

And then they multiply.  About now, the female is making special seductive “chip” sounds, which make the guys come running.  She will give birth to up to 9 babies, nurse them for a month, teach them to forage, and then, in fall, produce another litter.

The internet is full of scary ideas about how to “control” chipmunks.  You can spray your plants with cayenne or hot pepper spray–BUT, the site admits, these are toxic to bees!!.  You can put peanuts into a bucket of water with a little wooden plank going up it, so the chipmunk walks up the plank, falls into the bucket, and drowns–BUT, the site warns,  small children may be upset by this!!.  One site suggests leaving your cat outdoors, which will catch chipmunks–BUT will also kill the precious birds we need to protect, or our coyotes will eat your cat if they can, and Lathrop rules prohibit letting any pet outdoors without a leash.

Mechanical means seem best.  I plant my spinach in a box with a hardware cloth top, and I bury bulbs in wire cages–both of which keep out the chipmunks.  Bloodmeal around the plants repels chipmunks and nourishes the soil.

And  Mother Nature provides us with natural chipmunk control–hawks, owls, raccoons, skunks, bobcats, crows, foxes, and coyotes–BUT we must protect the forests, fields, and wetlands that nurture nature’s web of eater and eaten.

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