What do chipmunks eat...?
...that answer may surprise you!
From nuts to berries, a chipmunk isn't really that much of a picky eater.
Sometimes, they even take a bite out of electronics and wood!
The key to understanding whether a chipmunk will chomp on your garden, your lawn furniture, or your cords lies within understanding WHY they eat the way they do.
In this article, we'll address the reasons a chipmunk has its specific eating habits, and ways to possibly predict what these garden pests might do next.
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Chipmunks, Their Teeth, and Their Diet
Believe it or not, chipmunks (as well as other members of the squirrel family) have four teeth in the front of their mouths that never stop growing.
These teeth are called incisors, and they grow like semi-circles inside of a chipmunk's mouth throughout its lifetime.
Chipmunks held in the care of humans receive regular clipping of their incisors to prevent a painful overgrowth. However, a very minuscule fraction of chipmunks live in human care, so the chipmunks in the wild do what's natural to them: try to clip their teeth in their own way.
By using their teeth to chew through hard items like wood, acorns, and even electronic cables, they can naturally "clip" the overgrowth by breaking off parts of their teeth.
What Will a Chipmunk Bite?
In the wild, chipmunks like to nibble on natural foods such as
- Dried fruit
The especially hard foods like nuts, seeds, and acorns serve a double purpose for chipmunks: they are a source of nutrition while also helping to relieve the irritation of the growing incisors.
However, chipmunks have been known to crunch through non-food items as well; things like
- Wooden lawn items
- Wires of nearby cars
- Wood paneling/baseboards
- Wooden rafters/beams
So, Chipmunks Aren't Vicious Toward Humans?
We'll be honest: the likelihood of a chipmunk biting a human is slim to none.
In fact... if you've ever been bitten by a chipmunk, please let us know in the comments down below!
These little guys understand that they're small, and very susceptible to attack from larger predators. Usually, they'll run away from a human who is approaching them, since they are ultra-fast and incredibly reflexive.
It's not totally unheard of for a chipmunk to bite a person, but it is rare. In some cases, if a human gets too close to a chipmunk and traps it, the chipmunk may resort to its teeth as its last line of defense. However, chipmunks prefer to use their teeth only to chomp on inanimate objects, and not out of aggression; purely to alleviate the pain of their ever-growing incisors.
Are "Chipmunk Cheeks" Really a Thing?
The answer is yes!
This isn't just an old wive's tale or a piece of inaccurate folklore. Chipmunks are distinctive in the fact that they can expand their cheeks to three times the normal size.
But why does this happen?
Isn't it painful to chipmunks to stretch out their skin like that? Well, they do this so that they can store nuts for the winter, just as the old folklore says. It is an evolutionary advantage they've crafted, and doesn't cause the chipmunks any pain.
Here's what happens: during warm months, chipmunks scamper around on the surface of the forest (or, potentially, your yard). They look around for nuts, acorns, or any other food source which won't rot if stored for a long time. When they see something they'd like to take back to the burrow they've dug for their period of winter hibernation, they stash the food in their cheeks for hands-free transport. Chipmunks eat sparingly in the warm months, and use that time to stash away food supplies for their hibernation through winter.
Alvin and The Chipmunks Didn't Sound Like That...
If you've spent a lot of time hiking or mountain climbing, you've probably heard a strange, shrill shriek in the forest from time to time. When they are scared or intimidated, chipmunks make a very distinct chirping sound. This scream almost sounds like an alarm ringing out to other chipmunks in the vicinity.
They do this when they feel as though they are being threatened, or their lives are in danger. Not only do they use this sound to hopefully scare off the predator, but as a warning sign to the other chipmunks in the burrow that there's an intruder who could cause danger.
This noise can, understandably, be a huge nuisance to humans who live nearby. If you have chipmunks in your yard that chirp every time you walk outside, it can make the idea of relaxing on your patio after a long workweek seem dreadful.
What Chipmunks Like To Eat...In A Nutshell (Pun Intended)
If a chipmunk could select its own food, what would he choose?
With a world of natural options out there, chipmunks have enjoyed a variety of new additions to their palettes in recent years with human efforts to lure them into traps.
Are Nuts and Seeds the Chipmunk's Favorite?
This is the image that comes to mind when you think of a chipmunk or a squirrel: scampering around a yard of freshly fallen foliage, crunching from one leaf to another, searching for acorns.
Actually, this image is not too far from the truth!
Chipmunks love the crunch of an acorn and its shell, and the acorn provides a ton of nutritional value to the chipmunk. Also, acorns and other nuts fit perfectly within the extended cheeks of a chipmunk, so they're ideal for storing for the wintertime hibernation.
What kind of nuts do chipmunks eat?
Well, they love any kind they touch. Peanuts, almonds, cashews, you name it. If it's got a hint of salt and a big crunch, the chipmunk will happily chow down on it.
Here's a little-known fact about the chipmunk diet:
Birdseed is another top contender for a chipmunk's favorite food. More often than not, chipmunks will go so far as to steal birdseed from bird feeders (to the chagrin of homeowners who set the feeders for birds to graze).
If you ever want to lure a chipmunk toward something (or even away from something), creating a trail of birdseed is the way to go.
Which Dried Fruits Are Best?
Chipmunks love the sweetness of dried fruits, as well as the texture.
The rubbery consistency of fruits like raisins, dried plums, and dried apricots are perfect for catching a chipmunk's attention. These dried fruits aren't usually found in the forests where chipmunk live, so chipmunks are very curious upon first discovering them in someone's yard. After the first chomp, the taste rolls in and the chipmunks are hooked.
If you ever want to setup a trap for your chipmunk, they LOVE birdseed and the taste of dried fruits. Pick on of these and you'll snag em' in no time!
As an added bonus, these foods won't rot in your yard! This means that you won't have to tolerate any unpleasant odors. Additionally, no rotting food means no pesky vermin sniffing around the lawn, either.
So, Do Chipmunks Actually EAT Sticks, Logs, and Branches?
The short answer is no, they don't.
Actually, these items are just chew toys for chipmunks. A chipmunk's digestive system can't process wood, but the chipmunk will still chew fervently on any piece of wood it can get its paws on. As you may have guessed by now, they do this to alleviate discomfort in their mouths, and with the hope that they can break off pieces of their incisors.
It's a pretty accurate thought to consider wood as a kind of "chipmunk chewing gum": not a food, but pleasant for the chipmunk to munch on during meals. Normally, chipmunks will just chew on the wood for fun, and leave it in pieces when they move along to something more interesting.
Do Chipmunks Like Peanut Butter?
When you think about it, nearly every species on the planet loves sugar.
Chipmunks and other woodland rodents love nuts, so it's a logical assumption that when you combine the two together, you'd get a chipmunk superfood. And your assumption would be correct: the food that chipmunks love the most is peanut butter.
This (like the dried fruit) is not a food found in the wild, so chipmunks are very attracted to it by novelty alone. Also, the texture of the peanut butter is very interesting to chipmunks, as it's also not common to find sticky foods in the forest.
Not only does peanut butter hold all the nutritional elements that chipmunks enjoy in the form of sugar content and nut protein, but the stickiness and viscosity makes peanut butter an ideal bait for traps.
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Will Chipmunks Eat My STUFF?
A lot of time, chipmunks become nuisance animals when they chew on things they shouldn't (think electrical, etc).
Many people don't see the harm in having chipmunks in the yard and even feel like these little guys enhance their property...until something gets chewed clean through.
We can help you identify what a chipmunk will likely destroy in order to protect your lawn and property from getting torn up by these burrowing forest-dwellers.
Chipmunks Eating Your Plants and Garden Vegetables
Whether it's for nutrition or fun, chipmunks love to munch on plant leaves and roots.
They'll ransack potted plants, flower gardens, and herb gardens in search of something interesting to chomp on. This is especially true if you have a garden with edible foods growing in your yard. In addition to nuts and seeds, chipmunks love to eat berries and even vegetables like mushrooms.
Here's an example of a chipmunk chomping on some tomatoes!
How can you get rid of chipmunks in your yard?
The best way to protect your plants against a chipmunk attack is to spray the ground with a chipmunk repellent. Also, you can devote a separate plant to spraying totally with repellent in order to trick a chipmunk into thinking all of your plants smell that way. This will make the plant undesirable to the chipmunk and cause it to avoid your plants.
Chipmunks Eating Your Wooden Fixtures and Structures
To alleviate their tooth discomfort, chipmunks enjoy gnawing through pieces of wood. They are not particular about the wood they want to chew, only the fact that it's a hard surface which can possibly break parts of their oversized teeth.
Most of the time, chipmunks prefer to munch on items like thin wooden panels and wooden patio furniture. These things are common in residential areas, and can provide enough relief to last a chipmunk's entire lifespan.
An awesome home remedy to repel chipmunks is to mix cayenne pepper powder with petroleum jelly. Once you've created this paste, slather the solution onto any wooden area you want to protect from chipmunk chew marks. This will be too spicy for the chipmunk's tastebuds, and it will immediately stop gnawing away on your stuff.
Chipmunks Eating Stuff Inside Your House
Sometimes, chipmunks will get inside your home, chew right through your baseboards, and take up residence within your walls. These spaces are tiny and dark, like the burrows that chipmunks make naturally. However, these spaces differ from the burrows in that they are warm and cozy, which makes them a much more attractive place for the chipmunks to live.
So, in a nutshell, the chipmunks do this because the space within the walls resembles their natural burrow habitat, and is stronger than the burrows they dig themselves. As an added plus, there are none of the chipmunk's usual predators in the walls of your home.
However, this is a problem!
- You don't want chipmunks (or any animal, for that matter) scurrying within your walls
- The chipmunks can chew on hazardous materials and die, meaning you will have to find and fetch their dead bodies. This can be an enormous undertaking, as you will have to check every last bit of your home's nooks and crannies in order not to attract vermin.
It's essential to cover up any holes you may have in your home in order to prevent ANY type of pest, especially chipmunks. With proper repellent use outside in the yard, you can prevent chipmunks from stepping foot into your home and totally eliminate the possibility of a chipmunk infestation.
Chipmunks Chewing On Stuff In Your Car
It's an unfortunate fact of life:
Sometimes, your car isn't as safe as you think it is. This is especially true when you factor in the many species of wildlife lurking right outside your home. Chipmunks are no exception. They love chewing on the wires of cars, and for a multitude of different reasons.
Chipmunks LOVE to go underneath your car to hide from owls and other predators. Unfortunately, while they're there, they might nibble on a wire or two!
In cold climates, the engine of a freshly-driven car is warm and inviting to chipmunks. When they're scampering around on the surface before or after they go into hibernation, they will always look for a place to get toasty and escape the chill.
Where do chipmunks nest inside the car?
Anywhere and everywhere that they can fit. Also, the labyrinth of the underside of a car is a great place to avoid large predators which can't (or won't think to) reach chipmunks inside a car.
There's the added reality that sometimes, if wires hang down from your vehicle, a chipmunk can see them by sheer curiosity. These cables are thick and tough, so they're the perfect consistency to help relieve some of a chipmunk's tooth irritation.
Word of advice: park your car in a secure area if you notice that you have a chipmunk problem. This can be in a garage, or on a different side of the house. Storing your car elsewhere is often easier said than done, but it may be worth it to find a solution other than the potential damage that chipmunks can do to your car on a continuous basis.
How Can I Use This Information to My Advantage?
By knowing about the different foods chipmunks prefer to eat, you can lure them away from what you DON'T want eaten or chewed.
By using just a little bit of extra planning, you'll be able to divert these creatures away from your property and into traps. We'll give you some examples of the best way to get rid of chipmunks, and you can decide on the method that works best for you.
The Bottom Line
As you now know, chipmunks only eat a few different things.
However, these rodents will CHEW on as many things as they can get their paws on. The eating and chewing habits of chipmunks can bring a homeowner a world of trouble they're not properly educated on what these rodents are capable of doing.
However, with the knowledge we've given you in this article, you'll be able to use these facts to your advantage in your battle with pesky chipmunks.
Whether you're preventing destruction or doing damage control, you can manipulate the tastebuds of the chipmunk at every step of the way to ensure that you're getting your home back.
Other Chipmunk Guides
Curious about other chipmunk articles? Check out our other detailed guides to help you deal with your pest problems.