Chipmunk Damage Identification

Identification | Biology | Damage Identification | Management | Resources

Damage to Structures

Thirteen-lined ground squirrels are not known to damage structures. When chipmunks are present in large numbers they can cause structural damage by burrowing under patios, stairs, retention walls, and foundations.

Their burrows can damage pool liners. The act of digging may undermine retaining walls and cause collapse. Chipmunks typically enter buildings along the sill plate, through dryer vents, along the roof line, and under siding (Figure 5).

Figure 5. Chipmunks sometimes access buildings under siding.
Photo by Stephen M. Vantassel.

Damage to Livestock and Pets

Chipmunks and 13-lined grounds squirrels pose minimal threat to livestock and pets.

Damage to Landscapes

Thirteen-lined ground squirrels dig up newly planted seeds (Figure 6), consume seeds that are sprouting, clip shoots of emerging plants, pull over wheat, barley, and oats to eat the grain, and damage vegetables in gardens, often damaging more than they consume.

Figure 6. Divots in the soil where 13-lined ground squirrels dug up corn seeds. White pen and white stalk point to their respective holes.
Photo by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL).

Do not attempt to eliminate 13-lined ground squirrels, as their predation on crop-damaging insects provides an important benefit. Strive to manage populations of ground squirrels at levels where conflicts with humans are maintained at a tolerable level.

Most damage by chipmunks occurs in home landscapes where vegetables are damaged, or bird seed and flowers are eaten. Chipmunks do little damage to lawns.

Health and Safety Concerns

Thirteen-lined ground squirrels and chipmunks generally do not pose a direct threat to humans or pets. They typically flee when approached. Thirteen-lined ground squirrels may contract bubonic plague, the disease responsible for the Black Death during the Middle Ages. Chipmunks are not significant carriers of diseases harmful to humans. All rodents are susceptible to Lyme disease.

Nuisance Problems

The consumption of insects and field mice by 13-lined ground squirrels may provide some benefits to agriculture. However, 13-lined ground squirrels invade golf courses, parks, lawns, athletic fields, earthen dikes, cemeteries, and similar open grassy sites. Their burrowing and feeding activities can cause major economic and aesthetic damage.

Most conflicts with chipmunks are nuisance problems. They may consume flower bulbs, seeds, seedlings, bird seed, grass seed, and pet food that is not stored in rodent-proof storage containers. In New England, chipmunks cause considerable damage to the tubing systems of maple sugar producers by gnawing the plastic spiles and lines.