Catching Chipmunks: How to Trap and Remove Them Safely

There are lots of animals out there that are known as charismatic wildlife. These are animals that are so interesting, so impressive or so gosh darn cute that they just take hold of people’s imaginations.

a chipmunk
a chipmunk

It’s no surprise that animals in this category are often “poster children” for all sorts of movements and initiatives.

That’s all fine and good, but sometimes these charismatic creatures can still prove to be tons of trouble.

In a strange twist of fate, you will rarely find any critter that packs more cuteness and more trouble into the same tiny bundle of fur than the humble chipmunk.

Chipmunks are incredibly cute creatures, but just as destructive as most other rodents. They can raise hell in your garden, and if they get inside your house, they’ll prove to be as bad as rats.

Obviously you don’t want to kill the cute little things, but it’s nice to know how to trap them so you can relocate them if the time comes. Keep reading and I’ll tell you how…

Why Would You Need to Trap a Chipmunk?

The idea that someone would ever inconvenience, much less kill, an animal as cute as a chipmunk is enough to get tempers flaring.

But I’m here to tell you, you’ll be ready to do harm and a whole lot worse if chipmunks start taking over your property.

Chipmunks are rodents, just like mice, rats, and squirrels. And just like mice, rats, and squirrels they have an alarming tendency to get into things they shouldn’t get into, and eat things they shouldn’t eat!

Things that they can’t eat they will still chew on, often breaking them, and they leave their nasty, disease-ridden little droppings all over the place.

This can set the stage for outbreaks of illness and other animals, including your pets, and potentially even you or your family.

If you don’t want a ruined garden, munched flowers, and an infested attic or crawlspace, chipmunks have to go.

You can also consider catching and eating chipmunks in a survival situation if it comes to this.

Double Check the Legality of Trapping in Your Location

Now, before you set off to grab traps or buy poison, you’ve got to check on the legality of trapping and killing chipmunks in your area, whether you plan on killing them or not.

Every state and many municipalities have their own laws concerning how citizens can deal with pest animals, and that assumes that chipmunks are even categorized as pests.

It might be a free fire zone on chipmunks and you can dispose of them or trap them however you will, or you might need to get a permit or even a license in order to employ non-lethal, live catch traps.

Depending on where you live, this might make dealing with your chipmunk problem a straightforward and painless affair, or something of a bureaucratic nightmare.

Don’t sweat it, but you have to make sure. Here is a link for a great directory that will tell you what you need to know quickly.

Things You’ll Need to Trap a Chipmunk

Trapping a chipmunk is a relatively straightforward process, and you don’t need much equipment or supplies. Get the following:

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  • Chipmunk trap. Live catch single or double door cage preferred.
  • Bait. Peanut butter and unshelled peanuts work great.
  • Permits or license, if required.

And that is really it. Chipmunks aren’t too tough to catch once you know where they live and the paths they usually take to, from and around your property.

Chipmunks are extremely motivated by food and can hardly resist trying to get some tantalizing morsels out of what, to us, seems like an obvious trap.

Trap Types: What Works Best and Why

The bottom line up front is that you can use any sort of rodent trap that is suitable for large mice or rats on a chipmunk. They will all work just the same.

However, I strongly encourage you to use a live catch cage trap if you can. For starters, they tend to work more reliably and require less oversight compared to lethal traps.

Also, and just as important if not more so, they pose far less risk to other animals that you don’t want to trap like squirrels perhaps, but also your pets.

Even animals that are too large to be killed by a rat trap give me significantly injured by one, and poison is a completely indiscriminate and equal-opportunity killer, to say nothing of what will happen to an animal that comes along and eats the poisoned chipmunk’s corpse.

I promise, the cage trap will work better than anything and also save you aggravation and extra effort while sparing the cute little critter’s life so he can go live somewhere else.

Locating a Trap Site

To pick the best trap site for your cage trap, you need to know where the chipmunk is living out on your property or where it is habitually getting into in and around your house.

Although it’s hardly uncommon to spot chipmunks out in the open, like most rodents, they prefer to have some sort of cover, and preferably overhead or wraparound cover, to protect them from predators.

Look for chipmunks to move along fences, walls, up and down on the side of your property, under decks and porches and so forth.

Tiny little holes they can squeeze in and out of are high-probability sites. You can also find chipmunk burrows out in your yard, but they can be surprisingly hard to spot.

A chipmunk burrow doesn’t have a ring of dirt around it like a molehill or a groundhog burrow since chipmunks are very cautious about scattering that dirt out far from the entrance to reduce their profile.

Also, these burrows have multiple chambers and multiple exits so you’ll need to search for approximately chipmunk-sized holes in the dirt and then try to zero in on the entrance that the animal is using more often.

But once you know where the little critter is going most of the time, it’s an easy thing to set up a trap along this path and then you’ll have it.

Be Sure to Use Bait

If you’re trying to catch a chipmunk you’ve got to use bait. Chipmunks are extremely food motivated to the point that their love of delicious treats will overrule their sense of self-preservation. This is what we can use against them to catch them.

You don’t need to get fancy here, even though chipmunks have a highly varied diet. Use:

  • peanut butter
  • sunflower seeds
  • raisins,
  • or unshelled peanuts.

I greatly prefer to use peanut butter or unshelled peanuts because they give me some tactical advantages.

Peanut butter is sticky and cannot be removed wholesale from the trap by clever, grasping little paws reaching in from outside.

Same thing with the unshelled peanuts: they are too large to be pulled through the mesh walls of the trap. This will force the chipmunk to go inside, and get caught, if they want the treat.

How To Trap Chipmunks

Trapping a Chipmunk Step by Step

It’s not too hard to trap a chipmunk with the right trap and the right bait. The steps below are sure to bag the little bandits in no time.

Step 1: Test Trap

Whatever kind of trap you’ve picked, whatever brand, before you set it in place at the targeted location test it.

You want to familiarize yourself with how it works and then trip the trigger using a stick or some other conveniently-sized object. Assuming the trap functions as designed and briskly, move on to the next step.

Step 2: Place Trap

Place your trap somewhere along the path that you know the chipmunk is frequenting. If you have a single-door cage trap, position the door pointing to the area or the borough where you know the chipmunk emerges from.

If it is a double-door trap, place it directly along the path with both doors open, or up against an opening that the chipmunk enters with one or both doors open.

Step 3: Place Bait

Place your bait, and pay attention! Proper bait placement is absolutely essential if you want to catch one of these little guys.

Chipmunks are very clever, just like squirrels, and if they can reach in through the bars of the trap without entering to pull the bait back out and eat it, they will do so time and time again.

For a single door trap, the bait goes at the far end against the wall opposite the door. For a double-door trap with both doors open, place the bait in the middle.

When you place your bait, you want to do it on or very near the trigger and try to position it so the chipmunk is forced to come inside to get it.

Peanut butter is good because it cannot be lifted out easily. Peanuts still in the shell are likewise good assuming they can’t fit through the mesh of the cage.

Whatever bait you use and however you place it, ensure that it will not interfere with actuation of the trigger.

Step 4: Arm Trap

With the bait placed it’s time to arm the trap. Even differing brands of similarly designed cage traps might have significantly different arming mechanisms. Just read the instructions that came with your trap and do that now.

Once that is done, step back and observe the trap for a short while to make sure it doesn’t spring spontaneously: rodent traps tend to be highly sensitive because they’re targeted prey is so light and delicate.

Wind, vibrations, and falling debris could set off your trap! Try to keep it level and make adjustments as necessary.

Step 5: Check Trap Frequently

With the trap set you must make it a point to check on it often, no less than twice a day and preferably every couple of hours. Captured chipmunks will quickly begin to dehydrate and may even potentially die of stress or exposure.

To help prevent either of these eventualities, especially if you cannot check on your trap regularly, you should leave a dish of water in the trap and consider covering the top with a towel or cloth to provide shade.

Step 6: Relocate and Release Chipmunk

So you check your trap and there is a chipmunk inside. Congratulations, job’s a good one! Now all you need to do is grab the cage and relocate the little critter a long way from your home, preferably no less than 5 miles away.

Pick up your trap by the handle if it has one, and if not, wear sturdy gloves. Chipmunks can bite and they do carry diseases, so you don’t want to get sick because when dealing with them.

Also, try to speak softly and avoid antagonizing the captured chipmunk. They are vulnerable to getting sick and even dying if highly stressed out.

Step 7: Repeat to Depopulate as Needed

If there was one thing you can count on, it’s that where you find one chipmunk you will find others. Keep your eyes peeled, replace your trap and consider placing multiple traps if you are seriously under siege.

Repeat the steps above until you have the chipmunk problem under control.

How Often Should You Check Your Traps?

Ideally, you’ll check your traps no less than twice a day and preferably once every couple of hours.

Chipmunks can dehydrate and die really quickly, especially in warm weather or when in direct sunlight. Consider keeping a water bowl in there for them to extend their life time while incarcerated.

How Often Should You Switch Out Your Bait?

Bait should be switched out on an as-needed basis depending on the type you’re using. When peanut butter begins to dry out, put some fresh, sticky stuff on there since it is more aromatic and more attractive.

If peanuts start to get moldy, replace them, and the same thing goes for seeds or anything else you use as bait.

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