Down With Chipmunks! Long Live Chipmunks!

We have a chipmunk problem.

I didn't even know chipmunks could be a problem. They're just cute little squirrels, right?

We started seeing them around our yard recently and thought nothing of it. Ruby (our dog) loves watching them through our front storm door. Then all of the sudden, I noticed something really strange.

On the left side of our driveway, next to the garage, we have a tall grass planted in a bed covered with mulch. One day, I noticed that it looked like somebody dumped a big bag of sand and gravel on that little bed, covering all of the mulch. This was a total mystery to me. How did it get there? Why would anybody do that?

About a week later, I noticed it. Up against the driveway slab, there was a little hole going right underneath the concrete. Then it hit me…

The Usual Suspects moment of realization

It was the chipmunks all along! They'd dug themselves a home underneath our driveway and all of that sand/gravel used to be holding up the slab!

Something had to be done… but what? There are a lot of ways to rid yourself of rodents but before you decide on one, you need to face an even bigger question: "How do I value the lives of animals?"

For me, I can answer that question by telling you the stories of five animals I've met in my life.

The Mouse

It was the end of my senior year of high school. I was walking to my car after school, past a huge hole in the ground. The school had started a big construction project to build a new gym. Just in time for me to graduate (figures). Anyway, it had rained that day so the big dirt pit had about a foot of water in it. And in the middle of the water… was a mouse.

The mouse paddled frantically, trying to get to dry ground. I waited at the edge of the water and scooped him out when he came close. He was a little albino lab mouse, white with red eyes.

One of the biology classes had just finished its year-end project, running mice through mazes. At the end of the year, the teacher allowed students to take their mice home as pets if they wanted. Big mistake. One student took the mouse and decided that it would be more fun to launch it into the construction zone.

The little guy liked me immediately. I put him on my lap for the drive home, but before long he scurried up to my shoulder. I named him Oscar and decided I'd take care of him until I could find a home for him. I bought a cage and bedding and food. I gave him a toilet paper roll to play in. And eventually, I found him a new home.

The Cat

Fast forward nine years. Catie and I aren't engaged yet (but I secretly have the ring already). We're living at the same apartment complex and one day, this stray, black and white cat crosses my path.

You ever hear this one?

What's black and white and red all over?

A newspaper!

I named her Newspaper. She was friendly but didn't have any tags. Same drill. I took her in. I bought cat food and kitty litter and a litter box. She knew how to use it, thank goodness! I bought cat toys. Then I went about the business of finding her owners. I made "LOST CAT" flyers with her picture and posted them all over the apartment complex.

Newspaper the Cat

In the meantime, she lived with me. But at night, she'd get scared. At first, I shut her out of my room when I went to bed but she started scratching at the door to get in. When I caved and let her come in, she'd come close to me but just kept wailing. It was awful and so sad.

After a week of not hearing anything, I had to call the humane society to pick her up. When the man arrived, he couldn't get hold of her so I called her to me, picked her up, and handed her to him. When she realized, she cried and hissed and scratched my arms. She was so afraid. It was horrible and I still regret not looking longer for her family.

The Dog

After Catie and I were married and settled into our new home, we decided to get a dog. We found a little chocolate Goldendoodle puppy and we fell in love. She had 10 siblings and each had a different color collar; hers was red. We named her Ruby.

Ruby as a puppy

There are too many stories to tell about Ruby. She's a wonderful dog and has been a perfect big sister to Charlie.

I've noticed something since we've had Ruby. Other animals started to remind me of Ruby. I see a little piece of Ruby in every animal I meet.

The Bird

One morning last summer, I went into our garage and heard a bird chirping. It must have been shut into the garage the night before. I tracked it down and it was clear that it was very injured. She was a young robin. My guess is that she had flown into the walls trying to get out. She couldn't fly anymore and she hobbled when she tried to walk. There was no way she'd survive in the wild.

I knew what I had to do, but I dreaded it.

I grabbed a shovel and I walked her to the back yard. My plan was to end it quickly with a blow from behind so she wouldn't see. It took me a long time to build up the nerve.

I buried her in our little wild flower garden underneath a small boulder of rose quartz.

That ruined my week.

The Bear

If you haven't caught on yet, I'm a total softy when it comes to animals, but it was never clearer to me than when Catie and I went to see the movie The Revenant.

Spoiler alert!

There's a scene in the movie where Leonardo DiCaprio's character is violently mauled by a bear. It's very graphic and very realistic. The bear dies and Leo nearly does.

And after our protagonist is sliced, diced, and left for dead, I felt so bad for… the bear!

I couldn't shake the fact that she was just doing what she had to do to protect her cubs. In every close-up of the bear, I saw Ruby.

I definitely did not feel what the filmmaker intended during that scene.

The Chipmunks

So that brings us back to the chipmunk problem. There was absolutely no way I could use a trap that would kill the little critters.

I bought this live trap and baited it with some peanut butter and raisins.


In the first four days, we trapped three chipmunks. One by one, I drove them to a park miles away and released them by the same tree.

Here's hoping they find each other again and live long, happy little Chipmunk lives. 🐿

Update: Three hours after posting, we caught our fourth chipmunk!


You're free!

Steve Richert

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