An abundance of chipmunks is driving Jane Pellegrini nuts.
“My husband and I are genuinely concerned that our front lawn will collapse at some point to some degree because of all the tunnels,” she said.
The Fremont family has tried trapping the relentless rodents, but it’s done little to control the population.
Pellegrini estimates she sees dozens of chipmunks a day scurrying around her property, where they’ve burrowed holes in their walkway and other places where they’ve been able to squeeze in.
“If we open our garage door for even moments we find them darting in and then it’s a nuisance to get them back out,” Pellegrini said.
She’s not the only one who’s been waging war with chipmunks this spring.
Dorine Caswell, who also lives in the neighborhood, spent most of Tuesday chasing after a chipmunk that entered her home through a slider left open for a moment.
The Caswells have had so many chipmunks in the yard that they’ve actually found them running across their feet while walking from the house to the car.
“We have tried all the remedies — lemon peels, lemon juice, cayenne pepper and crushed red pepper flakes in flower pots and gardens — but they keep digging holes and making a mess,” Caswell said.
The chipmunk population has flourished largely because of a bumper acorn crop last summer, according to Patrick Tate, a wildlife biologist with the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department.
With plenty of food for them to store while hibernating during the winter months, adults survived and more babies were born. The winter months also weren’t so cold, which could have played a small role in helping them survive, he said.
While Fish and Game doesn’t track the chipmunk population, anecdotally it appears that there’s an abundance of the rodents this year.
“I have noticed an increase in the number of chipmunks in the forest around my property,” Tate said.
He has seen plenty of squirrels as well, which brings back haunting memories of the carnage on New Hampshire’s highways and back roads in 2018. Many called it the “Squirrel Apocalypse.”
The squirrel population had spiked because of an abundance of hard mast like acorns, hickory nuts and other nuts in 2016 and 2017, but that food source crashed in 2018. Thousands of panicked squirrels were struck and killed by vehicles as they traveled long distances in search of food.
Tate said the last time New Hampshire experienced a “hard mast crash” was in 1938.
He said the likelihood of seeing a repeat of 2018 this year is small.
“It would be very surprising to see those scenarios happen again in a five-year window,” he said.
For people battling chipmunks this year, Tate advised any homeowners with bird feeders to take them down because they will attract more rodents.
Other than removing any food sources near the property, he said there really isn’t anything more for people to do.
“The chipmunk population is part of the natural cycle. Watch them from afar and let nature take its course,” he said.
But that may be easier said than done when they get into your home.
Caswell, who was still trying to get the chipmunk out of her home Tuesday afternoon, said the latest visitor was discovered just before 2:30 a.m. when her son got up to get a drink and the critter jumped out from behind the stove, made its way onto the kitchen island several feet away, and then ran underneath the stove.
“Then this morning I got up to make my coffee and when I opened the fridge it was running on the kitchen island, jumped over me into the sink, around the counter and then back under the stove,” she said.
Caswell set up two traps and placed a plank on a bucket filled with seed in an effort to catch the chipmunk.
“My husband and son often leave the slider open and say they will be right back. I keep saying a chipmunk is going to get in the house and they think I am ridiculous. Well, clearly I am not,” she said.