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chipmunks climb into downspouts

Hey… what is that chipmunk doing up there? Why would it want to lodge itself in a downspout in the first place? What did want up there? What was the strategy here? These are all questions you probably asked the last time a hyperactive chipmunk wedged itself in a downspout. Answers have proven… elusive.

Until now! Believe it or not, chipmunks do have a kind of strategy when they clamber up your downspout. Learning a little about what chipmunks are all about will help you understand that strategy. More importantly, it’ll help you foil that strategy--and keep chipmunks away from your home in the process. Here’s what you should know about the chipmunks in your downspouts:

What are chipmunks?

Chipmunks are a type of small, striped rodents in the family Sciuridae, or squirrel, family. Most species of chipmunk are native to North America, and have adapted to living here very well. The most common chipmunk in North America is the Eastern Chipmunk, or Tamias striatusa. Adult Eastern chipmunks are around 5 to 6 inches long and weight around 2½ to 3½ ounces. The chipmunks have reddish-brown fur with a prominent black-and-white stripe on their backs. Their undersides are white.

Eastern chipmunks eat a wide variety of natural plant material. Their specific diet is determined mostly by seasonal availability. They’ll eat seeds, fruits, nuts, fungi, tubers, leaves, plant buds, and more. Chipmunks are probably best known for their expanding cheeks, where they can collect and store food. Like squirrels, chipmunks stockpile food in hordes near their burrows. Eastern chipmunks practice “scatter hoarding,” which means they store food in many small hordes, rather than one large horde.  

Why are chipmunks near your home?

Why are chipmunks near your home?

Chipmunks are constant diggers, making their way under structures to build burrows and caches. They like building their burrows near food sources and under or around pre-existing cover. Unfortunately, chances are, your yard provides them with everything they’re looking for. Chipmunks wander near homes to find food, and then end up finding good places to dig nearby. They usually start by digging around gardens or bushes, then dig porches, patios, decks, or window wells.

If you feel like you see chipmunks around your home constantly, then they’re probably burrowing nearby. Chipmunks spend a lot of time in their burrows and never venture far from them. They come out to forage for food during the day, particularly on cool, dry days. They’re less likely to come out in high heat, rain, or snow. Chipmunks can’t store fat to survive while hibernating, which means they have to repeatedly return to stashes throughout winter.

Why are chipmunks climbing into your downspouts?

Chipmunks are great climbers, but sometimes they aren’t quite as good as they think they are. They’ll (attempt to) climb just about anything if they think they can get food after they’ve climbed it. Believe it or not, they’re often successful in your downspout. Rain and other runoff wash all kinds of plant material into your downspouts. It’s like a free collection trough for chipmunks, and they’ll use it that way!

You may notice chipmunks climbing into your downspouts after rain or snow to collect food washed down your gutters. Unfortunately, they may also get the idea… pretty much any other time, too. Chipmunks don’t usually cache foods inside downspouts themselves. Instead, they simply collect food inside the spout and carry it to a nearby cache. Sometimes, chipmunks might get stuck or frightened, and they won’t be able to leave the spout. You may occasionally discover a chipmunk stuck part of the way up a spout.

How can you keep chipmunks out of your downspouts?

How can you keep chipmunks out of your downspouts?

First, clear the yard around the downspout as much as possible. The less comfortable chipmunks are approaching the downspout, the better. Next, you could make a makeshift vent or filter to install on your downspouts. It’s surprisingly easy: just fit a piece of hardware cloth around each downspout opening. You’ll have to take the filters off and clean the spout periodically to prevent debris from piling up.

The best way to keep chipmunks away from your downspout is to keep them away from your home altogether. To do that, you’ll have to keep them from accessing food and burrowing places in your yard. Keep your grass, bushes, plants, and trees well-trimmed. Pick up any fallen seeds and nuts frequently. Avoid leaving bird seed on the ground. If you have a garden, make sure you fence it off with wire mesh. The less food you provide chipmunks, the less attractive your home (and downspouts) will look.


Keeping chipmunks away from your property altogether can be quite difficult. No matter what you do, they’re going to find something they want to eat near you. By following strategies of your own like these, however, you can keep them away from your downspouts. It’s better for you and them!

If you’re having particular trouble with chipmunks--or you need help pulling one out of your downspout right now--give Varment Guard a call any time. We’ve got everything we need to help you foil your chipmunk’s strategy (for their own good!), every time.

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