Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southwestern Deserts
February, 2008
Regional Report

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Add native and desert-adapted plants like this senna that offer flowers, seeds, nuts, or berries for wildlife, even chipmunks.

My Chipmunk Departs

My house is much quieter, but rather dull, now that Alvie the Chipmunk has returned to the great outdoors. Friends had provided me with "foolproof" instructions for homemade, humane chipmunk traps. But Alvie seemed quite content to ignore clever trapping methods and remain indoors, usually hiding behind the dryer and making various little clinking noises, or venturing out to busy himself with the following activities:

1. Investigating mixing bowl soaking in the sink and clanking the spoon in the bowl.
2. Knocking teapot off stove to bounce and clatter on floor.
3. Running back and forth, back and forth, back and forth on bedroom windowsill at dawn.
4. Hiding as soon as foolish human appears. Avoiding traps.
5. Repeating these behaviors daily.

One dawn, I decided to try my own method of low-tech chipmunk removal. I opened the patio door, placed a long board across the threshold so that most of it was outside, sprinkled a few boring treats (cereal grains) on the indoor end and piled a lot of really good treats (almonds and raisins) on the other end of the board. Then I hid on the sofa to watch.

By this time Alvie was pretty well trained to go to the door to find food first thing in the morning, as I had originally placed treats in front of the open door for several days, thinking he'd run out when he sensed fresh air. I could hear him moving behind the dryer, then heard some skittering noises as he ventured across the concrete floor. I saw him jump up on the board, eat the grains and then dash across the board to the fruit and nut pile. He seemed almost startled to realize he was outdoors. He sat up, looked around, jumped off and ran to a garden bed for cover. Lickety-split, I dove off the sofa, pulled in the board and shut the door. My house is chipmunk-free!

After his departure, I pulled out the dryer and discovered that Alvie had either found an existing hole, or chewed a new one, in the dryer hose. Within the hose, he had built a tidy nest of shredded paper, dust bunnies (sigh), and hair. (I didn't know that I was shedding so much that a chipmunk could gather up enough to build a nest. Second sigh.)

Backyard Pet
Alvie remains in my yard and I see him almost every day. As I write this, he just popped around the garage corner to sit on top of a plant stand, ran down the wall, investigated some orange halves left out for the towhees, sat decoratively on a mosaic tile swishing his tail, then dashed off as I moved to the window to take a photo. I usually don't notice him until he moves because his coat blends in so well with the boulders and organic mulch.

He continues to return to the patio door area to look for food, so I hide nuts or grains beneath a container that sits on a wheeled trolley near the door. I'm researching a plant or two that I could add to the garden to provide Alvie with food, although so far, references haven't provided specific plants, just general "seeds, nuts, and berries." At least Alvie doesn't seem too fussy, so probably any native plant would be appreciated!

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