Living Madly: Moby Chip

Photo courtesy of NatureFriend

Living Madly: Moby Chip

By Emilie-Noelle Provost

My husband, Rob, is obsessed with the chipmunks in our yard. Each year, beginning in late winter or early spring, when the first pocket-sized rodent pokes its head of out of one of the portholes in our lawn, he starts tracking their daily movements. “Look! There’s another one,” he’ll say when he notices a chipmunk he doesn’t recognize (he claims he can tell them apart), prompting me to stop whatever I’m doing to come and look at the new invader stuffing its cheeks full of birdseed.

It’s not uncommon to find Rob roaming the yard at random times of day with a bottle full of pepper spray. He’ll spray this stuff anywhere he feels the chipmunks may have gotten the upper hand, such as under the back porch or around the flower pots on the patio. I’m not sure whether or not it deters the chipmunks, but our yard often smells pleasantly spicy.

In the ten-plus years we’ve lived in our house, the resident chipmunk population has fluctuated from just a handful to a couple of dozen, mostly depending on the acorn crop the year before. Once, during one of the chipmunks’ population booms, we found a dead chipmunk in our basement, no doubt vanquished by one of our three cats. This discovery prompted an extensive basement wall security project involving hydraulic cement and the installation of nightlight-like devices that supposedly emit high-frequency rodent-repelling sounds.

As far as I know, we haven’t had any more chipmunks in the basement. But we have had several mice and, once, a rouge gray squirrel that somehow wriggled down the chimney.

To be fair, the chipmunks do tend to cause a fair amount of property damage. After a large maple tree beside our driveway was removed last year, the chipmunks living in it relocated to the space beneath our three-season porch. In just a short time, they’ve dug a network of tunnels under the driveway that occasionally collapse into dangerous ankle-breaking sinkholes. As frustrating as this is, it’s hard not to be impressed by their ingenuity. They can travel from their home beneath the porch to the stone wall behind the garage without being exposed at all.

Sometimes, while Rob is monitoring the bird baths, he’ll spot a baby chipmunk that has come to get a drink. He has a soft spot for these little guys. “The baby ones really are cute,” he’ll say, staring out the window. “Look at how small he is. I think that’s the smallest chipmunk I’ve ever seen.”

Of all the chipmunks that have called our yard home, there’s one that drives Rob crazier than the rest. We call him Moby Chip. He’s bigger than the others, and seemingly invulnerable to pepper spray, shouting, hand-waving, and curse words. If you’re sitting in one of the Adirondack chairs on our patio, Moby Chip will often run right toward you at full speed, veering away at the very last moment and releasing a loud high-pitched squeak. It’s his way of letting you know that you’re in his territory, and that it’s time for you to leave.

Moby Chip has figured out how to evade the “rodent-proof” features on our birdfeeder. We often find him sitting casually on the perch, munching away on sunflower seeds. He also knows how to get into the birds’ suet feeder, which is also supposed to be rodent proof. Moby Chip mocks the neighborhood cats, squawking at them from the top of one of our arborvitae trees. He dug up my tulip bulbs after I planted them last fall, leaving them by the back door for me to find, but only after he’d chewed them full of holes. If we have a barbecue, someone has to stand guard to keep Moby Chip from jumping right up onto the table and helping himself.

Often, when Rob discovers a new chipmunk escape hatch in the lawn or, as he did recently, a freshly dug hole beneath our garage door, he’ll start Googling exterminators and looking up homemade “chipmunk control” solutions online. But then we’ll find a hawk sitting in our oak tree, waiting for just the right moment to swoop down. And it’s not long before the chipmunk population is back under control again, at least for another season.


Emilie-Noelle Provost is the author of The River Is Everywhere, which was released on March 14, 2023, and The Blue Bottlea middle-grade adventure with sea monsters. Learn more about Emilie and her work at