what Since the drought, ground squirrels have taken over my garden. Due to water restrictions, I let my back lawn turn brown and ground squirrels built burrows in my backyard. They are very destructive. Squirrels have chewed through the drip line and eaten several plants in my yard. Now they’re building a burrow under the corner of my garage. What can I do to rid my garden of these pests?
A. Ground squirrels appear to have increased in population during this drought. It may be because squirrels move to yards where they can get water as the native landscape dries up.
Here at Shasta College in Redding, we have also seen an increase in activity and damage from ground squirrels. Burrows are appearing in the pastures and they ate the grapes from the vines, climbing under the netting in the vineyard.
This is a pest that can be difficult to control. They will eat virtually any growing plant, and their burrows can also be very destructive to trees and dangerous to livestock.
The California Fish and Wildlife code classifies gophers as non-game animals; unlike some tree squirrel species which are classified as game animals and have a hunting season. Therefore, it is important to ensure that you correctly identify the squirrel before removing it.
Because they are considered non-game animals, property owners can use any humane method to eliminate ground squirrels. The main control methods are traps, fumigation and bait.
Trapping can work during all seasons except winter, when the animals are less active. It is illegal to relocate wildlife so live traps are not recommended as you must then release the live squirrel.
There are several types of death traps, including box traps, tunnel traps, and Conibear traps. If you use one of these types of traps, place them in a covered box with a 3-inch diameter inlet/outlet to reduce hazards to children, pets, poultry, and other wildlife.
Spraying is best done in the spring and may be a better means of control than trapping. Since ground squirrels breed only once a year in the spring, spraying can work well to control populations year-round.
Spraying works from early spring to early summer, as long as the soil is still moist. When using fumigants, read and follow all label directions. Some fumigants can produce flames or collect vapors that can seep into a building if burrows are closed, so be careful when using this method.
Later in the summer, the bait can work to eliminate ground squirrels, as this is when they are eating seeds and will be most attracted to the baits. If you use bait, be sure to use bait stations that don’t allow pets access to it, and don’t use baits that kill other animals that could eat the dead squirrel.
To discourage population buildup, remove brush piles and debris where ground squirrels can hide from predators. Destroy old burrows to at least 20 inches deep in the ground.
More Master Gardener:Plant your fall garden now, before the first fall frost
For more detailed information on ground squirrels and different control methods or to see plans for an easy-to-build bait station, visit the UC IPM website at bit.ly/3yd2WAs.
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The Shasta Master Gardeners Program can be reached by phone at 530-242-2219 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The gardener’s office is staffed by volunteers trained by the University of California to answer gardener’s questions using information based on scientific research.