Northern Nevada gardening and landscaping: Vagaries of the coming spring | Carson City Nevada News
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Ground squirrels are a sign that spring is ahead of us. Photo courtesy of the Nevada Department of Wildlife
I am looking forward to spring. The first pimples of onions that appeared last week excited me as it’s the middle of winter. And then, oh no! I’m slapped in the face with the realities of spring that I’d rather not face. I saw my first ground squirrel! I also saw the extensive tunnel damage that the voles did to our lawn, which left dead grass everywhere. Spring isn’t all beautiful beauty!
The ground squirrel I saw was a great grandfather of all. I read that catching this first one before you see others can help reduce the overall population. I don’t know if that’s true, but I’ll go find this guy. Hopefully early removal will bring some relief to these extremely annoying and destructive rodents.
You are the reason I no longer grow vegetables. If I don’t build a garden with sieve rolls under, around and over, I will not be able to keep up with the destruction of my harvest. I’ve grown tomatoes in huge pots, but I have to cover the entire container, the cage that holds the plant, and the plant itself in a fine wire mesh. This makes harvesting cumbersome as I have to open and close the cage whenever I want a tomato.
Unfortunately, the hawks, owls, bobcats, and coyotes can’t keep up with the squirrel population. Changes to the habitat, such as removing wooden, stone or brush stakes, have limited benefits. According to the University of California’s Davis Integrated Pest Management Program, “Fumigants, poisonous baits, and traps are the most effective control methods today.”
Some of these methods are limited and not available to homeowners. Fumigants work when you handle all active trench systems. However, for safety reasons, you must avoid any trench systems that are near or come out from under a building or other structure. Late winter and early spring are the most effective control times for fumigants. Poisoned grain baits are useful only in early summer. Again, these must be used with caution to avoid killing non-target animals such as pets. Always read and follow the label.
I avoided using chemical controls. They make me nervous, especially after I found a dead barn owl in the yard that the Department of Wildlife believed was killed by eating a poisoned rodent. Apparently the squirrels go deep into a burrow to die, but I never wanted to test that. Live trapping is the last option, and if you catch one you should kill it. See why I live with ground squirrels?
More information can be found here.
– JoAnne Skelly is Associate Professor & Extension Educator Emerita at the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. She can be reached at [email protected]