Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Spermophilus doesn’t love us!

(OK, what sort of google hits will I get with a title like that!?)

So. We have a little issue with some spermophilus franklinii. Now, now, don’t get all embarrassed: this is still a clean blog. (I love scientific names!) I’m talking about the Franklin’s Ground Squirrel, who has risen again for a summer of destruction.

I’m actually quite tired of hearing this:
A squirrel ate your lettuce? Are you sure it wasn’t a deer?

Yes, I’m sure. The gardens are all intensively fenced to 6 feet, but the holes are fairly big, allowing the “spermophilus” (translation from greek/latin: seed-loving, genus name for ground squirrels) to sneak in and chow down. I know we need to get out the chicken wire (about ¼ mile of it, likely) and do a second layer, but sheesh. That’s a lot of work.

What’s weird is that these little critters (warning; study skins at that link) are not REALLY supposed to be that common around here, but we know we have a bumper crop. A few years ago, we spotted a pregnant female, then later, 5 adorable babies popping their heads out of the burrow. Sure, cute until the wholesale destruction of peas and squash and lettuce begins!

And I’m not crazy; it IS indeed a squirrel (with effective sper...oh, never mind) eating our produce.

We need to get tough. Any non-lethal control ideas out there?


Tracy said...

What a pain. You could try what I did to keep the regular gray squirrels away from my tomatoes in Minneapolis. I draped bird netting (meant for fruit trees) over the plants and held it down with rocks. Although they could have chewed through it if they wanted to, I made sure to leave it rather loose with lots of folds so they couldn't get a really good hold on it. This may not work, though, for your ground squirrels - I have a feeling they're probably smarter (or at least more wily) than Minneapolis gray squirrels.

e4 said...

I don't know if this would work, but maybe an owl box or some hawk perches? I've also recently heard of somebody using a tape loop of predator sounds.

Phelan said...

I wish I could help you. Due to not having enough trees for cover, we do not have a single squirrel here. My boys are thrilled when we see them in the city.

gtr said...

Thanks, all!

Tracy, I tried the bird netting thing last week; they still nosed their way under it (I didn't stake it tight all around, just tucked it in). They ARE wily, darn things.

e4: We also have (sometimes free-ranging) chickens, so we don't tent to encourage predators right in the yard. Wonder if the tape would help or freak out the chickens too much?

phelan: Yes, we DO love squirrels of some types (I just rescued a baby red squirrel a couple weeks ago) but these guys are trouble. On the up side, they DO hibernate for about 9 months of the year.

Terry said...

In Duluth they seem to hang out near the water, Leif Erickson Park and Brighton Beach. Wendy noticed them before I did, I insisted they were just funny looking grey squirrels for a long time.

Maybe you could offer them a free shuttle to the beach or something?

RuthieJ said...

According to Stan Tekiela's "Mammals of Minnesota" Field Guide, this ground squirrel is "a true omnivore and the most carnivorous of ground squirrels. Able to break open eggs, usually those of ground-dwelling birds, by curling its body around the egg while bracing it with its back feet and biting through the shell." Doesn't sound like a critter I'd want around my chickens either!
Will your kitties help with squirrel control? Is live-trapping and relocation an option?

RuthieJ said...

Here's something else to try (I was reminded when reading someone else's blog last night). Fox urine. You may be able to find it in the pest-deterrent aisle at your local gardening or hardware store. If not, a hunting/trapping supplier (like Cabelas) should have it. I'm not sure how powerful the odor is for humans working in the garden, but if it keeps those little squirrels away, it might be worth it.