Ask a Question forum: Rats and ground squirrels

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Name: J H
Southern California
doited25327
Feb 4, 2018 11:02 AM CST
Any thoughts on how to prevent rats and ground squirrels from digging under my vinyl fence. They decimated my vegetable garden last year. Tried spraying ammonia and refilling tunnels dug to no avail. We have a home owners association slope behind us where they are coming from, into our neighbors yard and then under a common fence. Neighbors are renters, who dont garden and dont really care.
Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
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DaisyI
Feb 4, 2018 9:28 PM CST
There's not much you can do to discourage animals that climb and dig. Grumbling My neighborhood sits on a lot of rockery walls so ground squirrels were the last thing we wanted taking down the walls that hold up our houses. My neighbors and I resorted to squirrel traps - we averaged a couple dozen squirrels per neighbor the first year. This year (3 years in), I haven't seen even one.

The other option is Tomcat Bait Chunks. You drop them down the runs and the squirrels and rats nibble on them. Evenutally, it kills them. It is the sort of bait University of California recommends because the animals have to eat it for a couple weeks before they die and you hid it in burrows.

http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/r1076...
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming...."WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

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Name: David Tillyer
New York City
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BigAppleRoseGuy
Feb 11, 2018 2:27 PM CST
I've had some real problems with rats in my garden in a public park. Sometimes I just put a hose down the hose and leave it running until rats bolt out of the other entrances. That's good therapy for me, but it doesn't really reduce the rat population.

The local health department recommends just stomping on their burrows. Again, they're very resilient...the rats not the health department.

The health department recommends AGAINST feeding poison. The poison gets into the system of the rats and slows them down before killing them. That makes them easy prey for birds of prey...which are protected.

I've yet to find a good solution! David
Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
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DaisyI
Feb 11, 2018 5:36 PM CST
The bait the University of California is recommending is not harmful to other animals unless the other animals eat the poisoned rats/squirrels everyday for 2 or 3 weeks. I doubt the U of CA would recommend anything they felt was harmful to other animals, protected or not.

You can always set traps.
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming...."WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

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Name: Frenchy
Falls Church, VA (Zone 7b)
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Frenchy21
Feb 11, 2018 5:43 PM CST
Big ole tomcats could also help. Smiling
Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
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Baja_Costero
Feb 11, 2018 5:53 PM CST
The active ingredient in the product which has been recommended is a vitamin K antagonist (anticoagulant, like other rodenticides) called diphacinone which has residual slight to moderate toxicity toward birds and fish. I would not treat any of the baits with broadly overlapping toxicity as safe toward the animals (including household pets) which may eat dead rodents and especially their little rodent livers. I'm not saying bait shouldn't be used, just be aware it's not neutral toward the other participants in the ecosystem. Pick up and remove the corpses, as recommended on that UC page. More info here.

http://pmep.cce.cornell.edu/pr...

We have ground squirrels here and they are nearly impossible to control without extreme measures like what Daisy has described. My preference is to put a wire basket in around the succulents that I install, so that they don't end up rootless, and the squirrels can do their thing somewhere else. Predators can work wonders. When the squirrels show up in the greenhouse, I use a live trap.
[Last edited by Baja_Costero - Feb 11, 2018 6:27 PM (+)]
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Name: Frank Mosher
Nova Scotia, Canada (Zone 6a)
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fwmosher
Feb 20, 2018 2:34 PM CST
Pellet gun! Although I doubt it is squirrels digging under your fence and attacking vegetable plants??I would look for tracks? Gophers perhaps?
Name: Frank Mosher
Nova Scotia, Canada (Zone 6a)
Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge) Birds Roses Clematis Lilies Peonies
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fwmosher
Feb 20, 2018 3:56 PM CST
First off, squirrels will easily crawl through a vinyl fence, which has at least 3/4" to 1" wide square mesh. Easily! So it is not squirrels digging under your fence. You know what, I'm not even going to go any further with this. It's not skunks! Although they can dig holes, they do not eat vegetables, it is not racoons, not big diggers except for both skunks/crows/and racoons peeling back sod on your lawn to get June Beetle larvae. That leaves only Ground Hogs. Big on digging, (not even a question-what was that famous Bill Murray movie?) ) Huge on eating new plant growth, huge! Have to use a live trap to catch them, and then have someone "relocate" same. Nature is cruel, but it's us or them!!! LOL. Cheers!
Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
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DaisyI
Feb 20, 2018 4:32 PM CST
fwmosher, you seem to be having an argument all by yourself. Smiling

As J H lives in S. California, groundhogs are out. But, the west coast has a huge problem with ground squirrels. It could be gophers but they wouldn't colonize and take down entire hills (and levees and rockery walls) the way ground squirrels do. Ground squirrels spend a lot of time out in the daytime so if you have them, you know it. Gophers spend all their time underground so unless your plants start doing the hula and then disappear into the ground, you may not know you have them. If its gophers (or groundhogs), the problem and treatment are the same.

We always called ground squirrels "Valley Dogs" the closest we will ever come to having Prairie Dogs.

Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming...."WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

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Name: Rob Duval
Mason, New Hampshire (Zone 5b)
Region: New Hampshire Vegetable Grower Daylilies Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Garden Ideas: Level 1 Tomato Heads
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robertduval14
Feb 20, 2018 4:51 PM CST

Plants Admin

Technically, groundhogs are also part of the squirrel family (Sciuridae) and is considered a ground squirrel. There are many of all different sizes, with the largest ones typically being called Marmots and Groundhogs and the many smaller ones being called ground squirrels.
Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
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Baja_Costero
Feb 20, 2018 5:00 PM CST
In California and Baja California we have the California ground squirrel (Otospermophilus beecheyi) and I believe that would be a prime candidate for the original poster. If you live somewhere else, you might not be familiar with this animal, but it is a persistent digger and it may not be digging under the fence to get through it, so much as living its normal subterranean existence and the fence just happened to be around. Daisy has pointed out some of the animal's behavior. They are quite inquisitive and hang around above ground for much of the day.

One aspect of their behavior has to do with the seasonal rainfall we experience here, and the summer drought which is predictable and total in coastal SoCal and northern BC. The squirrels may be off foraging on who knows what during the winter and spring when there are tasty green things to nibble all over. But during the drought they will show up in your garden and graze on succulents and all sorts of other plants. As much for the water as the food, as far as I can tell. So they might not normally eat some things, but their menu expands during the dry times of late summer and early fall. This season we have had an inch of rain since May (coastal SoCal probably about the same) so the squirrels are at maximum hunger/thirst.

The other regional pest Daisy mentioned is the gopher and they stay out of sight until you discover your plants have gone rootless. If you see an entrance hidden by a pile of dirt, think gopher.
[Last edited by Baja_Costero - Feb 20, 2018 7:04 PM (+)]
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Name: Frank Mosher
Nova Scotia, Canada (Zone 6a)
Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge) Birds Roses Clematis Lilies Peonies
Region: Canadian Photo Contest Winner: 2017 Million Pollinator Garden Challenge
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fwmosher
Feb 20, 2018 5:26 PM CST
I should have checked for a US definition of Ground Hogs! Simple! Gophers, sometimes referred to in Northern Canada, as "Whistlers"! Remember, "the ground hog/gopher sticks his head out of his habitant/hole, and if there is a shadow, three more weeks of Winter! I am not going to take the time to look up "ground squirrels" because I am certain it is a colloquial expression without any scientific basis. The culprit is Ground Hog or Gopher! Cheers!
Name: Frank Mosher
Nova Scotia, Canada (Zone 6a)
Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge) Birds Roses Clematis Lilies Peonies
Region: Canadian Photo Contest Winner: 2017 Million Pollinator Garden Challenge
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fwmosher
Feb 20, 2018 5:42 PM CST
Note: You forced me to look up "ground squirrels" and here is the bottom line: They eat seeds, and grubs , not live plants! WOW! And Baja gets acorns for the ground squirrel reply!!! Mercy! No wonder I don't have any acorns!
Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
Cactus and Succulents Seed Starter Foliage Fan Xeriscape Container Gardener Bromeliad
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Baja_Costero
Feb 20, 2018 5:50 PM CST
Okay Frank, let me tell you a story. Last year (and this same thing has happened a few times) an animal was entering the greenhouse in the park and eating the soft-leafed succulents in there. It was a regular and probably daily event that leaves would be chewed off or tips would be nibbled. Rather annoying for me because I was trying to get a bunch of plants up to landscape size to go in the garden.

So I set a live trap with some peanuts inside, and I caught a California ground squirrel a day or two later. (Which I took several miles away and released.) All the destructive plant-eating activity stopped completely in the greenhouse. What would you conclude from this experience? I'm all ears!
[Last edited by Baja_Costero - Feb 20, 2018 5:53 PM (+)]
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Name: Rob Duval
Mason, New Hampshire (Zone 5b)
Region: New Hampshire Vegetable Grower Daylilies Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Garden Ideas: Level 1 Tomato Heads
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robertduval14
Feb 20, 2018 6:13 PM CST

Plants Admin

fwmosher said:Mercy! No wonder I don't have any acorns!



Or perhaps you come off as brash, rude, or a 'know it all'? Just sayin'.

Name: Frenchy
Falls Church, VA (Zone 7b)
Container Gardener Dog Lover Houseplants Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Tomato Heads Hostas
Tropicals Annuals Foliage Fan Aroids Cactus and Succulents Sempervivums
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Frenchy21
Feb 20, 2018 6:16 PM CST
Ouch! A bit harsh there?
Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
Cactus and Succulents Seed Starter Foliage Fan Xeriscape Container Gardener Bromeliad
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Baja_Costero
Feb 20, 2018 6:52 PM CST
fwmosher said:No wonder I don't have any acorns!


The main reason I have acorns is that I have put photos in the database and left comments for various plants there (you can see all this on my profile page if you're curious about the details). There are a few ways to earn acorns, mostly relating to contributing your plant knowledge and photography.

If you want to earn acorns, now is the time because there's a contest on right now to give double acorns (and the chance of a windfall) for leaving comments.

The thread "Time for the winter 2018 Comments Drive, with a contest by zuzu!" in Plant Database forum

Of course I am grateful to Rob for his generosity, let that be said.

Thank You!
[Last edited by Baja_Costero - Feb 20, 2018 6:53 PM (+)]
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Name: Frank Mosher
Nova Scotia, Canada (Zone 6a)
Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge) Birds Roses Clematis Lilies Peonies
Region: Canadian Photo Contest Winner: 2017 Million Pollinator Garden Challenge
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fwmosher
Feb 20, 2018 8:02 PM CST
Robertduval14: Do you think perhaps that you have a complex of some type? I bend over backwards to be polite on this forum! I only comment on items that I have had experience with, I only submit my own photos! Can you claim that? No! Does anyone agree with me that the culprit is a Ground Hog/read Gopher? If not, I am wasting my time on this forum! It is not a "Ground Squirrel"! I already wasted my time pointing out that your "ground squirrel" does not eat plants, but eats seeds and grubs! And still, you claim it is a "ground Squirrel? And I have an attitude and no acorns? So be it!
Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
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DaisyI
Feb 20, 2018 9:22 PM CST
Frank, Please post your scientific evidence for your claims. Here is mine: two articles from the University of California. I probably shouldn't mention how many plants (including a Cholla) I have lost to California Ground Squirrels.

California Ground squirrel:

http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/PESTN...

California Pocket Gopher:

http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/PESTN...
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming...."WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

Webmaster: osnnv.org
Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
Cactus and Succulents Seed Starter Foliage Fan Xeriscape Container Gardener Bromeliad
Hummingbirder Native Plants and Wildflowers Garden Photography Region: Mexico Plant Identifier Forum moderator
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Baja_Costero
Feb 21, 2018 12:56 AM CST
fwmosher said:I only comment on items that I have had experience with ...


What exactly is your experience with the burrowing rodents of Southern California? For someone who has apparently never seen a California ground squirrel, you seem to have a lot of opinions about them. I asked you a question earlier. Could you please take a moment to answer?

https://garden.org/thread/view...

If your goal is to be polite, I'd say a critical first step would be to listen to others before you dismiss them. If you think it's so important to submit your own photos (just repeating your own words), why have you uploaded only one to the plant database? If you keep bringing up your lack of acorns, why not get busy and leave some photos and comments in the database so you have some?

A dismissive attitude does not help when the other people in the conversation are trying their hardest to be reasonable and solution-oriented. I say this not to provoke conflict but to promote understanding. We're trying to build community here. We're real people with real gardens, we are trying to communicate clearly and openly, and we actually do have some experience trying to control ground squirrels. The original question was how to accomplish that.

Speaking of which, the original poster seems to have wandered off. Oh well. I would hope this discussion has some benefit to other people with rodent issues.
[Last edited by Baja_Costero - Feb 21, 2018 1:16 AM (+)]
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