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Ground Squirrels

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Elephant shrew

Beneath the Surface: Detecting and Managing Ground Squirrel Intrusions & Infestation

A group of ground squirrels (gophers) sit near the entrance to their burrow.

Introduction

While squirrels are often associated with trees and branches and are known as tree squirrels, ground squirrels are a different story altogether. These rodents, with their burrowing habits and foraging behaviors, can become a nuisance in yards with grassy areas, golf courses, and gardens. Recognizing signs of a ground squirrel infestation is essential for effective management. In this article, we’ll explore the characteristics of ground squirrels, their behaviors, potential issues they can cause, and methods for control using live traps and suitable bait options.

Ground Squirrel Facts and Characteristics

Two ground squirrels eating seeds or nuts at the entrance to their burrow.Ground squirrels, also known as gophers, are burrowing rodents that spend most of their lives underground. They have stout bodies, short legs, and strong claws adapted for digging. Ground squirrels are active during the day, emerging from their burrows to forage and gather food.

Ground squirrels are not chipmunks. You can read about chipmunks here.

Diet of Ground Squirrels

Ground squirrels primarily feed on a diet of plants, including grass, leaves, fruits, and seeds. Their herbivorous habits can make them particularly damaging to grass in a yard, gardens, and crops.

Habitat and Behavior of Ground Squirrels

Gopher or ground squirrel peeking out of its burrow in a grassy area.Ground squirrels are known for their extensive tunnel systems. They dig complex burrows for shelter with multiple entrances in the earth, creating networks for nesting and escaping predators. These rodents are social animals, often living in colonies where they communicate through vocalizations and body language.

Potential Issues Caused by Ground Squirrels

Ground squirrel infestations can lead to various problems:

  1. Garden and Lawn Damage: Their burrowing activities can disrupt grass, yard, gardens, golf courses, and landscaping by creating unsightly mounds and tunnels.

  2. Crop Loss: Ground squirrels seeking out food sources can ravage agricultural fields, leading to reduced crop yields and economic losses.
  3. Structural Damage: In rare cases, ground squirrel burrows near buildings can undermine foundations and structures.

Detecting Ground Squirrel Presence

Recognizing ground squirrel activity requires careful observation:

  1. Burrows: Look for circular or crescent-shaped mounds of soil, especially in the yard and garden, often with a visible hole indicating an entrance.
  2. Tunnels: Indications of tunneling activity can be seen as raised ridges in lawns and gardens.
  3. Feeding Signs: Check for evidence of chewed plants, particularly near the base of the plant.

Effective Control: Traps and Baits

Sherman live animal trap for ground squirrels number 5515.

Sherman ground squirrel live capture animal trap #5515

When addressing a ground squirrel infestation, employing appropriate methods is essential:

  1. Traps: Use live traps designed for ground squirrels to capture and relocate them. Place traps near burrow entrances or areas with clear signs of activity.
  2. Baits: Choose bait options that ground squirrels are likely to be attracted to:
    • Fresh Fruits and Vegetables: Carrots, apples, and other produce can serve as enticing baits.
    • Seeds: Sunflower seeds, oats, and other seeds can also be effective.

Preventing Future Encounters with Ground Squirrels

After successfully managing a ground squirrel infestation, take measures to prevent return of these pests:

  1. Habitat Modification: Remove debris and tall vegetation that can provide cover and encourage burrowing.
  2. Fencing: Install barriers like mesh or wire underground to prevent burrowing near gardens and structures.
  3. Professional Help: In persistent cases, consider seeking assistance from pest control experts.

Conclusion

Ground squirrels might live beneath the surface, but their presence can have above-ground consequences. By recognizing the signs of ground squirrel activity and employing effective control methods like traps and appropriate baits, you can address ground squirrel infestations in a humane and timely manner. Remember, managing these burrowing intruders requires proactive efforts to prevent damage to your grassy areas, yard, garden, and landscaping.