Ground Squirrels are known to be problematic for homeowners, gardeners, and professionals in the agricultural and commercial markets. According to the University of California Agricultural and Natural Resources, “in California, Ground Squirrels cause $30 to $50 million per year in agricultural damage (http://ucanr.edu).” Although they appear cute and harmless, the California Ground Squirrel can actually cause damage to food-bearing and ornamental plants, trees by gnawing bark and girdling the trunks, burrowing around roots, irrigation lines, and sprinkler systems. They prevent growth and damage the roots of vegetables, plants, shrubs, and vines by eating the tender young sprouts. Constantly burrowing and creating mounds, it presents hazards to machinery and livestock.
In a more serious matter, Ground Squirrels are known to be carriers of the bubonic plague which is transmitted to humans by fleas. If large infestations occur, it is suggested to notify public health officials. When this rodent produces large populations in very short time periods, it is highly recommended to treat for the infestation as soon as possible.
To treat for infestations of Ground Squirrels, we must first understand them as a species. Ground Squirrels forage above ground and near their burrows. They can live in a variety of habitats, but will avoid dense and wet areas. When distressed, they will always retreat to their burrow and never up to a tree, as a tree squirrel would when frightened. Their burrow system is where they eat, sleep, hibernate, and store food. They are constantly reproducing, increasing their population size while living in colonies, which can typically range within a 75-yard radius of their burrow (http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu). The Ground Squirrel is active during the day and during winter time, most will hibernate. During the hottest times of the year, they go into a period of inactivity, known as estivation. They are primarily seed eaters, but will also feed off of green grasses, fruits, and vegetables.
Anticoagulant baits are an effective solution for managing infestations. Ground Squirrel Bait by Wilco is a multiple-feed formulation and pelletized to emulate the squirrel’s natural food source. Containing .005% Diphacinone, is relatively safe for humans, pets, and wildlife because if consumed, the simple antidote of vitamin K1 is needed. This bait requires a bait station.
Bait stations are small structures in which a Ground Squirrel may enter from two entrances and consume the bait from inside. Wilco’s Ground Squirrel Bait Station is made out of heavy-duty green plastic with a CRC (Child Resistant Closure) cap for inserting bait. It can hold 2-4 lbs. of bait at a time and has provisions on either side of the station to stake it down to the ground.
Trapping is an alternative for controlling infestations. Wilco’s Ground Squirrel Trap is a multi-catch trap that can hold 6-7 squirrels at a time. Similar to the functions of a crab trap, the squirrel may enter the trap, but may not escape. It is recommended to bait the trap with their food source in the area. For more information, please call 1.800.769.5040 or go to www.wilcodistributors.com.