Yesterday Laurel, my wife, took our dog Mooka for a walk in Salem's Bush Park. Mooka loves going to the park because she finds the California ground squirrels there endlessly fascinating.
Partly because they're so tame. Partly because Mooka hugely enjoys chasing squirrels on our rural south Salem property, though I don't think she's ever caught one.
(Dogs suck at climbing trees; good news for squirrels.)
Laurel got into a conversation with a man who told her that a child had been bitten at Bush Park by a ground squirrel, probably while feeding one of the cute little critters. He thought the child may have needed to get a rabies shot, but wasn't sure about this.
He also said that because of the proliferation of ground squirrels in Bush Park, there's an effort to kill them. Not sure how, but poisoning their burrows would make the most sense.
So it isn't a good idea to feed the ground squirrels, as tempting as that might be. They aren't native to Oregon, as evidenced by "California" in their name. We've had quite a bit of experience with them on our property.
The squirrels have gnawed away at the bark of a gorgeous tree in our yard, almost completely girdling it before we put up netting to keep them away from the trunk and branches. In 2009 I wrote about another problem we had with them in "California ground squirrels are driving us nutty."
Crawling under the deck, Laurel found that the little bastards had dug completely under our house's concrete foundation and had made their way into our crawl space. Evidence: insulation that they had dragged out through the tunnel (probably to make a bed where they will have sex and create more California ground squirrels to drive us even nuttier).
Back then I said that I couldn't imagine killing them, so we got a live trap and took them elsewhere. But it was difficult to trap them, and transferring them just moves the ground squirrel problem.
I got a Varmint Killer Air Rifle in August of 2009, blogging about this in "I become a fearsome (ground squirrel) killer." That was wishful thinking, since I don't believe I ever actually hit one. So I increased my firepower.
It turned out that a .410 Mossberg self-defense shotgun was just the thing I needed to compensate for my lack of accuracy with the air rifle. Loaded with birdshot, and living as we do out in the country where shooting is common, I was able to blast away at ground squirrels in our yard with pleasing results.
Not that Laurel and I enjoyed killing them. We're both vegetarians and animal lovers. However, when the ground squirrels started digging into our crawl space, that caused us to declare war on them.
Since, we haven't seen many ground squirrels. Mooka, a fairly young dog, is quicker than our previous dog, who died from a liver problem. We let her out when we see a ground squirrel in our yard, which seems to be scaring them away, by and large.
Here's a good article about how to get rid of ground squirrels in your yard. It describes ways to deter them rather than killing them -- which is our preference also whenever possible.