Maybe this is karma for a one-time Californian, moi, defying Oregon governor Tom McCall's plea in the 1970s to "come visit, but please don't live here."
I stayed, and now I've got plenty of California company -- ground squirrels who have migrated into the northwest and are making a mess of our yard and crawl space.
They are super cute, which makes dealing with the critters a lot more difficult. We can't imagine killing them. But their reputation as "one of the most troublesome pests to homeowners and gardeners" seems well-deserved.
For most of the nineteen years we've lived in rural south Salem, gray tree squirrels have been our bushy-tailed wildlife neighbors. Now, the California ground squirrels seem to be taking over.
They hibernated during the winter, undoubtedly dreaming of the good life on a warm beach. When they emerged in the spring, we enjoyed watching them frolicking around our yard.
As noted here, the squirrels are skilled at getting into adorable positions. (Maybe natural selection has evolved them into adopting a look of "I'm too cute to shoot!")
I especially like the contemplative pose, similar to the photo above, where a squirrel sits on a rock just beyond our deck, looking like a Chinese courtesan with her hands folded neatly in front under her kimono.
Not nearly so cute, though, is what we discovered today.
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).
Speaking of sex, we've seen them doing the deed on the same rock where contemplation occurs.
Since the average litter is seven to eight, this is worrisome. We'd just as soon not have a big commune of ground squirrels tunneling all over our property.
Burrows, which are about four or five inches in diameter, may vary in length from five feet to more than thirty-five feet and may be used by many generations of ground squirrels...In studying California Ground Squirrels, one group of scientists found a squirrel home with six females and five males which consisted of tunnels totaling 741 feet in length and had thirty-three openings. The deepest tunnel was twenty-eight feet below ground. Although most tunnel excavation work is done in the spring, digging and burrow improvement is a continuing process.
I went to Lowe's today and got some hardware cloth. We'll seal up the openings around our deck, which should keep them away from the foundation.
We've also borrowed a live trap from a neighbor. If you've ever wanted a cute California ground squirrel, let me know. Hopefully we'll be able to accommodate adoption requests soon.
There is much equipment involved in this burrow explosion method. You will need personal safety gear, which includes a hard hat, heavy gloves, safety glasses, ear plugs, ear protectors, and full body protective clothing. A fire extinguisher and shovels are highly recommended.
Reminds me of Caddyshack, a great movie about getting rid of gophers by any and all means on a golf course. But we'll stick with the hardware cloth and live trap for now.