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I follow the garden newsgroups and a lot of time is spent discussing methods for keeping various critters out of the garden.  My neighbors (and wife) are skeptical that a passive approach will be successful.  I've been told that nothing less than fencing the entire garden will work and that includes burying chicken wire under the garden.  I'm going to resist this method for a number of reasons but mostly, because building a giant wire fortification just doesn't feel like gardening. For an update on my attempts at gardening, see this entry in my journal.

Gophers!! - The Attack Begins

I barely finished tilling the soil and gopher mounds began to appear.  I can see that before the raccoons strip the corn from the stalks, I'm going to have to deal with these monsters from below.  Traps! Yeah, that's the ticket.   I may be soft hearted but with gophers, you can't take prisoners.

Well, actually we did take a gopher prisoner once.  For that story see Oscar.

Trapping Gophers

 I have heard about "other" methods of gopher control, like jamming flares down the gopher hole or running a hose from your truck exhaust into the gopher´┐Żs tunnel. After a hard days work, what could be more fun than downing a couple of brews and wandering through your pastures lighting fires. Shades of "Caddy Shack."

Professional farmers don’t waste time on such activities. If you can pin them down, they will usually admit to using poison. It’s not politically correct so they often hesitate to discuss it. Not wanting to get bogged down in a debate, I will discuss the second most popular method.

 
bulletTraps! - On the ranch, we use the Macabee trap. It’s similar in concept to a rat trap in that it kills by crushing the gopher when the trap is tripped. The key to success is persistence. In our part of the country, gopher control is a never-ending battle.

As most people know, gopher activity is indicated by small mounds of dirt appearing though out the garden. These mounds are where the battle begins. The mound of dirt is where the gopher has plugged up one of the entrances to his tunnel and you will have to remove the dirt and excavate down until you expose the opening. This opening usually leads to a lateral tunnel where you will place two traps facing in both directions down the tunnel. (See drawing). gophertrap.jpg (45510 bytes)The traps should be attached to a thick nylon chord and staked at the surface. If the gopher detects air in his tunnel he will push dirt towards the entrance and simply bury your traps so it is best to cover the entrance with a small piece of plywood. That will keep air and light out, allowing the unsuspecting critter to travel through the tunnel and trip the trap.

    Oh yeah, one final comment. The above method is often successful, but not always. We have come across gophers that are trap wise and no matter how hard you try, it’s next to impossible to fool them. You end up causing more destruction placing the traps than the gopher would have done.

An update in my journal on planting trees when you have gophers  here.

Rabbits

When your wife has you calling them "bunnies", you know there won't be an easy solution.  These guys can be extremely destructive and if not controlled, they can wipe out an entire garden within a matter of hours.  This will be the first year I've gotten serious about growing vegetables and I'll be trying the more humane suggestions I've received about dealing with rabbits ( I mean bunnies).  As the season progresses, I'll let you know how it goes.

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Blood Meal - Apply powdered blood meal around and in the garden.  The theory behind this is that the rabbits smell the blood and are repelled by the odor.  The down side is that every dog within miles will be coming to investigate though, I suppose they would chase the rabbits away.

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Coyote Urine - Yes, you can actually purchase coyote urine at garden shops and through mail order.  It works on the same theory as the blood meal and yes, it also attracts dogs. I found it a little expensive when you consider it has to be re-applied after every rain.  No, I don't know how they get it.   I was told in one newsgroup to get a three legged stool, a milk bucket and a road runner.

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Motion Activated Sprinkler - This device runs on batteries and hooks up to an impact sprinkler.  When bugs comes on the scene he is detected by the sensor, the sprinkler comes on and scares bugs away.  I actually wouldn't mind trying this but the one device I saw for sale costs a hundred dollars. A little over my budget for now.

Raccoons

Of all the ranch pests, these may be the hardest to deal with.  They're cute to watch but they can be deadly.  They have been known to kill cats and we lost a peacock when the raccoons got into his cage.  Even more ravenous than rabbits, they will strip a large garden in one night.  I'm still working on a solution so I'll let you know.

It's 9:15 pm and I'm downstairs watching TV when I see a mother raccoon looking at me through the window in the front door.  I call Catherine downstairs and we watch as the mother chases her two babies up a tree to protect them from us. Just the other day she came through the cat door and ran off with a coffee can full of cat food.  When we gave chase, she dropped the can at the door  and stopped to growl at us from the shadows.  Cute, like something out of a Disney movie.

 We're having a drought, the creek is dry and food is scarce.  The local wildlife seem a little bolder this year.  For the first time, we have a Doe with two fawns living on our property and we've put out water to encourage them to stay.  We don't have a dog and with hunting season going on, I like to think that we provide a small refuge.  But how far do we go?

 The raccoon is cute but thin, and with two babies, she must be struggling to keep them fed.  I consider putting out food but that can only be a mistake.  Shouldn't they be encouraged to survive on their own?  Not only that,  raccoons can be surprisingly destructive.  They have already killed one of our peacocks and, when given the chance, they have been known to kill cats. 

    For now, our strategy is defensive.  Catherine has been working for weeks to raccoon proof the peacock cage.  So far she has covered the cage from top to bottom with new chicken wire.  All access points have been reinforced and in a "last ditch effort", she put razor wire around the top to discourage them from ripping through the ceiling screen 

    No luck.  They still found a way in and though they haven't killed the peacocks, the goldfish in the peacock pond became dinner the other night. The battle continues.

 

 

MICE

Rural mice are so destructive they deserve their own page here.

 

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