Ground squirrels that excavate burrows or deep ground holes are members of the family of rodents. Some of them have 13 prominent stripes of yellow to white on their back and sides. Meanwhile, some have brownish-gray fur and speckled black with characteristic patterns and colors. They have bushy tails, big ears with round eyes, and their sizes may vary. The Franklin ground squirrel is a bit larger and heavier than the 13-lined ground squirrel.
These squirrels are extremely rare, and their impact on the land is very minimal. Ground squirrels live on or under the ground instead of trees. Moreover, they are diurnal, and some of them hibernate for about 205 days in winter. They mostly reside in grassland areas like golf courses, parks, or weedy areas with little vegetation. Ground squirrels feed on grass, weed, seed and some of them are even omnivorous. That is, they feed on insects, mice, bird eggs as well as some small birds
All the ground squirrels are solitary, but they live in close proximity, particularly in an area where the supply of food is abundant.Ground squirrels have a litter once a year and about eight average litters. Young squirrels come out of the burrows when they are about six weeks old.
Ground squirrels rise on their hind legs when they sense a predator nearby or the presence of tall grass in the area. They curl their paws against their chest and screech to send a warning call to other squirrels nearby.
The Impact of Ground Squirrels
Ground squirrels play an important role in soil aeration. They help control insect population, seed dispersal, and providing habitat to other animals in ground squirrels burrow. Their waste material contributes to the structure of organic soil.
Research also says that these ground squirrels unintentionally plant seeds. They take up seeds as their nutrient and take them deep into their burrows. When they come back, they forget where they have placed their seed, and it grows out into a plant. They are also an important part of the food chain. That is because many animals prey on them like snakes, mammals, birds, etc.
However, they are still problematic for mankind in many ways. One of them is their habit of digging deep, long ground squirrel hole. Not only do these holes destroy the crop fields and gardens, but the ground can also face severe damage and collapse over time.
Ground squirrels burrow around trees can damage their roots as well as drying out the soil. They can become a tripping hazard too.They chew on fruits, vegetables, and other crops. The most damage they cause is in rural areas and on farmlands. There, their massive digging can destroy freshly grown crops. This can cause economical as well as ecological issues.
How To Fill Ground Squirrel Holes
Ground squirrels tend to burrow deep holes, tunnels, or dens around crops, alongside buildings, in canals, and other undeveloped terrains on regions like rocky areas, cemeteries, parks, and sparsely forested slopes. They avoid areas where flood is possible or highly wet areas.
The burrows by ground squirrels may have one or more than two entrances of about 2-4 inches in diameter. The entrances of older burrows can be larger in diameter. These burrows can be 10 to 30 feet long in depth. It can be a single pathway or a combination of many different complex pathways with a single or many squirrels residing, hiding, sleeping, hibernating, storing their food, or rearing their young ones there.
The most important thing is to identify the burrows first. Seeing ground squirrels naturally running and roaming around the area is not always the case. So, the biggest indication is coming across a burrow entrance. If a burrow cannot be seen, but there are some chewedplants, gnawed irrigation lines, or damaged crops, it can be an alert too. The presence of soil being splattered around a ground squirrel hole and grass being out of place also means that there is an invader.
It is extremely necessary to take safety and control measures. Not only do these deep burrows destroy crops and damage landscape, but if they are alongside a building, they can even damage the foundation of the building, risking lives and lands. When high in population, these ground squirrels can also harbor a disease harmful to humans caused by bacteria. The sudden death of colonies of ground squirrels can cause bubonic plague. Hence, immediately call the public health officials.
Here are some ways which you can use to avoid and deter ground squirrels and fill their burrows.
1. The Burrow Blocker Machine
Shoveling and filling the ground is not the answer to fill the deep holes. Ground squirrels dig their way out of them because of complex pathways and the number of different entrances.
The most effective and useful way to fill these holes up is using the great burrow blocker machine. These machines are filled with water and sand in their tanks. They pump out a slurry mixture of water and sand with great pressure. That fills up the ground squirrel hole from deep down in the tunnel to the ground surface.
Just open the hose, and the slurry mixture will come out of the valves. It fills up the burrowing rodent’s holes in 2-5 minutes. The soil will absorb the water, and the sand will remain in the hole, capturing the ground squirrel and filling the holes.
After filling the holes, when the soil has absorbed the water, place mothballs, castor oil, or pepper spray in the holes to stop them from coming back again. These methods usually call for a proper check from the public squirrel control. Some even require a license to carry out this damage control.
2. Using Tunnel Fills
Tunnel fills are another effective method to fill the burrows. These tunnel fills are in the form of pellets. Take a handful of these pellets and put them in the hole. User water from the hose and pour it into the holes to push the pellets further deep in the burrow.
These pellets will absorb the water and form a gopher goo. The more they absorb the water, the more they will increase in size and then finally break. These broken pellets will then start expanding.They will expand 200-300 times more than the dry form. The expansion of this goo formed starts from the bottom of the burrow and goes upwards to the surface.
The topsoil should be used while filling it with the tunnel fill. Using gravel is not necessary for lawns and gardens unless you are working in a bigger area.This expansion of pellets mixed with soil and water forces the ground squirrels to move out of the tunnel or burrow to avoid drowning, and the ground hole is filled. Put some tall grass or adjust the flower bed on top of the soiled and filled tunnel, and it is done. Tunnel fill can also be filled after removing the ground squirrels using trap or poison.
Filling and expanding the tunnel holes will not stop the ground squirrels from coming back to the same area. So, here are some preventive measures to get rid of them completely.
- Fumigate in late winter or early spring when the soil is wet so the gas can stay in the wet soil.
- Use bait by using grain seed during summer or fall. These ground squirrels tend to eat lots of seed during that time.
- Trapping when the number of ground squirrels residing is low:Use live ground squirrel traps instead of inhumane ones.
- Installation of tall fencing, chicken wires, and thick steel meshes around the garden or lawn can prevent the ground squirrels from entering the area as they cannot chew on such thick steel materials.
- Putting tall plants and tall grass can also stop ground squirrels from evading the area because they tend to avoid areas with tall grass. They are a kind of danger for them.
- These ground squirrels also hate the smell of some plants, so growing them in the area can also effectively block them.
- Spray red pepper spray on plants they have been chewing or around the burrows. This will increase the chances of ground squirrels leaving the area.
- Keep filling the tunnel holes with expanding goo or foam to avoid squirrel infestation. Otherwise, these ground squirrels can find their way back to these burrows.
The techniques mentioned above are the most effective and only known ways to fill the deep tunnels and massive burrows that are risky and problematic in many ways. Most people tend to shovel or put gallons of water in those tunnels, but it only results in more damage and mess. Consult the public squirrel or wildlife control operators. They will further guide you and suggest the best ways to carry out the reconstruction of soil and land by filling these holes.