Latin Name: Marmotini
What do Ground Squirrels look like?
The California ground squirrel is a large rodent 9-11 inches in length and has somewhat of a bushy tail. They can vary in color from gray, to slightly brown. During the time they are immature, they may appear to have stripes or spots on their coat.
Ground squirrels have pouches in which they carry food and nesting material. These pouches, unlike the pocket gopher, are located on the inside of their mouths, which actually makes the use of baits as a control method a quicker means of control. Unlike tree squirrels, ground squirrels do not often climb though they do possess the ability to.
Their burrow systems can have between 2 - 20 squirrels living in them. They breed during the spring which is why there are sharp increases in populations around this time. One of the issues that ground squirrels can cause, besides the damage from their large extensive burrow systems, is that they often carry fleas that aid in the spread of diseases.
Ground squirrels will infest any landscape, even small planters found in parking lots. Their burrow systems are typically extensive, with openings from 4-8 Inches traditionally.
Ground Squirrels feed of off the seeds of plants. They do have preferences, which is why you will see ground squirrels infesting turf and gazania at a much higher rate than in ground cover such as red apple. Additionally, any type of ivy or vine plant material can provide some type of barrier to ground squirrels, but if no other food supply is near, ground squirrels will feed off of those plants as well.
How can you prevent ground squirrels from getting into your yard?
It is almost impossible to keep these pests from entering your landscape. Ground squirrels can, and do, migrate above ground and can even tunnel from one yard to the next, and are often known to travel long distances in search of food. Having a dog often discourages squirrels as they are active during the day.
The presence of a ground squirrel in your yard may not mean the burrow is in the immediate area, but may be 50 or more yards away. As the population increases, so will the size of the burrow systems as they expand to make more room for the growing colony.
There are several methods of control that can be used to treat ground squirrels.
Trapping is a non-chemical method of removing ground squirrels. Trapping is a much easier method for ground squirrels than it is with other burrowing pests such as gophers. Live humane traps can be used to catch the squirrel using a wide variety of baits. This method however is not often used by pest control companies for a myriad of reasons.
Once traps are set, they must be inspected and monitored daily, which makes the cost of hiring a pest control company to implement this method cost prohibitive. Additionally, if a pest control company uses this method, they cannot legally be able to relocate the ground squirrel elsewhere. Relocating wildlife of any kind is prohibited under the California Penal Code, and the Department of Fish and Wildlife. So, once caught, the squirrels would either have to be released into the immediate area, or be humanely euthanized off-site.
Baiting is another method of control that is highly effective when controlling ground squirrels. This method allows the squirrels to feed on the bait placed by the Pest Control specialist. This method can reduce a population in an area quickly.
Fumigation is another method of control that a pest control company may use. However, because of the size and extent of their burrows, this may not be the most effective method. If fumigation is performed, it is key to make sure all entry points to the burrow are closed off to prevent the squirrels from leaving the system during treatment.
This method is also restricted by the location of where the infestation is. If machinery is used to to apply the fumigation, ground squirrel infestations on slopes or away from accessible paths and walkways may hinder or render this method unusable.