Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Gophers, Squirrels and Rabbits? Oh, my!!

So, I was taking a course on orchard management. One important aspect of it was "vertebrate pest management." 

Orchards provide food and shelter for small animals that can cause significant damage:
  • Squirrels feed on fruit and on tree bark and shoots, which can stunt growth or even kill trees. 
  • Rabbits will chew on flexible irrigation lines and emitters. 
  • Gophers will dig holes through the soil surface, thereby channeling surface irrigation water to undesired areas. 
  • Food safety also becomes an issue if pest residues come into contact with the fruit. 
The major vertebrate pests apparently are pocket gophers, California ground squirrel, and black-tailed jackrabbit. 

Management programs for vertebrate pests involve 4 basic steps:
  1. Correctly identify the pest species using damage signs, burrows or habitat, tracks, feces, etc.
  2. Modify the habitat to make the area less favorable to the pest species.
  3. Implement appropriate control. Includes baiting, fencing, shooting or trapping.  Use due consideration for the environment and non-target species.
  4. Establish a monitoring system so as to detect re-infestation.
It is much easier to manage vertebrate pests by implementing controls on the orchard's perimeter versus inside the orchard.

I am so glad we have a strong fence around our ranch. I really hope we don't have to deal with these small creatures.

blacktailed jackrabbit:

pocket gopher:

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