Notes from Windward: #69

The Squirrel War

breaking out the bagels


     The crops we grow and store aren't just of interest to Windward's crew; the forest around us is home to lots of creatures who would like to invite themselves to dinner at our expense. We don't mind paying a "nature tax" to the predators who wander in and help themselves to our food or critters, but anything more than about ten percent triggers a predator-specific response.

trap set and waiting

     Last winter, when the local deer started to making a visit to our hay barn a regular stop on their winter itenerary, we put up some plastic crowd-control barrier fencing around the hay barn. That slowed the deer back down to acceptable levels. We're not hunters, and do not care to go out into the woods to bother animals who aren't bothering us, but if the deer keep making a nuisance of themselves, we'll take out a couple of deer tags and add some venison to the menue.

     Perhaps the most irritating predator we have to deal with is the common ground squirrel. Not only do their burrows make for dangerous footing in the dark, they help themselves to our garden devastating crops such as turnips and rhubarb. We're unwilling to use poisoned bait against the squirrels, choosing to rely on live traps to reduce their population to less intrusive numbers.

trap sprung

     The live traps is our most effective tool for getting rid of pestiferous squirrels, and we've learned that half a fresh onion bagel makes for a very effective lure. The squirrels will come out of their burrows, stand on a mound and scretch at us in squirrel talk. In reply, we just load the live trap with a fresh bagel, leave it infront of their burrow, and then come back an hour later to collect the offending rodent.

trap filled with water

     We drown the captured squirrel by turning the trap up on its end and filling it with water. A couple of minutes underwater is sufficient, and we then add the squirrel to one of the bird pens. In a few hours, house flies will be drawn in to lay their eggs, and if they're not quick, they become a tasty bird snack. As quickly as fly larva emerge from the squirrel carcase, the birds happily gobble them up too.

     This is the first season that we've aggressively used the tactic of luring house flies to lay their eggs in a situation which ensures that none of their progeny will survive long enough to turn into flies. I'd pleased to report that the fly population seems to be significantly less that what we've seen in prior years.

Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 69