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What Lives in that Hole?

Get rid of ground squirrel holes, no poisons,


Admit it. Holes can be mysterious. When we see a hole, we wonder what lurks below. Even Alice found the rabbit hole intriguing.

Maybe it's because we know that there is more than meets the eye. It may not be Wonderland, but ground squirrel burrows can be 6 feet deep and 35 feet long. They have multiple entrances and have nursery, food and sleep chambers. A kit fox's home often has a key hole shaped entrance. A badger's entrance is often shaped like the letter D and gophers can make a crescent, C-shaped mound. If only all holes could be identified with a letter from the alphabet at their entrance!

HOW DO YOU KNOW WHAT'S IN THAT HOLE? Unless you are some nature TV host getting paid the big bucks, it's not such a good idea to just stick your hand in the hole to reach for whatever is inside.

1.    OBSERVATION - Start by getting a comfy lawn chair, a cool drink and sitting back and relaxing awhile. Observe who goes in and out of the hole. Pay close attention. That snake you see gliding into the hole is probably just looking for lunch and chances are it's not his permanent address. Even if you see snake skin outside the hole, it could be from a ground squirrel. Those smart little critters sometimes gather up shed snake skins to disguise their scent from hungry snakes.

2.    SCAT - Take a closer look around the hole entrance for some poo. Scat can be very revealing. If you see bones, feathers and seeds in the scat, you might be outside a fox's den. If you see little brown round pellets, it could be from a rabbit. That white wash splatter outside the entrance could mean you are looking at the home of a burrowing owl. Check out the following site if you want to know more about scat. WARNING - for those who prefer to avoid looking at poo, there are photos: http://m.extension.illinois.edu/wildlife/identify_scat.cfm

3.    ODORS - Follow your nose to discover the inhabitant of that hole. Fox holes sometimes smell musty. In the spring, if you think you smell a chicken stock aroma coming from a hole, it might be home to a woodchuck. You might also see flies above the entrance to a woodchuck's burrow. Surprisingly, your nose might not lead you to a skunk burrow. Apparently, those little stinkers can have an odor-free home.

4.    FUR & TRACKS - Check for tufts of fur around the entrance to a hole and look for paw prints. Identifying the animal fur and tracks is a great way to find out who lives in that hole. There is even an app for that: CritterTrax - Wild Animal Tracks & Scat at the iTunes store.


5.    HOLE SHAPE & SIZE - Chipmunks' holes are about the size of a silver dollar. Gophers usually have a mound of dirt and not a defined opening like a ground squirrel's. Badgers holes are large and lots of dirt on the outside. http://icwdm.org/inspection/GroundHoles.aspx


gopher mounds, get rid of burrowing rodents
Gopher Mounds
6.    HOLE LOCATION - Rabbits prefer areas with good drainage, so their burrow is often alongside a bank or hill. Coyotes often live in the hollow of a tree and skunks like to make their homes under sheds or porches.

7.     TIME OF DAY DAMAGE APPEARS - Pay attention to when new holes appear. If the damage happened overnight, chances are the critter is nocturnal. You'll see ground squirrels out foraging during the the day. Gophers, badgers and fox are nocturnal. 

8.    THE HOLE COULD BE HOME TO MORE THAN ONE SPECIES - Don't be surprised if you've identified the hole as part of a badger's sett and then you see a fox, rat, or bunny hop out of it. They're often neighbors and they can share the maze of tunnels. Burrowing owls, snakes, and rats like to live in ground squirrel holes. Spiders, lizards and frogs also live in abandoned holes. Gophers sometimes  follow a mole's path underground. Pay close attention when identifying holes and think of it all as part of the mystery of a hole.
ground squirrel holes, dog helping catch ground squirrels,
If you want a helper, remember, dogs enjoy identifying the active burrows.
For more detailed info on identifying burrows, visit:



If you need to Get Rid of Holes on your Property,
Remember...Before Filling that Hole:

Check with your local State Department of Agriculture or County Agriculture Adviser for information on identifying animal holes and knowing your local protected animals.

For more info or if you just want to talk about burrowing rodents, please contact me.

Lisa



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