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nuisance wildlife control in gardens, with ohio state’s marne titchenell

QUEUE (1)MOLE OR VOLE, woodchuck, rabbit or deer? Who ate or uprooted my plants? By this point in the growing season, I suspect every gardener has faced at least one fur-bearing opponent, a creature that seems to want to either prevent the harvest or garden design we’re working toward, or eat the whole thing themselves.

All these animals are usually lumped in the general catchall of “nuisance wildlife,” but it’s critical to know specifically who you’re up against, to do the best possible job at prevention, or to devise a safe, sane and humane solution, if the unwanted animal is already in residence.

For advice, I called Marne Titchenell of Ohio State University. She is a wildlife program specialist in OSU’s College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, and when I read about the popular workshop she gives to gardeners called, “The Good, the Bad and the Hungry: Controlling Nuisance Wildlife in the Home Landscape,” well, I knew she had the answers we were seeking.

Read along as you listen to the July 18, 2016 edition of my public-radio show and podcast using the player below. You can subscribe to all future editions on iTunes or Stitcher (and browse my archive of podcasts here). Learn how to diagnose what animal is to blame, why habitat modification is always part of the solution, and in which particular instances repellents can help (not always!).

marne titchenellmy nuisance wildlife q&a with marne titchenell

 

 

Q. I suspect it wasn’t just doing your bachelors and masters degrees that got you interested in wildlife and nature. Was it an earlier thing?

A. That’s true. I guess I would have to credit that to my parents. They were always getting my brother and I outdoors, and I think that was where my passion started.

Q. I think some of us get the bug early. Nowadays so many of us are living with what you call in your presentation, “wildlife conflicts”—living closer to each other, with suburban sprawl and so forth.

A. You’re spot-on. I daresay that our prevalence of wildlife conflicts has been increasing over the past several decades, and I think it is largely attributed to the fact that more and more folks are living in urban areas, as you say sprawling out into the rural countryside. So not only are we coming into contact with established wildlife populations as we sprawl out into these rural areas—and of course that’s going to increase the chance of conflict—but the wildlife are also moving into us.

Within our communities, whether we’re greening our communities for ourselves or in some cases we’re doing it to provide habitat for wildlife—but in our own backyards, when we are putting in gardens or landscaping, we are essentially creating habitat. Whether we are intending to do it purposefully for the wildlife or not, they are recognizing it and they are coming into it as well.

The critters you mentioned—the deer, raccoons, squirrels, chipmunks—they’re all very good at recognizing the resources that they need to survive.

chipmunk damage to tomatoQ. And they just can’t wait to get to know us better. [Laughter.] [Above, tomato partly consumed by a chipmunk.]

A. Yes, exactly. They co-exist very well with us.

Q. I suspect even more people approach you than me with “Something’s eating my vegetables,” or my hostas, or my fill in the blank with the name of the plant.  But “somebody” isn’t enough information, is it; we have to be more of a sleuth, correct?

A. Definitely. When I talk to homeowners about managing wildlife conflicts, one of the first things I encourage them to do—the Number 1 step—is to correctly assess the damage. To really figure out what went on, and “sleuthing” is a really great way of saying it. Trying to gather as much information as you can.

Say a plant was damaged: Can you really get down there on the ground—or sometimes up high—and really see what that damage looks like. Are there jagged edges? Are there clean-cut edges? When do you think that damage happened—during the night, or during the day?

All of that information is going to really help identify the culprit, so it’s very important.

skunks-at-workQ. For instance, it’s kind of a joke that I keep score in the spring when I first plant up my pots of annuals. Inevitably, I go out in the morning, and everything’s on the ground, and the soil’s all over the place [above]. So if I’m seeing that, I know it’s something at night—so I think skunk or raccoon, probably, but I don’t think squirrel. A squirrel might do that, and they love to dig in my pots and look for an acorn or bury an acorn or something, but they wouldn’t be doing that overnight.

A. And you’re right—it’s most likely raccoon, in my experience, that’s the culprit that digs up that plants. They’re searching for insects, for grubs, or anything that would be underneath the soil, and newly potted plants or even older ones are easy for them to dig up. They do that a lot.

deer browse and rubQ. If someone tells me a plant was eaten, I always ask what the damage looks. How do you as an expert determine who it was—a rabbit, a woodchuck, a deer?

A. Sometimes just a little bit of information about the damage on that plant can tell you what was causing it. Deer are going to leave very jagged edges behind on that plant, and that has to do with their dentition. They have bottom incisors, but nothing on top. When they grasp a plant they’re going to pull, and it will rip very unevenly. [Above left, deer-browsing damage to tulips; above right, damage from deer rubbing tree trunks in the offseason.]

Whereas a groundhog or rabbit have those sharp upper and bottom incisors, and they’re going to leave very clean cuts.

You look at things like that, but then you also want to step back a little bit and look at what else is going on. Where was the plant damaged? If it’s lower to the ground, within 2 feet or lower, and you’re seeing those clean-cut edges, it’s probably a rabbit. I the damage is higher up, above 2 feet, it’s going to be a taller animal, like a deer.

In terms of the groundhog, usually those guys don’t feed very far from their burrows. They like to maintain a safe distance to that spot. Odds are if you’re having a lot of groundhog damage, you’re probably going to see some burrowing underneath a foundation, a porch or a home. So looking at the plant is good—but you also want to take it all in, and think about some of those other habitat needs of the animal.

rabbit damageQ. The rabbits are interesting—they make a perfect angled cut, don’t they?

A. Yes, it’s almost a perfect 45-degree cut [above left]. That is classic rabbit damage—and again the height, if it’s less than 2 feet, roughly about the size of a rabbit on its hind feet, you’re going to see that. More on green plants during the spring and summer, but rabbits are active during the winter and they’re going to switch their diet to more woody plants [rabbit damage to shrub, above right].

During the winter they also leave behind scat, or feces, and that’s usually pretty recognizable, especially on snow cover. I like to call them little brown Cocoa Puffs.

Q. Oh, that’s a good description, sort of. [Laughter.]

A. [Laughter.] Sort of.

Q. Oh, my, a new breakfast cereal. Rabbits are sort of my most loathed animal. I have an 8-foot deer fence because I am in a very rural area, and we can have herds of like 45 deer across the road. There is no way you could have a garden. After maybe 10 years or so of things being eaten to the ground, including many woody things, maybe 15 or 20 years ago I got a big fence.

So deer are not an issue, but I find rabbits very tricky, because they are hard to predict. A woodchuck as you said goes to its burrow—it’s methodical, and usually comes out a couple of times a day to feed. I can usually find him—notice I say “him,” how sexist of me [laughter]—but it’s a little more predictable of an animal than rabbits.

A. Rabbits need very little cover, and can definitely congregate heavily in areas where there is good habitat and good food. They’re definitely a little bit challenging.

You said you have a fence, and I wonder if you could put a smaller mesh down below? With rabbits, if you’re able to exclude them from the area where they’re causing problems, like a raised bed or a garden area, that’s often the best longterm solution. And that’s because they can multiply so quickly in favorable areas. So trapping, or lethally removing the population can sometimes be a challenge. Excluding them from the area, that’s good.

Otherwise you can try some less-tasty plants—some rabbit-resistant plants out there in your landscape as well.

Q. I’m not so sure they have the same plant list as I do. [Laughter.]

A. That’s true—and that depends also on how many animals there are, and how hungry they are.

Q. So we see something—we see damage—and we have to identify who it was that’s responsible, and assess the situation. And then we have to decide on a tactic. You might have a chipmunk digging holes in a certain place, and decide it’s not all-out warfare you’re going to declare (or at least that’s my approach with such a thing).

But we have to figure out what to do, the level of pressure we want to exert in the opposite direction, yes?

2 chipmunks in one trapA. I say that’s every homeowner’s decision. Think about the problem, and assess the cost of damage versus the cost of management. Think about what damage they’re sustaining, and the lengths you’re prepared to go to, to lessen that damage.

It all goes down to the homeowner’s tolerance level. For some people, one single chipmunk is enough. Case in point: Just this past weekend, my uncle saw a chipmunk running across his deck, and he did not hesitate; he disappeared and came out with a little live trap.  No tolerance at all, but at the same time my parents were sitting there and said, “Oh we have chipmunks all over; it’s OK, as long as they’re not causing a lot of damage in the garden.”

It’s really the homeowner’s choice what they want to do next. But I always encourage them to really stop and think about it. What’s it going to take to solve this problem? Do you want to go there? Or are you willing to adjust your tolerance level a little bit?

Q. I want to go back a minute to some animals people may mistake for one another. We talked about some bigger herbivores, like rabbit versus woodchuck versus deer eating the same plant.

One thing I find that people are stumped by is mole versus vole. They say, “I have moles,” but then they send me a picture and it’s not moles. So let’s talk about that—and actually chipmunk holes are another thing to mention.

mole damageA. Moles and voles, despite their similar-sounding names, are very different animals. They often are going to cause damage in the landscape. Moles are insectivores, so it’s going after insects, and it’s searching for insects and also worms and grubs underneath the soil. [Above, raised mole tunnels in turf, and mole hills of piled-up soil.]

So it’s a fossorial animal—or one that lives underground. Moles rarely come up above the surface. The damage you see is that they create those slightly humped and raised tunnels underneath your lawn, and sometimes it can be a rather long tunnel, or twisty and turny. But they’re just below that surface of the ground. When they’re burrowing and looking for insects, they often cause a separation of the grass roots from the soil, and that’s why after a time the grass on top can die.

Q. And if you walked on it, you could kind of press it down.

A. Yes, you can squish it down. So those are their feeding or foraging tunnels. Moles are also going to create those volcano-like mounds of soil, and they’re doing that because they’re burrowing a little deeper. When they’re burrowing just below the surface, they can push that dirt they’re displacing above them, and that’s what pushes the soil up and creates that raised surface.

But when they’re digging deeper, they do need to put the soil somewhere, and get it out of those holes. They push it up to the soil surface with their heads. That is classic mole damage.

Voles are a rodent, and are herbivores—like most of our rodents. They are going to be eating plant material and seeds and vegetation. They’re going to be above the surface—they’re spending most of their time above the surface. However, they create these little tunnels that are right where the grass meets the ground. And they will kind of clip the grass in those tunnels to make it easier for them to move through, and eating the grass as well.

These guys are active year-round, and definitely during the winter. Oftentimes you’ll have voles that are active underneath the snow in a homeowner’s yard, going through these little tunnels, and then when the snow melts you see all of these twisty, turny little tunnels right at the surface of the ground. [Below, vole surface tunnels, and vole damage to woody plants.]

vole damageQ. That subnivian layer—that little air space between the bottom of the snow and the soil surface—there is a lot of action under there.

A. There is, and that’s what they are taking advantage of. We don’t often realize it. So voles will do that, and in a landscape setting where there is mulch, they will sometimes travel underneath the mulch, so you’ll see a little tunneling there, and often girdling at the base of plants, or plant roots. That the kind of damage you get with voles.

Q. And they have big population swings. I have never seen this many as I have this year.

A. It won’t last.

Q. It’s to the point where I can identify the different species—I have meadow voles, and Southern red-backed voles.

A. Here in Ohio, it’s often the meadow vole, but every so often we see one of those others. You definitely have more to contend with. But yes, those boom-and-bust populations are very typical for voles, which can be very trying for a homeowner. One year you’re just overrun, and then the next year it’s not too bad.

box mousetrap with lid offQ. I have to say I don’t ever go after the moles; I press down the tunnels, but I’ve never had enormous damage. I love those insectivorous animals to go do their thing and aerate the soil. But the voles—I do confess to trapping them with mousetraps inside boxes [above and below photos] to hopefully protect other animals.

box for mousetrapsA. Snap traps are a good way to go, and with voles the general rule with trapping is to put more traps out within a shorter period of time than fewer over a longer time. You want to hit that population and hit it hard.

Q. Oh, so the same approach as with mice, but really load it up with more traps.

A. And just keep trapping until you stop catching.

Q. Or you could of course invite the local bobcat and gray fox to live in the yard, as I had all spring.

A. If you are lucky enough to have that.

Q. It was hilarious to watch them, from a safe distance, listening near the tall grass, then pouncing like cats and dogs will do. Unfortunately they didn’t take enough of them.

I bet if we tool a Gallup poll, squirrels would be the thing that drives people the maddest.

A. I find that, too. The reason is that they are difficult to manage. Especially with our tree squirrels, they get into everything; they climb. They can definitely be a nuisance. With squirrels, you have to think about what’s attracting them there in the first place.

chipmunk nemesisQ. This brings up the habitat modification idea you cover in your workshop, which is so important. Like duh, if I have bird feeders out, guess what?

A. Exactly. There are lots of tools you can use to combat wildlife conflicts—trapping, repellents, resistant plants. But habitat modification: That’s what you should do 100 percent of the time, no matter what.

Even if it’s just stopping and thinking: Why is this animal here? Is it food? Is it shelter? Is it water? Why are they here, and can I modify that habitat resource?

Sometimes it’s a very simple fix, like with raccoons, skunks, possums: Is it a hole underneath the porch, or was the garbage left out? Is it pet food left laying outside? You get rid of that, boom, you’ve solved your problem—like you said with the squirrels and bird feeders.

Q. And that brings up exclusion—you just said a hole under the porch. If every year you have a woodchuck under your front porch, it might be worthwhile to do heavy hardware-cloth screening and even bury it.

A. Most definitely, and that’s one of the things that’s recommended. Making sure there’s nothing living under there currently first, of course.

Q. [Laughter.] That would be my kind of luck.

A. If you wait until August here in Ohio, it’s usually a pretty safe bet that animals who would be underneath the porch are out. The young have matured if it was a female. But there are still a few things I would recommend, like crumpling up newspaper and stuffing it in the hole. If that newspaper is still there after a few days, you know that hole is no longer being used, and you can permanently seal it up. The other option is to set a trap and see if you can catch anything.

Q. I would say with the caveat not to leave a large trap open at night, if you have skunks and raccoons. And that gets back to our thing of who is around—you really have to think about who you might catch inadvertently if you get into trapping.

That brings up the ethics of trapping, and we should say there are laws in every state about what you can and cannot do. We can’t as citizens be putting animals in our cars and driving around and letting them out in someone else’s yard or a state park. That’s, generally speaking, against the law.

I actually think if people think they need to trap, they should get help at first—from a nuisance wildlife expert. And I will say: If I have an animal that needs to be relocated, I do work with a licensed person for the relocation part.

A. In pretty much every state there are professionals where it is their job to deal with nuisance animals. So if a homeowner is uncomfortable trapping themselves, or as you said just unaware of the laws, it is a good thing to call a professional and get some help.

Q. We haven’t even talked about deer—I’m afraid to even bring it up. You’ll have to come back and do a whole show about deer. But before we run out of time:

Repellents. I have to say they’re expensive, and I have a big garden, so they’re not my thing. When are they useful?

A. They tend to be most useful most often with deer and rabbit, and when you’re having a little bit of damage.  If you’re not having moderate or severe damage, then repellents could be a good option. But if you’re having a lot of plants being eaten, that’s telling you several different things. There could be a lot of rabbits or deer in your area, or they could be dependent on your food source.

So something like a bad taste or a bad smell isn’t enough to deter them.

But if you’re just having a little bit of damage, repellents can definitely work. With those two species, the ones on the market right now that research indicates are working best are hot pepper and eggs.

Q. The rotten, putrefied egg solids?

A. Yes, the rotten smelly ones. [Laughter.] Those tend to be the ones that work the best. If you look at some products out there, you’ll see that they are using both the hot peppers and the egg solids in their products.

more from marne titchenell

prefer the podcast version of the show?

MY WEEKLY public-radio show, rated a “top-5 garden podcast” by “The Guardian” newspaper in the UK, began its seventh year in March 2016. In 2016, the show won three silver medals for excellence from the Garden Writers Association. It’s produced at Robin Hood Radio, the smallest NPR station in the nation. Listen locally in the Hudson Valley (NY)-Berkshires (MA)-Litchfield Hills (CT) Mondays at 8:30 AM Eastern, rerun at 8:30 Saturdays. Or play the July 18, 2016 show right here. You can subscribe to all future editions on iTunes or Stitcher (and browse my archive of podcasts here).

 

(Photos courtesy of Marne Titchenell, except of chipmunks, trapping boxes, and emptied pots. Top-of-page garden “doodle” by Andre Jordan.)

  1. Pat Howell says:

    Here in Tennessee, we have many mockingbirds which love to peck at my tomatoes but I haven’t found a way to discourage this, so I live with it.
    We also had moles (nothing worked) until our neighbor got 2 cats and they have decimated the mole population in the whole neighborhood!

  2. Judy Walther says:

    Hi Pat,
    I read to hang red Christmas ornaments in the tomatoes and I tried it and so far haven’t had one poke!

  3. bill wells says:

    What we’ve found works best for rabbits, which we use to think were cute, are thick rose branches surrounding plants they formerly mowed down. We actually have phlox this year blooming.

  4. Ellen Kirby says:

    Our biggest problem at our Food Bank Garden are coyotes. They eat our watermelons, sometimes just rolling them off the vine, chomping into one and leaving it broken on the ground. We don’t have deer, however, we think due to the coyotes.

    The other problem are crows. They peck and ruin our tomatoes. We bought big eyeball balloons (as used by NASA) and hang them onto the tomato stakes. It works. We have 300 tomato plants.

  5. Deborah Young says:

    There’s no part of me that wants to transport skunks but 7 wildlife “expert trapped” skunks and $615 in professional charges later, I may have to reconsider. Any other suggestions?

    1. Thoms Brophy says:

      To transport skunks, what has worked for me is approaching the trap holding a tarp open in front obscuring my form, and also protecting me if it should spray. The tarp goes over the trap, which can then be safely lifted. Releasing, I gently open the door and prop it up with a stick. Retreat a bit. Doesn’t take long for occupant to vacate and saunter off.

  6. Lorie says:

    How about an entire bed of 100 little yellow tulipas that were to be the ultimate spring display??? Voles get the credit…what a great fall/winter feast they had…didn’t miss one bulb. Our squirrels are now eating safflower. Squirrels NEVER eat saff; it’s what we buy to keep the squirrels out of feeders…..right??? They are devouring the stuff in eastern NE.

    1. Louise says:

      Plant every kind of allium flower you like along with daffodils. Nothing eats those bulbs. I only plant tulips inside a fenced area.

  7. Suzanne Stimpson says:

    Great interview. I have all the mentioned critters in abundance, except a groundhog. I stop feeding birds over the summer. Everything is fenced in and netting over the tomatoes as well.

    Silly me, I thought I could have strawberries this year. I had part of one, total.

    I am not above cutting off the nibbled parts and saving the rest. Especially true last year when I had one Purple Cherokee tomato that weighed over 1.5 pounds after I cut off the nibbled area.

    I do not hear coyotes or fishers as much this year. My hawks and owls are not keeping up. Unfortunately, a good neighborhood mouser became part of the food chain.

    I just pick things before they are ripe and bring indoors to finish ripening.

  8. Bill Plummer says:

    I live with the squirrels and chipmunks and a deer fence to keep the deer out. But somehow it appears that one deer is getting in and it must walk my paths and taste anything over two feet tall. I have not seen any fertilizer pellets though.

    When we bought our wooded lot fifty years ago we had Anemonella and Polygala in abundance
    They have disappeared. Could it be voles or just natural succession? I have hesitated to repopulate.

  9. Donni Uzarski says:

    Gophers?? They eat my tomato plants if roots go outside the metal gopher basket…my tomatoes are droopy and won’t set fruit….the tunnels run right around the perimeter of any of my baskets actually…. but the clever critters seem to avoid my black box placement…maybe I need to know something about placing them? Is there ANYTHING they won’t eat?

    Thanks!

  10. Sara says:

    I’m almost ready to give up on our peach tree because of squirrels, but what I’m really having trouble with this year is chipmunks.

  11. mindy arbo says:

    IMO, rabbits and chipmunks would be our most fear-inducing varmints for the simple reason that those animals host lyme ticks. But our 1 or more resident rabbits don’t bother our plants enough to concern me (and My Love has an enduring love for Elorayrah.)

    But Ws (like the Scottish play, we never say the word) now Ws are something horrible. We have had years of trapping them and illegally transporting them (you may as well just kill them, we’ve been told, because they can’t survive more than 1.5 miles from their home territory) but for some reason, they have not been seen the last few years. (We think they were driven away by the small development built next door.)

    As with most suburban/rural gardeners, I have many W stories, but my fav one took place at a class I took 25 years ago at the Arnold Arboretum. This class was attended by a wide array of ‘haves and have- nots’. When the topic of Ws was raised, the most blue bloody of the group spoke up and declared she had a very simple solution. “I trap them in my Have-a-Heart trap, and then take them over to our pond. I lower in the trap and when the air bubbles cease to rise, I remove the trap.” !! Well, so much for that!

    1. Thomas Brophy says:

      Don’t know from your comment whetheryou found the disposal method objectionable. If not, get a large trash can or barrel, fill with water– there’s your pond.

  12. Kelly says:

    Great timing. I’m currently dealing with groundhogs and chipmunks in my vegetable garden. This information is very helpful!

  13. Joe says:

    I have a bit of a mystery critter. Last fall I had what appeared to be moles tunneling around my lawn, as I had raised tunnels in the turf just like in your picture. They gradually expanded the section of lawn that they were tunneling through, eventually making their way to my freshly planted cold frame. Once they made it to my cold frame, nearly every single seedling (lots of greens) disappeared. When I dug through the dirt in the cold frame after the seedling theft, I constantly was hitting tunnels. Based on the tunnels, my thought immediately went to moles, but they don’t eat salads. Someone suggested that mice will use mole tunnels to get at veggies. Any thoughts?

    It doesn’t seem to be a big deal any more since castor oil seems to have served as enough of a repellent to prevent a repeat, but I do wonder what it was that got my veggies.

  14. Nella says:

    Thanks for the detective tips. Something is snipping off the coneflowers just as they bloom. Just the flower is gone, no damage to the plant. Not sure if it’s happening at night or day. Rabbits? I’ll check this evening for the perfect angled cut :-)

      1. bill l says:

        Have you thought of grandkids….my all most two year old granddaughter thinks the spring flowers are great to pick. Sadly she always gets just the flower and no stem so I can’t even put her collection in a vase. Of course she’s too cute to get upset with.

  15. Carol Shuler says:

    I garden in the Sonoran Desert surrounded by over 3,000,000 acres of preserve. The garden is a magnet. The monsoons are late, so the desert is fried. We also have open range. Fencing has to keep out cattle, deer, javelina, rodents, snakes especially the poisonous ones. Tomatoes, grapes, strawberries, figs, pomegranates have to be netted. The birds are considered workers as they eat so many insects. The raptors help with the rodents, hang out under a large mesquite and cool off in the bird bath. A couple of non-poisonous snakes are residents. They come out when I’m watering to lay in the damp areas. There is both a day shift and night shift.

    1. margaret says:

      I have different animals here, but as you say, they include raptor and reptile helpers, who I always thank profusely. And the birds — how could we ever garden without their hard work? Dragonflies, too, eat a lot of insects here, as do my froggy friends.

  16. Meris Ruzow says:

    Hello again! I’m so disheartened this season .Rabbits are eating everything. So sad. I’ve used the fox pee pellet stuff you shake out of a can. Boy does it stink! But it worked for a while, but as your guest said, it depends how hungry they are, etc. So now I need to change things up and would like to try cayenne pepper, as recommended by another gardener friend. Do you know if I sprinkle it around the perimeter? I can’t imagine you would sprinkle that on any part of the plant! Right? Thanks as always!

    1. margaret says:

      Hi, Meris. I’d recommend a solution with capsaicin on the label as one ingredient, like Miller’s Hot Sauce Animal Repellent or Deer-Off. Remember this stuff is potent, and you need to propect skin and eyes when working with concentrated capsaicin; adhere strictly to label directions.

    2. Thomas Brophy says:

      Me too, though they can habituate, which is why I take it down in winter. I don’t use shavings, but rather 1/4 bar with wire poked thru to form “S” hook and hang on fencing or stake.

  17. terri says:

    Any ideas for deterring raccoons? It’s not so much that they eat things (although they do) as much as the fact that they seem to favor our backyard garden as a latrine. I’ve put out rags soaked in vinegar (since the smell is supposed to deter them), but all it does is make them move the latrine to a different part of the yard. My main concern is raccoon roundworm, especially since they are quite happy to make their latrines in my vegetable garden or around other edible plants (herbs, etc.)…

  18. Louise says:

    How did you know animals burrow into our foundation, porch and deck. Should I try traps and hardware cloth? I can’t imagine that.

  19. Lisetta Coffin says:

    Margaret..HELP! For the first time in 8 years my bulbs are being dug up well into July…..I have not a single currant or gooseberry, and now all my beets . Culprit….the Hipster Chipster. I have seen him sitting in my currant bush munching away, running with a beet in his mouth leaving a trail of severed beet tops behind. Last night I pulled all the beets I thought were starting to get big enough to be of interest and this morning they retaliated by taking the entire row. Cayenne pepper did notta…. Not sure if there are way more than normal Or if they are preparing for a bad winter. We have two cats next door to us….I am near Oneonta NY.
    Thoughts/ideas?

  20. Nell says:

    This has been such a wonderfully moist year that I hesitate to complain about anything; the garden’s looking the best it has in decades at this point in the season. [No mildew on phlox or peonies! Knock wood…) BUT… we returned from a week away to find almost every sedum in the garden eaten down to nubs. I’m assuming this was rabbits, not deer, because of the plants left untouched; but it might have been our resident ground-hog, who leaves very few violet leaves for the caterpillars of the fritillary butterflies, and who favors a particular few of the daylilies for snacking (thankfully, just those few).

    The real stab to the heart is the destruction to Sedum ‘Thundercloud’, which was such a beauty in its first season last year; I’d hoped to divide it next spring, but now will consider it lucky to have it return at all. Next year: protective cages of twigs or wire.

  21. Erik says:

    We fenced our backyard to keep out the deer and that is working (for the moment!) but the law of unintended consequences rules: by adding the fence we seem to have created a safe zone for untold numbers of nuisance rodents: squirrels, rabbits (who can get beneath the fence in places), voles and chipmunks. We believe the chipmunks are being the most destructive right now and little holes are popping up all over the place. Your conversation didn’t get into specific strategies for dealing with them. Any advice? We have not had any luck with live traps and don’t want to go the poison route (lest we transfer that up the food chain). Any other ideas? Someone told us to bait with ex-lax but that seems far fetched…

  22. Thomas Broohy says:

    Love your site/interviews. But I, too, wish more detail had been provided re chipmunks. I have 2″ holes near my duck feed, and think they’re from chipmunks, but I never see them ( except in the strawberry patch some distance away). Have heard Juicy Fruit gum clogs ’em up, but seems kinda’ preposterous. Lol

  23. Megan says:

    What about gophers?! They’re ruining my flowers! They eat the roots, then the whole plant just falls over. They’re especially fond of the campanula that I grew from seed, and were huge! I’m trying Mole Max… cracked corn and Castor oil. No luck, so far.

    1. margaret says:

      Well, Megan, that’s one thing I don’t have (am counting my blessings). :) Even though I do not live in CA, I often consult the U. of California-Davis Integrated Pest Management website for basic pest biology and the safest recommendations on managing them. Here’s their gopher page. As with most rodent pests, trapping is the first line of defense, and there are toxic baits (which I would not use — I don’t want to introduce poisons into the environment)…but the page explains all of it. It tells what does not work, too. Good place to start. Also: You may want to call a licensed nuisance wildlife handler (trapper) in the yellow pages for the first attack and learn from a professional so you don’t buy junky consumer-oriented traps that don’t work. Also because it is a but of a gruesome business you may not wish to undertake yourself. My local DEC-licensed trapper has taught me loads, and also turned me on years ago to Wildlife Control Supplies (which trappers shop at for their work gear).

      1. Megan says:

        Thank you, Margaret! I forgot about UCD, and also Berkeley. You got me thinking of those and some other resources I had also forgotten about.
        I have to admit, I only tried the Mole Max once. I used to use it successfully in my old gardening business.
        I gave the cracked corn/castor oil another shot. Wish me luck!

  24. Lorie says:

    May I declare eastern NE as the current vole capital of the U.S.? Folks are paying huge amounts of money “per head” to have them caught… landscapes are dotted with traps in the yards of those who can afford such luxuries…those who have expansive lawns. The rest of us with mulch just put up with the unsightliness of it all.
    Also, re squirrels on feeders. If you’re really quick (and somewhat invisible upon attack) squirrels just hate being shot with water. Sam’s Club sells a bag of plastic bottles that have sprayers that shoot a fabulously long distance, so running squirrels get the message pretty darn fast.

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