Rats are the most destructive animals to humans. Rivaling the damage done by the nonnative Norway Rat ( ratus Ratus) and Black Rats worldwide, is the damage done by the California Ground Squirrel. Barn owls eat gophers, rats, mice and cottontail rabbits, mostly in that order. As ground squirrels do not come out at night ( diurnal), and barn owls do not come out in the day (nocturnal), they never see each other. And ground squirrels have a rather formidable set of teeth, with large jaw muscles to back up their bite. These rodents are the only member of the group “rodentia” that cannot be controlled with the use of owl nesting boxes. There seems to be no wild predators that can be introduced to the property and situation that will bear down on a large squirrel population. I had to turn down many a potential barn owl box client because I could not help them, so I began a ground squirrel trapping campaign. I learned much about this by applying my knowledge of the biology and behavior of these subterranean mammals, which I will impart to you here.
Ranches, particularly horse ranches, can be home to seemingly hundreds of these pests. I have seen a tack shed that was so undermined by their constant digging that it had fallen into the ground at one corner 3′ deep and had to be jacked and blocked up.
An Arabian horse ranch in Santa Teresa, Ramona, Ca. where I caught over 250 squirrels in three months, had them running willy nilly upon approach by car or on foot. I had 5 “Squirellinator” traps alongside a driveway leading up the the main house. Every day I would bait the traps and the next day they would be stuffed with huge fat squirrels, some looking like small beavers, they were so large. When they get that big, varmint hunters call them “Ground Grizzlies”. These Squirrelinators are remarkable traps, which work far better than other “Havaheart” type traps. Yet still they had more to be desired. I filled in these shortcomings and in time was catching 50-60 squirrels everyday.
Wildlife need three things food, water and cover. The instructions that come with the traps say to just use food, i.e. grain or dry dog or cat food. That addresses a single need only. If all three requirements are applied to the trap, trapping success rates should go up and indeed in time they did.
First, dry cat or dog food attracts the big “red devil” ants we have in the inland San Diego areas. These stinging insects will kill any animals in the trap. Not a nice way to end the life of any animal. So I quit the use of dry pet food and used pigeon feed because I had a bag on hand at all times, but any cracked corn or any seed will work, so the cheaper, the better.
Now we need to address water. I put rabbit water bottles inside but they never used them. Instead, the squirrels paced along the inside walls of the trap and every time they touched the spigot end of the water bottle, that made it drip. Soon the site was a muddy morass. These squirrels are desert creatures and didn’t do well exposed to the elements when wet and so died from exposure. Again suffering a slow death. I amended this procedure by taking away the water bottles and adding a entire celery plant bought at the grocery store. I wire tied it against the inside wall of the trap. I secured them this way because if left to roll around, invariably they would get stuck under the trap door and release the occupants to teach the other squirrels to stay away from the traps. Not good.