Ground Squirrel War – Summer Battle Completed

As has been mentioned previously, a caretaker couple has been staying at our Oregon property this past year (they arrived from Connecticut just before Thanksgiving last year.)  Mr. and Ms. Caretaker have been diligently maintaing roads (even as March’s record storms soaked the ground so much a road slipped away where no one could have stopped it),

improving and maintaining the young orchard, clearing brush, and also gardening in the greenhouse and terraced beds to feed themselves.

The big update as we enter fall is the body count from the summer battle in the Ground Squirrel War.  100+ caught and ‘relocated’ (to a neighbor’s where cats are in residence) and ~20 shot at the end of the battle by a neighbor’s friend.  The battle appears to have settled for the season with no recent incursions noted.

There are approximately 5 acres of shared clear grass land in the corner of our property (it is the one property corner shared with a private owner (the other neighbors are public land or timber companies.)  The roughly 3 acres on our side of the line include about 1 acre of fenced pasture (we have nothing there, a previous owner had goats), about an acre of roughly fenced orchard and chicken run, and a final acre which includes the greenhouse, the terraced garden beds (fenced to keep open range cattle out), and the steeply sloped open pasture which runs down into the neighbor’s property.  In the picture, the fenced terraced garden area is just to the right of the photo and the steep sloping shared meadow is below.

Locally these natural south facing oak savannas (the ecologically appropriate description) are called prairies and not meadows as they would be further north.  And this prairie has been home to a burgeoning population of ground squirrels.  It is quite dangerous to walk across the slope because of the many burrow entrances and sink holes.  Ms. Caretaker is an avid gardener and spent tremendous efforts in planting and nurturing  her garden over the spring and summer.  She is also a vegan, but officially declared the Ground Squirrel War sometime in June, when at times after working out in the garden beds, she would return to the greenhouse to find entire beds of carrots, just days from harvest, to have disappeared.  The summer battle toll included many beds of carrots, broccoli seedlings, and other tender greens.  The tomatoes and green beans were among the few left standing.  Research indicates that ground squirrel populations can average about 100 beasts per acre, so the approximately 120 casualties of the battle will most definitely have left survivors across the 5 acres who have apparently retreated for the fall to regroup over the winter.  Hopefully Ms. Caretaker will have a reprieve for the fall and winter garden before next year’s battles commence.

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