They're back!

Those pesky critters that destroy our bulbs, our lawns, and our vegetables are back - ground squirrels! There are 23 species and 119 subspecies of ground squirrels in the United States. Fortunately, there are only a few in the West, with Belding ground squirrels being prevalent in Nevada. They are found primarily in meadows, grasslands, irrigated pastures, and, our yards.

Ground squirrels eat plants, seeds, fruits and some insects. Sometimes they also eat birds' eggs and road kill. They need little to no water, getting moisture from the vegetation they eat or dew. Bulbs are particularly succulent. They also eat flowers and roots.

These pests dig burrows that they occupy year after year. Each year, they lengthen the tunnels and make their burrows more complex. There are numerous entrances to each tunnel and burrow.

During the winter, they hibernate, with the males emerging about 10 to 14 days before the females. I'm seeing squirrels running around my yard now, and I want to stop them before they breed, but I may already be too late. Breeding occurs shortly after they come out of hibernation, within a three-week period.

Gestation is 28 to 32 days, and the young venture above ground at about 7 weeks old. Five to eight young are born, and they live for four to five years. In favorable years, there can be more than 100 squirrels per acre. Not only do they cause significant damage to home landscapes and gardens, they also transmit plague.

Squirrels can dig under fences, even when the fencing material is buried several feet deep. They can also climb over fences. They are discouraged by wide areas kept free of vegetation. They don't frighten, and repellents don't work. Toxic baits are the best management method. Some baits kill quickly, and others are slower-acting anticoagulants. The latter require more bait and multiple feedings. Death is delayed. If you need specific control methods and diagrams on how to make a bait station, go to or contact me for a copy.

Also: Wendy Hanson, Master Gardener coordinator, University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, will present a free workshop on "Growing Roses" 6-7:30 p.m. April 11 at the Carson City office of University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, 2621 Northgate, Suite 12. She will talk about pruning, fertilizing, selecting, and planting. Call 887-2252 to reserve your spot.

For more information, e-mail or call me at 887-2252. You can "Ask a Master Gardener" by e-mailing or call your local University of Nevada Cooperative Extension office. Check out many useful horticulture publications at

• JoAnne Skelly is the Carson City/Storey County Extension educator for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment