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Understanding Ground Squirrels

1. Differentiating California Ground Squirrels and Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrels

Ground squirrels are rodents that belong to the family Sciuridae. In Southern California, the two most common species are the California Ground Squirrel and the Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel. While both species look similar, there are a few distinct features that can help you differentiate between them.

The California Ground Squirrel is larger in size, measuring around 12-14 inches in length. It has a grayish-brown fur and a long, bushy tail. On the other hand, the Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel is smaller, measuring around 9-11 inches in length, and has a more distinct pattern on its fur with thirteen alternating light and dark stripes along its back.

2. Habitats and Behavior of Ground Squirrels

Ground squirrels are commonly found in open areas such as fields, meadows, and yards. They dig burrows underground where they live, breed, and hibernate during the colder months. These burrows can have multiple entrances and chambers, providing the squirrels with protection from predators and extreme weather conditions.

Ground squirrels are diurnal animals, which means they are mostly active during the day. They are herbivores and primarily feed on seeds, nuts, fruits, and vegetation. While they may seem harmless, their burrowing behavior can create tunnels that damage landscaping, undermine foundations, and cause other structural issues.

Trapping Methods

1. Live Trapping: A Humane Approach

Live trapping is a humane and effective method to capture ground squirrels without causing them harm. Here are the steps involved in using this trapping method:

1.1 Selecting the Right Trap

When choosing a live trap, opt for a sturdy model specifically designed for ground squirrels. Look for traps made of galvanized steel with mesh openings small enough to prevent the squirrel from escaping.

1.2 Baiting Strategies

Ground squirrels are attracted to a variety of food items, including seeds, nuts, and fruits. Use these natural food sources as bait to lure them into the trap. Place the bait near the entrance of the trap to entice the squirrel to venture inside.

1.3 Setting Up the Trap

Identify areas where ground squirrels are active, such as near burrow entrances or feeding areas. Place the trap in a strategic location, ensuring it is secure and stable. Burying the trap slightly in the ground can make it more appealing and less conspicuous to the squirrels.

1.4 Monitoring and Releasing the Captured Squirrels

Check the trap regularly to avoid leaving the squirrel trapped for an extended period. Once captured, carefully transport the squirrel to a suitable location away from your property and release it unharmed. Ensure that releasing the squirrel doesn’t pose any risk to other properties or ecosystems.

2. Lethal Trapping for Effective Population Control

In situations where live trapping is not feasible or effective in controlling the ground squirrel population, lethal trapping methods can be used as a last resort. However, it is crucial to adhere to local regulations and guidelines to ensure safe and ethical practices.

2.1 Understanding Lethal Trapping Methods

Lethal trapping typically involves the use of devices designed to kill ground squirrels quickly and effectively. Examples include spring-loaded traps and toxic bait stations. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and handle these devices with caution.

2.2 Choosing the Appropriate Trapping Devices

Consult with a pest control professional or local authorities to determine the most suitable lethal trapping devices for your specific situation. Consider factors such as the severity of the infestation, accessibility to the area, and potential risks to non-target animals.

2.3 Ensuring Safety and Compliance

Before using lethal trapping methods, it is essential to understand and comply with any legal requirements or restrictions in your area. Always prioritize the safety of people, pets, and other wildlife when implementing lethal trapping techniques.

Prevention and Control Techniques

1. Habitat Modification: Create an Unattractive Environment

1.1 Removing Food Sources

Eliminate or reduce potential food sources that may attract ground squirrels to your yard. Clean up fallen fruits, nuts, and seeds regularly. Store pet food in sealed containers, and consider using squirrel-proof bird feeders to minimize available food options.

1.2 Denying Shelter

Make your property less appealing to ground squirrels by removing any potential shelters. Trim tree branches that provide access to roofs or structures, and seal off any openings or gaps that squirrels could use to gain entry.

1.3 Restricting Access Points

Install barriers such as fences or wire mesh around your garden or yard to prevent ground squirrels from entering. Ensure the barriers are buried at least a foot into the ground to prevent burrowing under them.

2. Using Repellents: Deter Squirrels Naturally

2.1 Natural Repellents and DIY Solutions

There are various natural repellents that can help deter ground squirrels. These include the use of predator urine, garlic or hot pepper sprays, and plants that squirrels find unappealing, such as daffodils or marigolds. Implementing these methods can create an inhospitable environment for squirrels.

2.2 Commercial Repellents: Choosing the Right Product

If natural repellents are not effective, consider commercial repellents specifically formulated for ground squirrel control. Read and follow the instructions on the product labels carefully to ensure safe and proper application.

3. Employing Exclusion Techniques: Fortify Your Property

3.1 Fencing and Barriers

Installing sturdy fencing and barriers can prevent ground squirrels from accessing your property. Use materials such as hardware cloth or chicken wire that have small openings to prevent squirrels from squeezing through. Ensure the barriers are buried at least a foot into the ground to prevent burrowing.

3.2 Chemical Exclusion Methods

Consider using chemical exclusion methods, such as applying a squirrel repellent to areas you want to protect. These products emit odors that ground squirrels find unpleasant, deterring them from entering or causing damage.

4. Integrated Pest Management (IPM): An Eco-Friendly Approach

4.1 Assessing Population Levels and Damage

Before implementing any control measures, it is essential to assess the population levels and the extent of damage caused by ground squirrels. This evaluation will help determine the appropriate course of action to effectively manage the infestation.

4.2 Implementing Appropriate Control Measures

Incorporating an integrated pest management (IPM) approach involves combining various control techniques based on the unique circumstances. By combining prevention, trapping, and exclusion methods, you can implement a comprehensive and eco-friendly strategy to manage ground squirrel populations.


Q: Are ground squirrels harmful to humans?

A: Ground squirrels generally avoid interaction with humans and pose minimal direct threat. However, their burrowing behavior can cause structural damage and impact landscaping. It is important to control their populations and prevent them from causing further harm.

Q: Can I relocate trapped ground squirrels to another area?

A: It is generally recommended to release trapped ground squirrels at least a mile away from your property. However, it is important to check local regulations and restrictions regarding squirrel relocation to ensure compliance and avoid introducing them to unsuitable environments.

Q: Are there any health risks associated with ground squirrels?

A: Ground squirrels can carry diseases such as plague and hantavirus. It is important to exercise caution when handling or being in close proximity to them. If you suspect any health risks or are unsure, it is advisable to seek professional assistance for trapping and removal.

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