More wildlife, like the type that eats squirrels, needed

By 
Erin Schanen

The wildlife population at our northern Ozaukee County home is so prolific that I sometimes think if we were to take an extended vacation we might come back to find the house inhabited by all manner of creatures in scenarios ranging from a Disney movie to Coolidge’s dogs playing poker. Except in my case it would definitely be squirrels.

I find myself looking back fondly at the days when deer were the worst four-legged problem in my garden. They are still prevalent, but are acceptably manageable so long as I stick to a regimen of spraying repellent every couple weeks.

These days, it’s smaller critters that are wreaking havoc on the garden. The squirrel population has boomed over the last several years and I swear they are getting bigger. The other day a gray squirrel the size of a small Yorkshire terrier strolled by carrying a walnut that he, of course, planted in the middle of my garden.

This same squirrel and its numerous brethren were responsible for digging up many of the 800 daffodil bulbs I planted in a new garden under a large spruce last year. Truth be told, they have never been happy about that garden, and I swear they are trying to kill me by dropping large pinecones from the tree when I’m working there. The tree must stand 80 feet tall, and falling pinecones have a fair amount of velocity by the time they reach the ground.

Squirrels’ smaller cousins chipmunks are equally detrimental to the garden. They are rather skittish critters, so I only see them scurrying around when I catch them by surprise, but it’s clear that there is a large population in residence. Based on the state of the stairs to our deck, it appears they like to have large parties every night, and the food of choice is the ripest tomato or strawberry in a nearby container.

They also seem to like sampling tomatoes by taking large bites out of them, and I blame them for eating at least 75% of the strawberry harvest. For good measure, they have a bad habit of trying to live in the walls of the house.

And I’ve basically given up on tulips, which I’ve been growing in the fenced-in vegetable garden to ward off the deer. It turns out that the 6-foot fence is of no consequence to animals designed to climb over it or fit through it. Last year I found half-munched tulip bulbs all over the garden, and very few beautiful blooms.

Unfortunately, unlike the deer, I haven’t found any kind of repellent that works for these destructive nuisances. If I planted just a small number of bulbs I could protect them in cages or with chicken wire, but when you plant hundreds of bulbs across a large area that’s not possible.

This is the part of a column where I like to offer advice on a problem that I know many gardeners deal with. But I have none. Any attempt at population control or “redistribution” would be the equivalent of a drop of water on a parched plant. It’s just not going to do much.

What I need is more wildlife. Does anyone know any hawks and foxes looking for a yard to call home?

 

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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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