Saturday, August 16, 2008

AKA Diggers

We are surrounded by wheat fields and Oregon Oak Trees and marvelous views of Mt. Hood. But no description of this area is complete if you don't know about the California Ground Squirrels. They are everywhere. When I walk from our RV to the small building housing the clothes washer and dryer, these squirrels dart away from me. When I sit in the RV and look out the front door, I often see two or more running across the yard.

According to the National Audubon Society Field Guide to Mammals, these brownish squirrels with prominent buff flecks and rather bushy tail are between 14 and 19 ¾ inches long and weigh 9 7/8 to 26 ounces. They have one litter per year with 5 to 8 young, born in May. Their burrows with entrance mound and radiating pathways are 3 to 6 inches wide and 5 to 200 feet long.

Here they are very unpopular and everyone calls them diggers.. They eat flowers, dig holes everywhere—leaving mounds of dirt and undermining our RV site as well as the Quonset hut used to store grain and other supplies. They climb into the undercarriage of cars and trucks that aren't driven very often. One of the employees here, John, went out to his truck just before July 4 and it wouldn't start. He had to have a new wiring harness installed—cost $2500—because of the diggers.

When you look outside, you see activity everywhere, through the corner of your eye, on fences, trees and rocks, darting across the roads. The manager regularly goes out with his 22 rifle to thin the population.

This week, as we drove through the wildlife area with Aimee, the assistant manager, we passed four Asian men sitting next to their vehicles. Ed, another employee, stopped to talk to them. They had shot four of the diggers and cooked them over a propane stove. They were eating them for lunch. Quite a delicacy to them, apparently. It's not just down south in Louisiana and Alabama and Florida where squirrels are considered a real treat to eat.

They are very effective diggers. We have seen them move rocks 1.5 to 2 inches in diameter, searching for food. The ground is riddled with holes for their burrows. When we arrived, I thought they were cute. Since they are everywhere, they now give me the creeps. Not enough to shoot them, though. I do wish we had more hungry hawks in the vicinity, however.

1 comment:

  1. I could send you a live trap and you could take them to the cemetery like you used to, you do have peanut butter in Oregon don't you? :)