how best to deal with a burrowing critter
September 29, 2010 8:37 PM   Subscribe

how best to deal with a burrowing creature (don't know what kind) that is threatening my new trees?

While planting, I stumbled upon the 3-way intersection of underground tunnels created by some sort of burrowing creature. I immediately gave it the "giant destroyer" poison gas treatment. Following the instructions, I lit the fuse, put it in the tunnel, then covered the opening with a flat rock. (As I did this I wondered if blocking the opening might hinder the combustion) the next morning, I lifted the rock and the hole was filled with dirt, as if it was never there. I dug it out again, and found the incompletely burned gas thing. I did it again with the same result. I'm very concerned because a few years ago, I planted some aspens, and they all died, due to burrowing critters.

what should I do? How can I deter them in the future? Any advice will be appreciated.
posted by hollyanderbody to Home & Garden (5 answers total)
Any info on where you're located? This could be anything from prairie dogs to rabbits to gophers to raccoons.

What are the trees? Anything delicious?

Sorry, but I can't tell if you're also poisoning the roots or soil around your trees. That would certainly get the trees off to a bad start if you planted them in that.

I would suggest a barrier - say, powdered cayenne or black pepper around the root ball. Nothing that roots around whats a snoot full of that. Alternatively, you could bury a beer can with the top and bottom cut out around the stem, about 2-3 inches deep. You can always remove it once the tree gets stronger, but it should keep most pests away from it in the meantime.
posted by Gilbert at 9:52 PM on September 29, 2010

Where are you? Can you call a local garden center?

My parents battle voles, gophers, deer and moose for the survival of their baby trees in Montana. The underground critters love the tender roots and the long legged beasts devour the sweet, new shoots. My dad has used both bobcat urine and some seriously foul mixture that contains animal blood and can burn your skin. Results have been mixed.
posted by amanda at 9:54 PM on September 29, 2010

I'm in Flagstaff AZ: ponderosa pine forest (really the edge of it). The trees I'm worried about are Navajo Globe Willow. thanks everyone!
posted by hollyanderbody at 10:38 PM on September 29, 2010

how best to deal with a burrowing creature (don't know what kind) that is threatening my new trees?

First, be sure it is actually "threatening" your trees. If it's doing no great harm, the best way to deal with it may be to leave it alone rather than do the Wile E. Coyote act.

Then, if it looks like it's them or the trees, decide whether you would rather have animals or trees in your yard. You're a biologist -- maybe you're rooting (heh) for the animals?

But if you still want to get rid of them after those steps, contact your local Cooperative Extension office and ask how you can determine the species and select a method that won't poison your property, the insects and birds feeding on your property, and the land receiving runoff from your property. If it's a common animal in your area, the extension almost certainly has brochures and web pages about dealing with them.
posted by pracowity at 11:36 PM on September 29, 2010

We use a heavy wire mesh cylinder in the hole for the new plants. If the cylinder is a couple feet long, or if it has a formed bottom making a baglike enclosure, it is impenetrable to the gophers we get (they don't make their tunnels more than a couple feet deep).
posted by jet_silver at 6:11 AM on September 30, 2010

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