Sunday, June 24, 2018

Troubles with a Garden Varmint

 by Evan Starnes

    (November 2017)

               During our winter crop season, my father Glenn and I noticed that many of the plants in the main garden bed had bite marks! The plants with larger leaves like broccoli, cauliflower, kale, lettuce, and chard appeared to be nibbled on by what we suspected to be a rodent. With no real evidence of what type of rodent was creating the destruction, we guessed that a mouse or a rat was the culprit since these animals are small and could easily maneuver through the fencing around the three garden beads.    
               To catch the critter red pawed, my father and I set up a verity of contraptions that were designed to catch mice and rats. The first device that we used was a simple mouse trap that was spring operated and had a bar that would swing down on the mouse’s neck once triggered. After a few days of leaving the traps around the garden bed, we noticed that all of the traps had been triggered without catching anything. This led us to the conclusion that the critter was much larger than a mouse, so we began to invest in traps that were meant for bigger rodents.  
               After watching several YouTube videos on how to build a DIY rat trap, my father and I settled on a model that was comprised of a suspended spindle with peanut butter bait on it. If a rat tried to crawl across the spindle to get the bait, the rat’s weight would cause the spindle to spin. In the process of rotating, the rat would fall into a tall bucket were it would be trapped. Unfortunately, once again, to our disappointment, the bait was stolen without catching anything! Obviously our varmint was larger than a rat, so we set up a raccoon trap. This trap is a cage with a door that is weight triggered.
               Finally at last! After several false triggers on the raccoon trap, the garden varmint was captured. To our surprise it was a rock squirrel, which is a large type of a squirrel that burrows underground, and has a broad diet that includes vegetable crops. We gave the squirrel the name, Rocky, because of its species name, and the fact that it sent us on a “Rocky Road” trying to trap it. I liked looking at Rocky’s fur coat which was a mixed black and gray with several white speckles. My dad and his garden friend, Becky, later took Rocky to the Nature Center to be safely released off a trail that lies in a valley near a river bed.
               With Rocky in a new home, the plants that had been harmed began to recover. Unfortunately, they did not produce as well as they would have. Like we usually experience, we had a bountiful lettuce harvest. I was glad to not have to worry about the garden varmint any more, but I kind of missed Rocky since he was such a stunning creature. After this garden crisis, I was excited to move forward, and start planning for our spring season of crops. Hopefully no other rock squirrels will intrude!