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Sepp Holzer on moles and voles

 
paul wheaton
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First, I know of several people in the permaculture world that have learned to embrace the mole - although not yet the vole.  The mole loosens soil.  The vole kills your baby fruit trees.

As with many things, Sepp's position is much richer than this.

Sepp has, indeed embraced the mole loosening the soil thing.  But there's more (in a moment).

Sepp doesn't have as much trouble with voles because his trees are non-grafted and non-pruned.  So apple branches touch the surface.  Voles can eat all they want of those branches and tend to damage the young trunk much less.

And then .... I never noticed before that I never noticed mole hills or vole trouble where the pigs have been ....  apparently pigs thing moles and voles are tasty!



 
Gwen Lynn
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I would give anything for Sepp to come to my neck of the woods and deal with these pesky pocket gophers. They are a pestilence! The moles are a blessing. They don't eat the roots off the plants, they are just after the worms & grubs. I am hard pressed to figure out how to deal with pocket gophers. We've tried a number of things. NOTHING works, besides just killing them when you find one...but there's always another...and another...
 
Susan Monroe
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Irritating though they are, those rodent runs are also valuable collectors of water.

I read some years back that the ranchers somewhere in the southwest or Texas decided to kill off all the prairie dogs so their cattle wouldn't break their legs.  After the prairie dogs had been killed off, the land started to die.  Being in an arid region, the rain often falls fast and heavy, and the soil is so dry that the water rolls off the soil like off waxed paper.  With all the prairie dog burrows, the water would sheet over the dry land and run down the burrows, where it would be slowly absorbed.  Without the burrows, the rain just kept running over the surface and just kept going downhill.  Without the water being absorbed at all (mostly), the grasses died and couldn't support the cattle that the ranchers gave preference to.

Kill the coyotes, rodents increase.

Short-range thinking, long-term disaster.

WenVan, you might try stuffing cat or dog poop down the holes.  It is said to smell like a predator.  My friend did it and the gophers all went to her neighbor's place.

"Nature abhors a vacuum", it is said.  Gophers, weeds, coyotes, it's all the same.  Vacant Spot >>> Fill it!

Sue
 
Gwen Lynn
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Part of the problem with my gopher situation is neighbors. Dogs are a great deterrent, if you don't mind them digging gopher/mole hunting trenches. Well, the neighbor dogs do just that & the gophers come tunneling over here. I've tried just about everything, including the cat poop. Our soil drains like a sieve. Anything you put in the soil washes through pretty fast. If the gophers don't like what they find in that tunnel, they just dig another. They are nomadic & in this soil they dig like there's no tomorrow. Someday maybe I won't live here. I would like to be able to plant more vegetables, but we don't have much room. It would also be nice to have some land between us and any neighbor. From where I'm sitting right now, I can see 4 neighboring homes out my dining room window. I've been to Leah's new place & I definitely have land envy now! 
 
Leah Sattler
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I dug some bushes at wenvans place. its like digging in a sand box. I remember jumping on the shovel like i do at my place and going all the way in. water drainage is definitly not a problem! moles no problem, but those gophers are irritating.
 
Susan Monroe
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I have heard of using castor oil on the soil to discourage gophers.  It also discourages moles.  Although it says it's 'non-toxic', it is made from the castor oil bean, which is toxic to eat.  Even if it just chases the rodents away, what does it do to earthworms and other soil creatures?

More info needed.

Some people swear by those small gopher-chaser windmills that you stick in the ground.  As they turn, they make a thumping noise in the ground, or something like that.

Sue
 
Gwen Lynn
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Yep, tried em' both. First tried those cute little plastic flower windmill things that supposedly vibrate in the soil. Gophers tunneled right by them, unfazed. Then bought the electronic ones that have batteries. Either the range on them wasn't as far as claimed, or they just didn't work well. Tried the castor oil spray. Again, the soil drainage issue. Anything sprayed on the soil washes thru fast during a strong rain. Can't spray it under the pool, patio, shed or studio, and truthfully, I don't like spraying stuff around. Always thinking about those beneficial insects.

These are not the cute little gophers on Caddyshack that sound like Flipper. They are ugly, destructive Okie pocket gophers that likely have a meth addiction! 

The worse thing is, sometimes I will just go out & try to kill one. The cat will call my attention to something tunneling in the yard. We will work together on the extermination process (evironmentally friendly, but not including gory details.). Those wily gophers are faster than the moles, but once in a while I'm sucessful. Unfortunately, sometimes moles get caught in the crosshairs. I always feel bad about that. I don't mind the moles. They don't eat the plants, and they are much cuter than the gophers! 
 
Leah Sattler
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do you want to borrow our pick axe? 
 
Gwen Lynn
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That might work...but do you have any dynamite? 
 
Susan Monroe
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I've got a rodent dog that I can lend/give you.  She's pretty tenacious.  And she doesn't eat them, apparently, just leaves the bodies lying around for you to keep score.

But there is that problem with the holes, though...  I've suggested that she fill them in when she's finished, but all she does is look up at me, wag her tail, and say, "What?"

Sue
 
paul wheaton
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pocket gophers:  I wonder how they would do if they were sharing their space with pigs.

Susan:  Please tell me more about your rodent dog!  What will she eat?  How much success have you had?
 
Susan Monroe
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Sasha is just a stray dog that I found running down the highway, and no one claimed.  And for probably some good reasons.

She is a PomeranianXChow (it sounds like a stupid mix, but she's cute) who refuses to be housebroken, runs off down the street if she can get out the door or gate, likes to sit with you on the sofa, doesn't bother the cats or chickens, and goes rodent (and marsupial) hunting as a hobby.  She digs for the rodents and crawls under the house for the opossums.

So far, her score is something like 3 moles, 2 gophers or voles, and five young opossums.

She's about eight, and apparently has absolutely NO intention of changing anything she does (or doesn't). She is the first non-working dog I've ever had in my life, and probably the last. But from her habits, I would guess that she belonged to an elderly person who didn't care much what she did, and when that person died or went into a care facility, someone just turned her loose.  She isn't a likely candidate for rehoming, because most people wouldn't put up with her.  In the winter, she spends the night tethered under the kitchen sink where the dishwasher used to be.  Summer, she sleeps outdoors in a large box on the deck.

Sue
 
                              
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Location: Coast Range, Oregon--the New Magic Land
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Just wanted to say first off identify what is actually making the holes. I have moles and voles, I leave them alone and let them do their thing. The moles are nature's little aerators.  Just kick the dirt piles to scatter them about before it becomes a hard mound. My cats catch a few. They dont' seem to harm my  plants.

If they make a mound in one of my raised beds, I pull back the mulch and cultivate a bit around it with my garden claw to collapse the tunnel--sometimes plants will wilt if they run into that tunnel, or the tunnel is made in through its roots. So fluff the soil a bit, then cover back with the mulch and water(to stave off the wilt).

(my first post, hello!)
 
gary gregory
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Location: northern california, 50 miles inland from Mendocino, zone 7
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    Our gopher killing cat died last year at 18 yrs.  Over the last 10 years she killed a lot of gophers.  I'm going to try liquid fish emulsion fertilizer [I've heard they don't like the smell or taste].   

    My neighbor uses a small gasoline engine with piping that takes the exhaust right into the tunnel.
 
Gwen Lynn
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I found this dead pocket gopher in my backyard today. I am going to credit my cat Trixy with the demise of this varmit! I have no concrete proof that she was responsible, but I'm hopeful this is her latest prey. She has been hunting fur bearing creatures recently. I'm glad Trixy is giving the frogs a break.

Anyhoo, I didn't realize until today that pocket gophers had little pockets on the sides of their heads. Obviously, that's how they got their name. When I found this gopher, I thought he had little "tusks" on either side of his head but it turns out they were actually bermuda grass roots sticking out of the pockets, you can see the roots (I'd removed) on the left of the 1st picture. I was amazed how deep the pockets were. The wire went in almost 1.5". I forgot to measure the gopher, but it was 3 easily 5 - 6 inches long. This creature is perfectly designed for digging & the destruction of plant roots, stems, etc.
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Leah Sattler
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good girl tixie! they are scary looking aren't they. 
 
Gwen Lynn
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Yes, kinda scary! It's paws remind me of the hands of "Nosferatu" the 1922 silent movie version of "racula" 
Happy (early) Halloween, everybody!
 
Brenda Groth
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with cats we have very little that runs around live smaller than a turkey here..our big male cat brought home a partridge the other day..told hubby..next time would he please dress it out rather than throwing it on the fire !!! don't know where his head is sometimes (head injury)
 
Gwen Lynn
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It would take 10 cats to deal with all these dang gophers. I think they are too much work because the cat would have to dig for it, the gophers are under ground most of the time, and they can go as deep as 4 ft. in this sand! I wish I could say for sure that Trixy killed it, but I can only hope!
 
rose macaskie
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Here in europe we only see gophers on walt disney films.
Gerbils in the desert.
    Cnn had a progarm on the Gobi desert and they were complaining about gerbals that they said eat everything and left the desert deserted . The other part of the problem was that the gerbils ate what the camels or dromedaries ate, maybe that is the real reason the nomads hate them. 
    Apparently these jerbills have chambers underground they fill full of plants, winter storehouses and i thought that gerbils may really be a way of stopping deserts.
    In the heat organic matter gets broken down very quickly if you can get an animal to bury organic matter it must be great for the desert. underground barns would constitute enormouse stores of food for the plants, nitrogen comes from organic matter breaking down, in a place with little enough soil or organic matter like a desert underground stores of organic matter should help against the desert. agri rose macaskie.
 
rose macaskie
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i forgot to say i hate looking at dead mice and thigngs but i found the foto really interesting when i understood about the pouch and the sticks the gopher had had in his pouch. agri rose macaskie.
 
Gwen Lynn
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I have lived on my property for 18 years. I didn't know these gophers had those pockets on the sides of their heads until I looked closely at this dead gopher. Didn't even know why they were called pocket gophers.
I've found at least one dead gopher before, but I never looked closely until now. Sometimes, you have to look at the dead closely to learn about the living.
 
rose macaskie
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  Here in Spain they say that pigs dig up mouse holes to get to the acorns they have stored, so digging up mouse holes can be a double yummy. agri rose macaskie.
 
Pat Maas
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My black tom Shadow caught a pocket gopher yesterday, quickly showed me, then dispatched it. His mom was an awesome gopher/snake killer and kept my orchard clear until her disappearance this past summer. Hopefully Shadow is stepping into his mom's place!

I acknowledge what Sepp is suggesting, but there does need to be balance. The gopher's do assist in helping the grasslands with their tunneling, but I've also seen them denude a contingous area of an acre or more when there are no predators or pigs to discourage population growth.
 
rose macaskie
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Permaculturista say that burrows help the penetration of rain water in the soil. if your soils haven't compacted taht does not matter.
if mice and such bury nuts and seeds they must favour the reseeding and foresting of a place. THe chinese complain aobut gerbals that eat the bushes their camels eat but they store bits of bush under ground in big stores and that must mean fertility under the soil where the heat and sun can¡'t break it down to soon and the wind blow it off, gerbils must be good for deserts.
    Holes that help irrigation of the soil mast be good were soil is bad but i agree there must be a point when no one can grow anything the gophers eat all a little bit of control would be allright.
The english had holes in the barn wall for owls who nested in barns. Are gophers stopped by chicken wire fence buried under the soil? thats what my grandmother did with rabbits.
    Maybe its every thing in just measure.and we don't do very well with just measure, its if its good for killing pests, lets use more than they put on the packet and use it not only in case of a plague but always just in case.  agri rose macaskie.
    We kill everything and end up with infertile soils. On the whole things stay more fertile with lots of animals. The world loses fertility because we kill everything for fear of plaugues and usefull plants for fear of fires. We kill members of the crow family because they are vermint, they eat baby birds and they eat tent worms.agri rose macaskie.
 
Pat Maas
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Location: McIntosh, NM
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You're right of course Rose. Here there is no poison used of any type, nor any Bt or like substance for dealing with pests of any types. No chemical fertilizers or any number of so called useful substances which in their very nature are harmful.
 
I saw first hand the consequences of DDT as a child, bear the  body wide scars of being sprayed by a defoliant (used in Vietnam and given to counties for spraying along railroads). The fish, frogs, salamanders and turtles were first with their deformities and the abominations began as these toxic poisons moved through and up the food chain.
   
My methods may seem strange to some here in this valley, but coming up with answers that are beneficial to the environment and our co-habitors is a top priority. Nature lets me know if an assumption is incorrect and needs work on. It can be hard learning curve, but the lessons must be learned.
   
The soil  here once was very compacted and like cement. Now, no matter where one goes on the farm-for the most part- the soil has changed and now easily drains. The few problem areas that remain get  mulched with what comes out of the barn and mixed with leaves. Without the  small invertebrates such as earthworms, pill pugs, millipedes, centipedes, dung beetles,  bacterias, yeasts,etc none of this would work, but now as their numbers grow and the population blooming, my job is made much easier.
   
Gophers generally aren't a problem with trees-but I still wrap so called gopher wire around trees root balls before planting, but that's more for the voles.  More trees here are on their own roots, but have not seen any difference with vole predation.   
   
We have a healthy population of different types of owls including burrowing owls and a large assortment of eagles, hawks and shrikes. I do not discourage them, just modify what is needed to keep them out of poultry and young stock. Owl houses and raptor nesting platforms are future projects.
   
Ravens aren't  a problem either as we seem to have a working relationship. I leave scraps out for them and they literally let me know there is something that doesn't belong-can't tell you how many dogs have been working there way towards me(neighbor's and not nice) and the  ravens have driven them off. Can they present a problem-yes, but hopefully I've learned how to cut that off before it is one. Seems so at any rate.
     
When we love and care for our planet and her residents-no matter what form they may take- good things can happen. Balance is one of those good things.
     
 
                        
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last place I was at we had gopher cities on the hill behind my house and they got to be so numerous in spite of my landlady's 9 cats that they expanded down the hill and into my yard. Then a badger moved in. At the end of the summer there wasn't a gopher to be seen.

Neighbors told me the badgers move into and out of an area but usually leave one or two gophers to repopulate the area, so they will be plentiful when they return. I didn't even know badgers went after gophers. Saw the badger  on the road when I was coming home one night..he (?) looked about 3 feet long and a foot  wide and he showed no concern about my vehicle, which was a bit worrisome.

Maybe someone could tame a badger and rent it out for gopher control     Otherwise..Jack Russell terriers (most terriers for that matter) and dachshounds were originally bred to hunt "vermin"  there may be some who still have the instincts. JRs are aggressive little beasts with a high opinion of themselves (in my experience, which admittedly has been limited to 2 JRs..perhaps it goes with the personality to be a hunter?) so need to consider  if you would be comfortable dealing with such a dog day to day. Perhaps someone could train them for gophers and travel the country cleaning out pocket gopher cities..another idea for making money in the country?
 
                          
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Labor intensive, but hardware cloth installed beneath a raised bed will keep rodents out mostly---it lasts longer than chicken wire and, besides, I've heard that gophers can chew through chicken wire.  Gophers do walk on top of the ground so they could always enter that way.  Overlap the individual pieces of hardware cloth well.  Bury it as deep as you would like your longest root crop (carrot, parsnip, etc.)

Sepp actually made a visit out to my place last winter and his recommendation to deal with the pocket gopher was to plant
food crops that the gophers love.  Plant gopher trap plants and expect that you will harvest nothing from it-- like when a person plants mustard to attract flea beetles.  He told me to plant burdock and jerusalem artichoke...both are inexpensive and propagate easily...which I did plant but not in large enough quantities.  I have none of either remaining...nor any sweet potatoes for that matter. He felt that would be better than training a dog to hunt gophers. 

Provide habitat for the gopher's predators...Work with neighbors to do this.

Use the disturbance their mound creates to your advantage...sow seed!

What do pocket gophers eat?
-potatoes
-carrots
-parsnips
-garlic
-leeks
-artichokes
-beets
-jerusalme artichoke
-burdock
-??

http://wdfw.wa.gov/living/gophers.html


Thank you gophers, I am humbled.
 
                      
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Location: MONTANA, Bozeman area; ZONE 4
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Extension agent in Livingston MT has a gas bomb thing you can put down the holes.
 
James Stark
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Location: Manitoba Canada
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I actually have a very strange dog. He is a bichon maltese cross. Supposed to be a fluffy little lap dog, but I guess noone ever told him that. Instead, he spends his day hunting and eating mice and other rodents. He's one tough little bugger, and even our staffie won't mess with him. I have yet to see a cat that can out hunt this dog, and he eats what he catches, so there's never any little carcasses lying around. I guess he figured out that I don't like dogs that don't earn their keep.

Has anyone else heard of a "toy" breed making a good farm dog? Maybe it's the cross? Our dogs are carefully selected, but we are limited to rescue dogs, (too many dogs without homes for me to take anything but a rescue) so I guess we got really lucky with this guy.
 
Bill Schulz
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Location: Central Montana
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Here is what I use on pocket gophers. A bit of a learning curve, but overall pretty effective once you figure it out. I also helps if you can remember to check the traps the next day! Duh.

http://www.nwtrappers.com/catalog/proddetail.asp?prod=DK1GT

Good luck.

Bill
 
Brenda Groth
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free cat food
 
Jordan Lowery
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we have a lot of pocket gophers here, they do a lot of damage in the conventional garden.

in the forest garden i use them to my benefit similar to the mole. i find that if your diversity of groundcover is high enough, they don't care for the trees. when its nothing but grass and a tree, they will search it out for better nutrition. i have big tap rooted plants growing all over the place, things like carrots, beets, radish, turnip, etc.... you see one disappear every now and then but its ok, its almost like they do the job of thinning the plants out for me.

another thing i have been doing is just encouraging gopher snakes. every time i find one on the property i move it to a problem area. the snake goes in the hole and deals with the problem. i have cleaned two problem areas of gophers this way.

overall i think that there is no way to get rid of them permanently, we just have to learn to live with them.
 
Bob smithie
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Okay I'm new on the forum and have been wandering around and this is just my 2 cents worth. I really like the Hawks and wild animals I even had a bobcat visiting regularly. I'm not happy with all the house cats killing the small animals, birds and everything, when the Bobcats can't get enough to eat. I thought permaculture was living with the environment instead of against it. And yet so many people here want to kill everything. Geez if you kill it you'll always have to kill it. If you let the native/natural predators come in you won't have to do any work killing things. Of course some here seem to enjoy it and it's not work for them at all.
 
dj niels
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Location: CO; semi-arid: 10-12"; 6000 ft
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Bob, it seems there are as many definitions of permaculture, and as many ways to practice it, as there are people doing it (or more ways, since most of us seem to have several different projects going at once).

For me, one idea of permaculture I have adopted, is to try to grow as much of my own food as possible, in order to reduce my dependence on the expensive yet sometimes low quality produce available in the stores, and at the same time reduce my dependence on high input agribiz farms, chemicalized fruits and veggies, and long-distance transport of food. When over 1/2 of my potatoes and carrots and other root crops are ruined by little nibblers, I want to find some way to increase my odds of getting a productive harvest. I don't object to some sharing with wildlife, but they don't understand the concept of sharing--they take it all. And our only "natural" predators here are coyotes and rattlesnakes--neither of which I want to encourage on the small piece of land I have stewardship over.

Another goal I have is to build up a permaculture-based market garden, to help provide locally grown, healthy produce for others in my area. If I can eventually get fruit trees and shrubs and other perennials to grow and provide a large portion of my production needs, I won't need to be so dependent on growing annuals, but that goal is years in the future, because it takes years to get perennial crops established. My small home garden has 4 and 5 year old berries and other perennials that are just starting to produce crops. I don't want to wait that long before I can put food on the table, or to grow enough to sell so my small market garden can pay its expenses (ie: water, seeds, plants, property tax, etc), and not be a financial burden. If a permaculture operation can't pay its way, it won't be able to stay in business long enough to help anyone, and it is just another expensive hobby.
 
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