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Squirrels competing with me for the water in my irrigation lines...  RSS feed

 
Posts: 29
Location: Central Coast, CA
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Hi permies crew,

I've got a forest gardening project on the central coast of CA. Currently have oak logs in crib stacks inoculating under a mature live oak canopy. This being dry summer CA, and the logs requiring somewhat consistent moisture for inoculation, I ran 1/2" poly from a valve to the base of one of the trees, up the trunk, and then attached it to an overhead web of paracord that is suspending the irrigation line above the oaks. From the 1/2" poly we have a piece of 1/4" hanging down to a mist emitter over each stack of logs.

The problem is, the squirrels around here also is dealing with the dryness of southern california, and has figured out that there be water in them lines! So far, any section that is laying on the ground (the line going to the base of the tree) is getting punctured at a rate faster than I can or want to repair.  There have also been two punctures on the overhead line, where the line passes close to a tree.  I haven't found any punctures where the line is suspended from the paracord - hoping that means that the squirrels can't navigate the tight rope.

So - hoping for some brainstorming as to solutions.  First thought is maybe I just set out an easier source of water for them, and they'll leave my irrigation lines alone. My concern is that then this little corner of the forest is going to become a magnet for all wildlife.  Second thought is perhaps I suspend all of the irrigation, and make sure none passes to close to a tree - and hope that stops em. I'd be bummed to do all that work and then realize that they actually have no problem navigating the tight rope, they were just hitting the easy targets first.  Third thought is heavier duty irrigation - something thicker than the home depot thin poly, or maybe even PVC.

I'm hoping for any input, or other ideas! Much thanks!
 
gardener
Posts: 3473
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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On my farm, irrigation is the most important built infrastructure. So my irrigation lines tend to be aluminum, steel, brass, or heavy duty PVC. No flimsy allowed.

 
gardener
Posts: 393
Location: Sierra Nevadas, CA 6400'
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I've never seen making resources more available to wildlife ever reduce their numbers. I hear this a lot from others, but in my experience it only increases the number of wildlife (hey guys — free water, plus extra in the tubes!). Critters often get into my irrigation pipes, mostly during the spring when there is plenty of water flowing down the mountain. I've heard it's because they can hear the vibrations and think there are insects in the pipes to eat. 1/2" poly gets eaten in an instant, while 3/4" poly gets eaten… slower.

Your irrigation situation sounds interesting. Usually I'd advise that you bury the pipe, but it doesn't sound like that's the problem area for you. PVC would definitely work well. I wonder if a PVC riser with a high powered mister would add moisture in a similar manner. Or if you'd be able to deter them temporarily with some kind of odor or spice. Cayenne pepper often repels smaller animals (I'd assume it's the squirrels).
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3/4" Poly
 
Posts: 109
Location: South Central PA
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Hi! you could try the if you can't beat them, join them method...give them an outlet of water, maybe a self-filling bird bath type, that the squirrels can drink from. They may be less prone to eating holes in your existing lines, if they have an easy access solution. Best of luck to you!
 
Posts: 57
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I got a funny mental picture of you physically competing with the squirrels like cadyshack or something. ha. Yeah, like mentioned before... maybe if you have a separate spot to provide water for them that is much easier and more enticing, that might work...although that is more work for you. The upgrade to something harder like pvc would work. Don't know if this is applicable in this case but there is a company that makes armored hoses. I have used their non-armored ones and they are good quality. http://www.armadillohoseproducts.com/  ; Wonder if there is a similar product for poly? Not sure the tight rope thing is good as squirrels are pretty agile and that's a lot of work. Have you seen the motion activated sprinklers?....ha maybe scare them with MORE water. I think that might be better for deer but never seen it personally. ummm, a guard dog or animals might work too. Or instead of spreading something like cayenne pepper all over every piece maybe you could include it in the water and they wouldn't like it but it won't hurt plants. Some options to think about...
 
Wes Cooke
Posts: 29
Location: Central Coast, CA
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Thank you everyone for the thoughts thus far, I really appreciate the feedback. My partner-in-crime in this endeavor suggested, along the lines of the providing more easily accessible water idea, installing a low pressure drain at the bottom of the system, so after the irrigation shuts off, all of the water in the overhead lines drains into a basin for them.

Although, kyle, as you mentioned, I'm concerned that this just attracts more and compounds the issue.

I like the idea of the heavier duty irrigation... PVC or metal pipes.

Any other input is welcome!
 
pollinator
Posts: 1580
Location: La Palma (Canary island) Zone 11
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My place is very similar to southern California, with no summer rain ...but we have no squirrels! ...But we have rats! So we deal with the problem too. Animals go to the easier place and will not go to the same you dedicate for them if they prefer another place.

The local solution we have is for rats and also lizards. These do not eat the plastic but will eat all juicy fruits and tomatoes you have. In order to provide easy water everywhere, we just put flat cans under the dripping holes so that they fill themselves each time we are watering.

As pipes and food already attrack wild life, easier water will not attract more. If you have a larges place of water, then maybe it can be smelled at more distance, and anyway in our case we avoid this because we do not want to grow more mosquitos. Any place where I keep a full bucket, I take care to empty is regularly. Then my problem is when I see mosquitos larvaes, but also dragonfly's!
 
gardener
Posts: 1997
Location: Central Oklahoma (zone 7a)
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Wes Cooke wrote:My concern is that then this little corner of the forest is going to become a magnet for all wildlife.



Not to be flip but ... you say that like it's a bad thing?

A whole bunch of squirrels or rats could be bad but then ... surely something would come along that eats them?  Basically I am convinced that the more complete the ecosystem in/around my garden and food forest, the healthier it is. 
 
Xisca Nicolas
pollinator
Posts: 1580
Location: La Palma (Canary island) Zone 11
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Dan Boone wrote:

Wes Cooke wrote:My concern is that then this little corner of the forest is going to become a magnet for all wildlife.



Not to be flip but ... you say that like it's a bad thing?

A whole bunch of squirrels or rats could be bad but then ... surely something would come along that eats them?  Basically I am convinced that the more complete the ecosystem in/around my garden and food forest, the healthier it is. 



Of course the food we grow is a magnet, and will develop more rats than predators can suppress! Even night howls will not be enough, or can you tell your idea with more precision ? Which predator can come? YOU, WE, have to be the predators!
 
Dan Boone
gardener
Posts: 1997
Location: Central Oklahoma (zone 7a)
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Xisca Nicolas wrote:..and anyway in our case we avoid this because we do not want to grow more mosquitos. Any place where I keep a full bucket, I take care to empty is regularly. Then my problem is when I see mosquitos larvaes, but also dragonfly's!



We are far enough north not to have to worry about the worst mosquito diseases but West Nile is here and a few of the painful tropical ones are infrequent visitors, plus mosquitoes themselves are a problem.  But we also have the problem of the three month dry season and that was causing two problems:

1) no place for my garden pollinators to drink; and

2) no good place for dragonflies to breed nearby, which was a problem because our (chlorinated, so mosquito-free) above-ground swimming pool was being used as a watering hole by paper wasps and we noticed that dragonflies would keep the wasps away.

So I decided to bite the bullet and figure out a way to safely keep copious open water containers all over my property.  The trick is making the containers attractive to amphibians (mostly frogs) that will eat mosquito larvae.

The absolute easiest all-round solution is a five gallon bucket with four inches of dirt in the bottom, kept full of water with a water chestnut growing in it.  Dragonflies breed on the reeds, frogs will live in the bucket, no mosquito larvae will survive, and pollinators of all kinds will have places to go for a drink.   Having frogs all over your garden is no bad thing anyway.  Obviously this only works in a place that has amphibians to start with, where they usually hide down deep somewhere during the dry season.

 
Dan Boone
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Posts: 1997
Location: Central Oklahoma (zone 7a)
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Xisca Nicolas wrote:Of course the food we grow is a magnet, and will develop more rats than predators can suppress! Even night howls will not be enough, or can you tell your idea with more precision ? Which predator can come? YOU, WE, have to be the predators!



Of course I don't know your local circumstances.  Everywhere I've ever lived, squirrels got eaten by all kinds of things.  But rats can be a different story, especially on islands. You would know best.
 
pollinator
Posts: 1944
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
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I'm wondering what a chilli soap or oil applied to  the tubing would do.
Normally,rain would wash it away, but clearly that is a non-issue here.
More wicked still, if you could add it to the water itself...
 
William Bronson
pollinator
Posts: 1944
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
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I'm wondering what a chilli soap or oil applied to  the tubing would do.
Normally,rain would wash it away, but clearly that is a non-issue here.
More wicked still, if you could add it to the water itself...
 
Xisca Nicolas
pollinator
Posts: 1580
Location: La Palma (Canary island) Zone 11
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Frogs might have to travel from too far, but I know where to get some... I would have been worried about frogs eating also dragonflies larvaes! I keep the idea of the bucket for dragonflies, and I will see if I can find water chesnut!
...Are there other waterplants that will do the trick?

Dan Boone wrote:

Xisca Nicolas wrote:Of course the food we grow is a magnet, and will develop more rats than predators can suppress! Even night howls will not be enough, or can you tell your idea with more precision ? Which predator can come? YOU, WE, have to be the predators!



Of course I don't know your local circumstances.  Everywhere I've ever lived, squirrels got eaten by all kinds of things.  But rats can be a different story, especially on islands. You would know best.



I do not ask only for myself, I am curious about others' circumstantces too! I guess you have foxes and ferret type of wildlife? We have none of those, and we are almost the only predator of the rats. I can tell that the night or day predator birds we have are absolutely not enough and that I am still waiting for owls to come to my place.

Mainly, I want to say that we are part of nature... So why wait for predators when they are here already.... Us!

Trap rats and even squirrel in excess, take care of the balance. Eat and feed your hens or dog or cat, and life circle is ok.
 
Dan Boone
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Posts: 1997
Location: Central Oklahoma (zone 7a)
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I have watched the new little baby dragonflies launching themselves into flight from the tips of the water chestnut reeds, so — however it happens — they seem to avoid frog predation in a way that mosquito larvae don’t.

I don’t know your island logistics or legalities, but if you can find or visit while traveling or place an order for fresh groceries from a Chinese grocery for water chestnuts, the fresh foodstuff works perfectly well as seed stock. Even if a friend buys and mails to you and it arrives moldy, just wipe off mold, plant in moist soil, and submerge plant once reeds are about six inches tall.

Another plant that works just fine for keeping frogs and dragonflies happy ... but is trickier as a bucket plant  because it wants wet feet but not total submergence, so you have to play a game with an interior pot and a stone or a cinder block ... is horsetail (scouring rush, equisetum hymale affinus, http://www.illinoiswildflowers.info/grasses/plants/scouring_rush.htm ). It’s tougher than the water chestnuts, evergreen, and the dragonfies like it even better. But I don’t know how to get/propogate except to find some in the wild and dig it up.

As for rat/squirrel predators, I grew up in the arboreal forests and tiaga of Alaska; we had least weasels, weasels, martins, wolverines, mink, fishers, otters, lynx, wolves, bears, and many kinds of flying death. A lot of that wouldn’t normally bother with little rodents but would make an exception for a local overpopulation — easy food is where you find it! Where I am now has a lot fewer ground predators, but still bobcats and coyotes and a few rare foxes and weasels maybe, plus several opportunistic things that eat rodent nests/babies (opssums, roadrunners, anything that moves) and adds about 70 species of snakes — most of which eat small furry things and/or their babies. Meanwhile the variety of death in the air seems to be much richer, species-diversity-wise, than where I grew up.

People still keep barn cats here, to kill rats in spaces that are protected from outside predators. But writing this has made me realize something. I used to get a lot of rodent damage to foliage and fruit in my container garden, especially to juicy tomatoes, but also to small tree seedlings in buckets being eaten. Since I went crazy with water features, this has stopped. I have not seen — do not want to see — the inevitable snakes that I am welcoming in by making an oasis, but I wonder if I should not credit them nonetheless for fixing my nibbled-tomato issue?
 
Xisca Nicolas
pollinator
Posts: 1580
Location: La Palma (Canary island) Zone 11
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You have a nice ground experience!
I laughed that I have even forgotten about snakes... as we have none here! We are so much the main predator!

I would have to be very careful about getting moldy stuff, as we really get imported plagues through neglecting we ar an island. But some people already have water plants, so I will look at what i can get from neighbours who have Kois. This is a pity to let my bucket project stand by! I can also get frogs.

And I already have the equisetum hiemale! We have it wild here in the center of the island, the only place with some permanent water. I got some from neighbours.
Thanks for all the ideas! Very useful!
 
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