Marmot Infestation

   #1  

RockWrangler

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Oct 3, 2019
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11
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New Holland Boomer 20
I moved onto a few acres in eastern Washington two years ago (moved from western WA—those who know will understand). We are located on a rocky shelf with a columnar basalt cliff rising maybe 50 feet in my front, and another basalt cliff 400 feet to my back, dropping off maybe 100 feet. There is a very thin layer of cultivatable soil, supplemented with trucked in dirt to actually grow things. To give you an idea of the thin soil, I have to pile rocks around the t-posts to hold up the chicken yard fence. There is a small orchard with cherry, apple, and plum trees, a berry patch with 120 feet of thornless raspberries, and a fairly large garden. I’ve got a few chickens for eggs, and am thinking about adding a few more animals eventually.

The foregoing is a lead into the actual problem. Yellow-bellied marmots (Marmota flaviventris) are an absolute infestation in the area. Also known as woodchucks, groundhogs, and whistle pigs in other parts of the country, these critters occupy nearly every cavity, crack and hole in the rocky landscape, and they relish my cultivated vegetation. The neighbors up the road, down the road, and up the cliff have all given up and signed a formal surrender.

I started out shooting the offenders, but quickly saw that my thin soil will not support a mass marmot graveyard, so I began live-trapping them, and hauling the catch off a few miles to a nature preserve. In the past year we have relocated 72. I have three traps in operation all the time, but haven’t seen a decline in the visible population. We have tried different baits, from green beans to cantaloupes, but find apple cores to be the perfect lure.

I thought about eating them, after all they are just big ground squirrels, and I grew up eating squirrels. 72 varmints at 10 lbs average comes out to 720 lbs, or a dressed weight of half that. But I can’t bring myself to put them on a plate. Marmots can be a source of several diseases, including bubonic plague, and are a banned meat in some locales.

So what else shall I do with this bountiful harvest? I don’t expect to surrender my little plot of ground to them, but I don’t know what I will do with an annual crop of 6 dozen. Fortunately, the nature preserve is several hundred acres of rocky basalt, so should be able to support additional residents, but I am just moving my problem elsewhere.

Does anybody have any suggestions, short of skinning them and selling the pelts, or eating them? Right now, the only thing I can see to do is make transporting marmots my retirement hobby.

I know, I know, this is a tractor forum. One day I can talk tractors, but right now this tops the list. Thanks for your help.
 
   #2  

RalphVa

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Charlottesville, VA, USA
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JD 2025R, previously Gravely 5650 & JD 4010 & JD 1025R
I fought the groundhog war and lost it in NJ. Here in Va, they haven't really been a problem, but I trap them if they get too close, like underneath the pool decking in a hav-a-hart trap with cantalope. Nice to hear about the apple cores. Better to lure them with something that has been eaten rather than something I'd like to eat.

My boss and I used to take a running count. He'd shoot them from the upper story of his house with a 22 while I'd shoot mine with a shot gun either as they popped heads out of holes or after I caught them in a hav-a-hart (didn't need bait in NJ; stupid idiots just walked into it). Ones I trapped here got lead poisoning somehow, too. It's illegal in Va to transport them. Oh, my boss and I got up to around 20 or so each every year. Could not keep ahead of them. Ammonium ran them out of their holes there, but it only works here for 2 or 3 days.

I've heard they're good eating, but they stink! Guess once you got past the stink of skinning them, they'd be okay.
 
   #3  

Jstpssng

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Maine
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Kubota L3301
How far away is the nature preserve? Could you be relocating the same animals multiple times? Unfortunately if your neighbors have given up trying to control them you might have to put up the white flag yourself. With that much breeding ground near by they are bound to expand into your territory, like ripples from a rock thrown into your lake. Have you tried an electric fence?
 
   #4  

Tinhack

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Lytle, TX
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Ford 3910, John Deere 420C, Kubota G32XKS, IH 2606, Bad Boy Maverick-60"
Wow! I wouldn't even think of putting those things anywhere near my mouth. They're in the same class as a rat--Filthy, dirty rodents. They eat, sleep, crap and have babies all in the same nest. :sick: I've had a gopher infestation since I've moved here. I've had some success around the immediate yard by flooding them out. But that can take a lot of water. And they build flood-proof caverns so I try to get them early in the spring while they're building new foraging tunnels. Shaking the ground with a compactor seems to drive them deeper then I hit the fresh dirt piles with the water hose. You have to shove the hose into the dirt piles to find and break the plug(s).
 
   #6  

ponytug

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Mar 27, 2007
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Bay Area, CA
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Power Trac PT1445
Welcome to TBN!

It sounds like you have an amazing location.

I sympathize with your marmot problems. We have ground squirrels. A much smaller beast. And pocket gophers, the devil incarnate for vegetable gardens. I thought Walt Disney was making it up when the carrots disappeared underground "Zip!". Then I watched a 4' high gladiola disappear underground in about thirty seconds. I would not have believed it if I hadn't watched it happen.

Here in California, catch and release is on the same property only.

In jest, have you thought about a pet ferret? Or dachshund or terrier? A trained animal can do a lot.

In all seriousness, what are you trying to keep them from? We gave up our garden pending pouring concrete walls three feet down and wire mesh in the soil. Our neighbors went for 8' corrugated translucent fiberglass panels buried three feet, backed by wire to have a (small) garden. All of our trees have flashing or 1/4" mesh wire cloth on the trunks to keep rodents from gnawing on them.

I trap regularly to keep the population away from the house and buildings, but it is a match in a hurricane. I had a trap in the breezeway by the horse stalls last summer and caught one every other day all summer, in just in that one trap. I have plans for raptor poles for the pasture to help increase the pressure on them, but I doubt I can get an upper hand on the population.

Underground poison works really well, but we run an organic operation and we are too close to lots of wildlife for me to feel comfortable with it even if we weren't. (Everything including condors, but not bears or wolves, has passed through or lives here.)

If your tractor can deep rip, I am told that deep ripping will destroy the dens and disrupt the populations, and get them to move. Supposedly, that method is used over in the California Central Valley. I don't have a dozer or high HP tractor to try it with.

I confess that I wouldn't handle them more than I had to due to the plague risk. It is a quick and ugly way to die. I certainly wouldn't be eating them because of that.

All the best,

Peter
 
   #7  

two_bit_score

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Texas - from the brush and pear to the piney woods
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Have you tried spaying/neutering programs? It's actually called TNR. Trap, Neuter, Return.

In several Texas towns with feral cat problems they found that removing the cats occupying the territory only allowed ther cats to move in. But if you neuter the cats and stop them from breeding they will stay in the occupied territory so new residents don't move in and eventually you thin the population significantly. It takes a while but sounds like what you are doing is not working all that well.

You would probably need to get the county to buy into funding the program with local vets doing the cutting. Neighbors could get together and try to involve their county officials in the program.

 
   #8  

oosik

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AMBER, WA
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Welcome to TBN and the forum. I live about 25 miles SW of Spokane. Right in the heart of the Scablands. I have pocket gophers. I use wire spring traps on my "trap line". Last year my barn cat got eaten by something further up the food chain - coyote or owl.

The cat was fantastic on mice - not so much on pocket gophers. He tried but very limited success.

FORGET live trapping. Takes too much time. Use traps that kill them. Set the little bodies out on an open section of exposed land. Something further up the food chain will take care of them - coyotes, hawks or owls.

Resign yourself to this - you will NEVER eliminate them. You just might reduce their numbers to an acceptable level.

Welcome to the Scablands of Ea WA state and all its various residents. I've been out here for 40 years now.
 
   #9  

lman

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Indiana
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New Holland 3040, New Holland 1530, Oliver 1850
My German Shepherd regularly kills groundhogs and I have to take care of the leftovers, but I don't have any in the immediate area.
 

Frankenkubota

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Carthage NC...Deep in the woods
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Kind of related. Saw on the news, Chicago is releasing ferrel cats to combat the rat infestation.

Never in my life have i seen so many rats as Notre Dame in Paris. There are seating areas all around outside the church, raised beds for plants. I was sitting there, late in the day, waiting for them to illuminate the church, very impressive.

All the sudden the plants in the planters started moving, i'm not kidding. Hundreds? thousands of rats. I asked. WTF? The guy said, no problem, they never come out when people are around.
 
 
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