Dear Joan: We live adjacent to an undeveloped park. Half of our 1-acre property is fenced above and below the ground. No deer ever get in.
The hardware cloth above and below the ground helps control the gophers. The gophers that do get in I can control because gophers are not as intelligent as ground squirrels, which are our main problem.
This year the herd of tiny buffalo has been particularly devastating. Unfortunately, my hardware cloth barrier extends only 6 inches above the ground. The rest of the 6 foot 6 inch fence is 2 inch by 4 inch wire.
Our yard has been a great joy for us. We do not want to use poison for the risk to other wildlife. Even pellet air guns are illegal. The coyotes we are so happy to see do not control this huge population. We do not want a pet cat or dog at this point in our lives.
UC Davis says trapping is ineffective and we have no experience with electric fence wire. Please share with us where we may get guidance about the type of electric wire you describe in your discussion of your demonstration garden.
Dear Marty: As a veteran of the ground squirrel war of 2009 and occasional flare-ups, I know the frustration of trying to deal with ground squirrels.
Let's get the niceties over first. I do not want to kill or significantly harm any animal, including ground squirrels, even if they are akin to large, furry locusts. They are native to California and there's an argument to be made that they were here first and that we are the interlopers.
They help keep insect populations in check, disperse seed, aerate the soil and provide habitat for other animals with their abandoned burrows, but those finer points get lost in the dust that settles over the gardens they decimate and structures they undermine with their tunnels.
In case you couldn't tell, I don't care for the little critters.
Keeping them out of your yard is difficult because ground squirrels are a double threat — they can easily burrow beneath most fences and while they prefer staying on the ground, they are good climbers and can scale a barrier with ease.
So for a fence to work, hardware cloth needs to extend down least 2 feet down — the limit the squirrels are willing to tunnel — and the openings in the fence need to be small enough to prevent them pushing through. To stop them scaling, the fence needs to be electrified.
We aren't talking a fatal dose of electricity, but one that delivers a strong shock, a little stronger than what you'd get shuffling across a carpet and touching something metal. Just a little zing that is enough to convince the squirrel to stay off the fence.
Check out pet supply and feed stores for shock wires. There are many on the market. Some work on batteries, others plug in.
The wire is stretched slightly above the top of the fence, and when the ground squirrel touches both the metal fence and the wire, it gets shocked. It won't stop them from trying to find other ways in, but it will stop them from climbing over the fence, and the humans can declare victory.