Phyllis Both color for BNR

Phyllis Both

“No matter how few possessions you own or how little you have, loving wildlife and nature will make you rich” — Paul Oxton

I am such an animal lover and have been enjoying the antics of a ground squirrel from my porch all summer. He darts in and out of the garage and garden and makes my golden retriever crazy.

The dog has not caught him and neither have my three cats. Who would have guessed? These critters can be very destructive.

A ground squirrel and a chipmunk can burrow 3 feet into the ground and make a tunnel 30 feet long. They have razor sharp teeth and can chew their way through the foundation of houses. When we first moved to Reedsburg 18 years ago, we had a family of these cute critters in our basement. After remodeling and having our Labrador chase them, we finally got rid of them, until this year.

Chipmunks live about three years and will get into birdseed and bulbs. Fortunately, they don’t climb.

Although they tend to semi-hibernate during the winter, they do venture out occasionally to do what they need to do. Ground squirrels are diurnal (sleep at night, up during day). They are almost blind in the dark. That is why it is so much fun to watch their antics during the daylight hours. I only have one so I am not too concerned, but will take precautions.

My first choice of defense is mothballs around the foundation and oyster shell to protect around the tulip bulbs. For some reason they do not like the feeling of them. As for birdseed, a little red pepper works (also for squirrels).

If you need to trap them, a Havahart trap works. Or if you have a lot, you can use a rat trap. Do not touch any animal you have trapped because of fleas, mites and dreaded ticks. Wild animals carry diseases that can be contagious or fatal to humans. These are called zoonotics.

My bulbs have not been planted yet, but I hope to do so sometime this week. When I plant, I usually dig at least a 3-foot area fairly deep and plant the biggest bulbs first, cover them a little, then plant the second largest bulbs. Repeat the process until the smallest bulbs are on top. Mass planting make for the biggest show in the spring when we need it most. Do not forget, you can plant bulbs until the ground freezes, so watch for sales.

My amaryllis just went to bed for the winter. A little late, but I will probably get blooms in late winter when I need cheering up.

Contact Phyllis Both by email at or by telephone on Monday mornings at the Sauk County UW-Extension office, 608-355-3253.