BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Lila Meuchel’s neighbors keep trying to eat her plants.
It’s not the human neighbors of her ground-floor Gateway Avenue condo that are causing problems, but a population of Richardson’s ground squirrels that live in an empty lot next to her building, across from the Gateway Mall.
The nearby lot is dotted with holes that the squirrels dart out of, some of which have plastic bottles stuffed into them. Meuchel said she has put some of the bottles there to prevent the ground squirrels from digging. Trails in the grass lead away from the burrows and toward the condo buildings, and there was even a hole behind the building’s air conditioning unit. About a half-dozen of the animals were scurrying through the lot or sitting perched on top of a small hill one morning. The Richardson’s ground squirrels, also known as flickertails, aren’t afraid of people, she said. Sometimes, she’ll sit outside and spray at them with her hose to keep them away.
The ground squirrels have been there since 2011, Meuchel said, but problems have increased over the past two years.
“It’s frustrating,” she said. “We just don’t need this around here.”
She said she thinks it’s gotten worse with the drought the state is experiencing. When it rains, like the scattered showers the Bismarck area has experienced in recent weeks, the fauna greens up and the ground squirrels stay closer to home. Less green vegetation near the rodents means they have to search elsewhere for food, including her patio. She lined the fencing around her outdoor space with netting last summer to keep the squirrels out, and she’s placed a makeshift gate out of wood at her patio entrance, which she says has worked well. A rodent trap and a large owl statue with round amber eyes are placed among the plants to keep the ground squirrels at bay, but Meuchel said they’re not effective. The squirrels aren’t large enough to set off the trap, so they take the bait and leave.
Meuchel said she and her neighbors can’t do much about the flickertails because the lot next door is privately owned.
The squirrels’ lot is owned by the same company that owns the Gateway Mall.
Gateway Mall General Manager Andrew Schiermeister said he had no comment on the situation. Gateway Mall owner Raymond Arjmand did not respond to requests for comment, The BIsmarck Tribune reported.
Burleigh County Extension Agriculture and Natural Resources Agent Tyler Kralicek said ground squirrels can move in anywhere there’s a habitat for them.
A lot of people will try to control the rodents because they can damage lawns or cause other impacts, he said. There are different rodenticides a person can use to control them squirrels, as long as directions on the label are followed, he said.
North Dakota Department of Game and Fish Administrative Assistant Alegra Powers said in an email that trapping the animals can be effective to an extent. In cases of large infestations, the department refers people to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Wildlife Services, Powers said. A spokeswoman for the USDA department said that the organization was not conducting operations in the area.
Meuchel said she reached out to the city and even some commissioners for assistance with the flickertails, but they couldn’t help. The city of Bismarck does not have a policy in place that would allow it to deal with “urban rodent issues” on private property, City Attorney Jannelle Combs said.
Meuchel said the only thing left to do is to consider hiring an attorney.
“It’s just disgusting,” she said of the squirrels.
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