Monday, March 26, 2012

Outfoxing furry critters in your garden



Mama and pup
Wouldn’t it be great if you could find a no-cost, natural, sustainable way to control furry critters that eat your garden harvest before you even get a chance to pick some for yourself?

“We have zero problems with bunnies, moles, voles, mice, and chipmunks in our strawberry and blueberry gardens,” explained Beth, a Howard County Master Gardener.  “I’ve got what one of our neighbor’s calls a fox ‘nursery den’ in our backyard and she has the ‘adult den’ in her yard, so small critters just aren’t problem.

“Mama fox gave birth to eight pups last spring,” Beth said.  “I spent hours watching and photographing the pups romp in our backyard while Mama stood guard.  I discovered that my best vantage point was from the edge of my bathtub because it’s perpendicular to the den.  Because the foxes were anywhere from 50 to 200 feet away, I used a zoom lens.  They enjoyed eating the peanuts and sunflower seeds as much as the birds did, and they used our birdbath as a drinking dish.”

Pups at play
Are foxes the perfect critter control for suburban gardeners?

“Not quite,” Beth answered.  “We have a pair of groundhogs that are larger than the foxes—and the groundhogs are stopping by daily to see what’s growing.  And then there are the deer that browse through our property nearly every day.  Last year I planted one tomato plant, and the deer ate all the green tomatoes.  I tore out the plant in frustration.

“I’m told to expect a new litter this year,” Beth continued.  “I saw Papa fox scoping the neighborhood earlier this year, but I’ve not seen Mama yet.  I do hope they return.  The pups are so much fun to watch.”

But the groundhogs and deer—mountain lions, anyone?

More water, please
Thank you, Beth, for sharing your story and photographs.

3 comments:

  1. Good looking K9s. Don't approach them though they can carry diseases. As for the woodchucks, maybe Beth should go to Howard County Community College tomorrow at noon, when Bob and Kent will be talking about "Detering Deer and Other Critters" The class starts at noon in Duncan Hall room 100

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  2. What fabulous pictures! I live on the Eastern Shore and see foxes fairly often, but rarely so close. When they see us and run away, it's a good sign. However, a number this past winter have clearly been sick. They stagger, won;t run off when challenged and in several cases, even tried to attack the men who farm the surrounding fields (who carry shotguns for just such an eventuality). Instead of letting my dogs loose as I've one in the past, I've needed to keep them leashed even while on the farm. Even so, I appreciate seeing them.

    We also have world class groundhogs. Our only solution has been a dog with a keen hunting instinct and a fence around the garden. The deer! Gawd!

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  3. Give any wild animal that staggers and challenges you a wide berth, Nancy, as it may be rabid. Call your local animal control department and let them evaluate the situation. Yes ... groundhogs and deer ... how luck that we get to eat anything from our gardens!

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