Ferrets: where to find wild, indigenous? (for chipmunk control)

ppod(6 SE NY)July 28, 2009

Would anyone know if it's possible to get an indigenous ferret colony established? Perhaps by the US Fish & Wildlife?

Despite a healthy hawk and owl population, the chipmunk population has exploded and has now reached such levels that something effective have to be done.

Can native, indigenous ferrets be purchased anywhere? We used to hear the wild weasels/ferrets' distinctive calls in the surrounding woods, but I never hear them anymore.

Thanks for posting ideas and, if possible, sources for live ferrets (not pet ferrets, of course), but good old-fashioned wild, indigenous ferrets.

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denninmi(8a)

Our North American native ferret is the Blackfooted Ferret, which is indigenous to prairie dog infested regions of the Great Plains and Rockies. It was never, to my knowledge, found on the eastern seaboard of the US. And, it's a highly endangered species, although there are efforts to re-establish it in the wild from the Prarie Provinces of Canada to Mexico.

I think you would be a lot better off going to the local hardware and buying a bunch of the plastic, reuseable, spring-loaded rat traps, the kind that look kind of like giant clothespins. I dispatched 13 chipmunks to chipmunk Heaven last year, and 10 so far this year, using about 4 traps baited with peanut butter. The more traps you set out, the more you can catch.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2009 at 7:33PM
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gardener1908

Will the traps also work for moles or voles?

    Bookmark   July 28, 2009 at 10:50PM
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denninmi(8a)

Yes, rat traps will also get voles, although they are kind of big, and they sell the same type of trap, just smaller, for voles and mice. Moles are yet again a seperate type of trap, which has steel spikes and sits on top of the ground over an active tunnel - also sold at most hardware stores.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2009 at 4:29AM
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gardener_sandy

Cats are great at catching and dispatching chipmunks and voles. They will catch and kill moles but rarely eat them. Some people don't think cats should be allowed outside because they also catch birds. But we don't have any endangered bird species that are preyed on by housecats.

The chipmunk and vole population has been seriously reduced at our house by one outdoor kitty. She is very well cared for, including a cat door into a shed with food and water and a heated bed in the winter. She lives a life of semi-luxury and seems to enjoy her hunting escapades.

Sandy

    Bookmark   July 29, 2009 at 9:42AM
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denninmi(8a)

A cat that is a good mouser can be a real blessing. My sister used to have a cat that did an excellent job of keeping the grounds and the barn free of rodents, and it almost never got any birds (for whatever the reason).

Moles are actually really beneficial animals, and I don't like to kill them, although I certainly don't like the mess they can make in a lawn. Personally, I have actually dug them up several times and transported them to a meadow. The best thing to do for mole problems, though, is to treat the lawn with an insecticide to kill the grubs which are the primary food source. Once the grubs are gone, the mole will move on to greener pastures. I've found that a grub treatment will ususally keep moles away for 2 to 3 years.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2009 at 11:22AM
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bella_trix(z6b SE PA)

Please DO NOT use killing mouse traps in the garden! You are far more likely to kill birds than mice or voles. And they are likely to be a good bird like a wren. There are a number of non-killing options (smart mouse trap or small havaheart) that will not catch birds or will allow you to release them if you do. If you feel you must use a spring-loaded mouse trap, set it next to the mouse/vole hole and cover the whole thing with newspaper/cardboard box.

Bellatrix

    Bookmark   July 29, 2009 at 12:55PM
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ppod(6 SE NY)

Thanks so much for your great replies and ideas!
ÂDenn, rat traps, in my experience, are difficult to handle, but I'm glad you have good experience with them. Watch your finger, though! We tried them, but caught nothing. Also they had to be snapped before dusk, so an unlucky coon wouldn't get a foot snapped. (We have lately been very sucessful w/live traps, though)
ÂSandy, a feline would be very nice, but how do you solve the toilet problem? Does she use a litter box in the shed? Or does she go in the woods?

What I didn't know, but learned this afternoon, is that weasels (not ferrets!) are indiginous to my area. That's great news! for it would be ideal if the chipmunk population could be controlled by natural means by getting indigenous weasels established. The area has acres and acres of uncultivated land, stone fences, woods, & wetlands, plus lots of food (chipmunks, woodchucks, racoons).

If weasels don't settle here on their own, I hope to find a source, or locate an organization that would settle some weasels in the woods around here.

Here is a link that might be useful: Weasel indigenous to New England (?)

    Bookmark   July 29, 2009 at 9:20PM
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gardener_sandy

The cat toilet problem is simply solved by the cat. They go wherever they want to. In our case, we did end up with a litter pan in the shed during the winter when we had snow. She didn't like being out in it and the pan simplified her life a lot. But most of the time she uses the woods.

Sandy

    Bookmark   July 29, 2009 at 10:01PM
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denninmi(8a)

Ppod wrote: "ÂDenn, rat traps, in my experience, are difficult to handle, but I'm glad you have good experience with them. Watch your finger, though! We tried them, but caught nothing. Also they had to be snapped before dusk, so an unlucky coon wouldn't get a foot snapped. (We have lately been very sucessful w/live traps, though)"

These newer, all-plastic rat traps are much easier to use, and MUCH safer for the user, than the old fashioned, wooden type.

Can't help you with the racoon issue - mine are all set inside of my greenhouse, and the screened doors on each end keep out the larger wildlife, but the chipmunks just tunnel right under the base boards where they meet the ground.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2009 at 10:07PM
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ppod(6 SE NY)

Sandy and Denn, thanks so much for your new replies.

Sandy, I'm concerned that a cat would begin using the vegetable beds for toilet purposes. How could that be avoided? I don't want to solve one problem (ridding yard of chipmunks) and inadvertently adding another problem (getting vegetables + cat toilet in same beds).

Denn, thanks for the tip. You mean the brightly yellow, plastic snap traps on HD's shelves? I'll give them a try.

Again many thanks for your help, both of you!

    Bookmark   July 30, 2009 at 10:57AM
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bruce2288

I would bet money that you already have weasels in your area after you described the habitat. Weasels are pretty wide spread in the US, just because you have never seen one doesn't mean they are not around. Most people have never seen a weasel or a mink.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2009 at 11:05AM
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rj_hythloday(8A VA)

I have a straycat that keeps ending up in my garden. I haven't seen any thing it's left behind, but sure wish it didn't visit. I've heard it has fleas and lice from neighbors who petted it, and often see it in the storm drains.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2009 at 12:11PM
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veggiefaery

I love my song bird population, and I'm not really a fan of cats. Sorry to all you cat owners out there, but if I catch a cat wandering through my yard, it goes to the Humane Society.

One of my good friends has a Schnauzer. They were bred to go after rats and mice. She says her dog has killed any mouse in the house or yard. You could look into getting one of the many dog breeds bred for rodent control.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2009 at 5:04PM
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gardener_sandy

If the cat uses the garden for it's litter box, (and that's a big IF when it will have woods to roam in) there are several remedies. Anything sharp on the ground will deter digging, such as slightly crushed egg shells or rose prunings. Laying chicken wire in the areas between plants works. Using a spray on the ground made from water and orange peels is said to deter cats since they don't like the smell of citrus.

With apologies to those who don't like cats, I find dogs to be much more of a nuisance. They are prone to dig and chase critters with no consideration for the small plants in the garden. They also may use the garden for a toilet and unless well trained can be a barking problem for the owners and the neighbors.

Both cats and dogs can be good "mousers." So in large part it's just a matter of personal preference and how much attention the gardener is willing and able to give to the pet.

Sandy

    Bookmark   July 30, 2009 at 5:42PM
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neohippie(8b)

I don't think that traps usually work very well for a rodent problem anyway. As soon as you trap one, a new one moves in to replace it, as long as you still have food for them there.

Do you have any idea why the chipmunk population has exploded? Maybe there's some way you can fix that rather than dealing with the symptom. Though it might be something out of your control.

As for cats, I've had cats all my life, and only some of them are good hunters. Though they all have the instincts to chase after small critters, the details on how exactly to kill efficiently is a skill they need to learn. Naturally they would learn this from their mothers, but if their mother was not a hunter herself, or they were taken away too soon, then they might be able to figure it out themselves eventually, or they might never get the hang of it.

Just a warning to make sure nobody goes out to get a cat for it to be a mouser and ends up disappointed because they got one that thinks all food comes from cans, and rodents are just fun to chase around until they get bored.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2009 at 1:24PM
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jcarr_vynall_com

Ferrets are illegal in my state, it is a felony to bring one into the state without a special license. Cats aren't always good killers. My cat follows rodents around, and might bat at one a few times, but she has never (to my knowledge) killed one. As far as you bird people, what makes a bird more valuable than a cat? The things are just flying rodents as far as I'm concerned. Birds are some of the dirtiest creatures on the planet, and carry tons of parasites and diseases. Add in the fact that they make a huge racket around 4AM each day, and I'd be happy to have a few more cats around and a lot less birds.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2011 at 3:20PM
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