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The Enemy of my Enemy is my Friend?

The vole invasion continues. With root systems eaten away, my hostas are struggling, and I’ve almost lost one rose. I’ve also seen evidence of behavior I could hardly believe when I first heard of it. It sounded like something in a cartoon: tunneling from below, the vole pulls the whole plant underground (“floop!”, my imagination supplies for sound effect), leaving nothing but a hole.

Some other critter is digging up my plants when I use fish emulsion. I like to apply it when I plant, but I come out the next morning and find my new baby removed from the ground and set aside, roots all exposed to the air. The plant was clearly not of interest to the digger, who combed through the soil carefully looking for something else. I replant, and then add big, heavy rocks all around. And try to remember the rocks from the beginning, every time I use that fertilizer.

Skunk? We do smell that odor several times every summer. Raccoon? Both those two eat fish, and dig for food. On the Web, the University of Illinois’ Cooperative extension service says “raccoons peel back four- to twelve-inch-wide sections of turf to feed on the grubs. Skunks tear out divots of turf that are three to six inches in diameter. While a raccoon usually tears out six or fewer sections of turf in an area, a skunk usually makes 30 or more holes.” We definitely get skunk divots.

Yellowjackets used to live in the ground where I built the front walk. Thank goodness they left there, but they still hang around the front of the house: one year in the hollow space between the porch ceiling and its roof, next a cute little wooden house supposed to shelter butterflies ... then last year the wasps dug into a flower bed. When Ward tried to mow the adjacent lawn, they swarmed over him, angrily claiming their territory with repeated stings. (Unlike bees, wasps don’t die when they sting).

Then as I was researching skunks, trying to figure out whether they were the culprits with the fish emulsion, I read they ate wasps. “I wish our skunk would come get this nest,” I said to Ward. Two days later we discovered a big hole in the ground where it had been.


Raccoons and skunks also eat voles. I’m going to try pouring fish emulsion down the vole holes.


Photos by C.H. Clark:
  • The first shows a hole where the day before, there was a third baby Viola labradorica.
  • The second shows the big hole where some critter dug out the wasps' nest.
Text and photos © Copyright 2005 Catherine Holmes Clark

Published in the six Nashoba Publications papers on Friday, 18 June 2004

Next story

For more information
  • Home, Yard and Garden Pest Newslettr No. 17 • August 20, 199 , , pulished b the Cooperative Extnetion Service ant the University
    of illinois at urbana-champaign illinois: "Raccoons peel back four-
    to twelve-inch-wide sections of turf to feed on the
    grubs. Skunks tear out divots of turf that are three to
    six inches in diameter. While a raccoon usually tears
    out six or fewer sections of turf in an area, a skunk
    usually makes 30 or more holes. "
  • Wildlife Problems: "Skunks eat home and farm pests such as mice, rats, moles, aphids, grubs,beetles, yellow jackets, grasshoppers, cutworms, cockroaches, scorpions, black widow spiders, snakes, etc. An estimated 70% of a skunk's diet consists of insects considered harmful to humans."
  • Skunk, by Debra Jensen
  • * Tue, Sep 23, 03 at 15:04 GardenWeb member reported "Bears were sighted last year in the town I grew up in, Lexington, MA"
    * Wed, Oct 22, 03 at 8:04:" I live in Andover, Ma about 20-30 mins from Boston and last week I was chased by 2 coyotes while walking my dog at night"
    fox, fisher cat, moose, deer, wild turkeys
    talking to the voles (deer, woodchucks?).
    staking out my territory (marking with pee?).