Advice for the Home Gardener from the Contra Costa Master Gardeners Help Desk
Client's Question and Concerns:
I'm trying to control gophers and squirrels on my property. I am worried that owls might harm my cat. Could you please let me know if this is cause for worry? If not, could you please send me some information.
CCMG Help Desk Response:
Rodents, especially voles, rats and gophers, are barn owls' favorite foods. They do a pretty good job of reducing the population of these unwanted pests. Barn owls are cavity nesters and will nest in artificial boxes. They are fairly tolerant of human activity and will nest quite close to houses, making them ideal predators for the rodents that plague our gardens. Barn owls are mostly white or light tan; their call is a loud screech.
Great horned owls do not use nest boxes, preferring large open nests. They, too, eat rodents, but will also take larger animals such as skunks. Great horned owls are larger than barn owls and are brown; their call is the stereotypicalHoo-h'HOO-hoo-hoo. Here is a link to the Hungry Owl Project in Marin County where you will find lots of information about owls: http://www.hungryowl.org/
To protect your cat, it's really best to keep it indoors, especially at night. There are lots of dangers outside besides great horned owls. Here's a link to American Bird Conservancy's Cats Indoors program that will give you lots of information about how to make an outdoor cat a happy indoor cat: http://www.abcbirds.org/abcprograms/policy/cats/index.html
Gophers are a common problem for many of us in Contra Costa. These burrowing animals eat plants, sometimes causing a great deal of damage. Here's a link to information about controlling gophers: http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7433.html
Not knowing if your squirrel problems are from tree or ground squirrels, I'm including links for information about controlling both species:
tree squirrels: http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn74122.html and
ground squirrels: http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7438.html
Please don't hesitate to let us know if you have further questions.
Contra Costa Master Gardeners Help Desk
Note: The Contra Costa Master Gardener Help Desk is available year-round to answer your gardening questions. Except for a few holidays, we're open every week, Monday through Thursday for walk-ins from 9:00 am to Noon at 75 Santa Barbara Road, 2d Floor, Pleasant Hill, CA 94523. We can also be reached via telephone: (925) 646-6586, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, and on the web at http://ccmg.ucanr.edu/Ask_Us/