Good Fruit Grower

April 15

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Growers rapturous over rodent control Barn owl boxes really do work. Photo b ourtesy of northwest wildlife consultants by Melissa Hansen Wildlife biologist Tim Pitz holds an adult golden eagle that was captured as part of a telemetry study. The study outfitted raptors with backpack transmitters to track their hunting, movement, and migration. E fforts in the last few years to bring raptors into Oregon tree fruit orchards are paying off. Growers using perches and nesting boxes are reporting better control of their rodent populations, fewer damaged trees, and less need to use other tactics, like trapping. Gabe Dahle of Dahle Orchards, who grows cherries with his father, Tim, in The Dalles, Oregon, said that years ago, they were losing so many young cherry trees to gophers that they began a very strict scouting and control program. "We'd scout for gophers several times a year, and if we found any evidence of activity, we'd go in the area in full force, using bait, the Rodenator blasting device, and other means. We were spending at least $50 an acre on rodent control." But since putting up about 50 barn owl and kestrel nesting boxes, they've seen a marked decline in their rodent populations. Cherry grower Steve Sugg shares a similar story. His orchard, located south of The Dalles and surrounded by wheat fields, had a migrant gopher and vole population coming into the orchard from the neighboring wheat —Gabe Dahle fields. "When I planted, I didn't take into consideration that I'd have so many gophers coming across the fence into the orchard," he said. "At first, I couldn't stay on top of the gopher damage." Sugg installed about 40 owl and kestrel nesting boxes across 300 acres during the last three years and says his gopher population is way down. His rodent control program involves encouraging raptor predators, and he uses the Verminator, a burrow building-machine manufactured by the Inventive Products in Mountain Home, Idaho. "I hardly do any hand baiting or trapping anymore." With five barn owl boxes installed in her cherry orchard, Deb Morgan says she knows barn owls are working because she sees hundreds of owl pellets underneath boxes and along a 20-foot-high dirt bank "Even if only five are filled, that's five families getting 3,000 gophers each." THE SPIDER POLE Cherry Thinner TM TM N NO MORE L S! Call Foothi l Today ls ! 32 April 15, 2013 GOOD FRUIT GROWER

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