Belding’s Ground Squirrels, and Richardson Ground Squirrel, sometimes called “sage rats”, “Picket Pins”, “Ground Squirrels”, Gophers,Rockchucks, etc, depending upon location.especially when the young squirrels came out of the dens. Eastern,central,and southern Oregon.
The small animals known as “Sage Rats,” are common in central Oregon, to say the least. In the early spring they practically swarm over the highways in spots, and are a true destructive force in the alfalfa fields. Many recreational hunters visit every year to hunt the wiley sage rat.
Not a true gopher, or a rat either, for that matter, the sage rat is actually a type of ground squirrel that looks like a prairie dog, but smaller. Extermination is big business out here, and Consolidated Pest makes their living off trapping or baiting “agricultural rodents” such as gophers, voles, and Belding’s Ground Squirrels (aka: the Sage Rat).
Local folklore is rife with sage rat accounts, “They’ll get into anything you got and ruin it! Eat the stuffin’s right our of your couch, they will.” Then there’s the horrifying tale of one such beast that broke into a mobile home, tore a nest hole in the bed, ate a bar of soap, and proceeded to vomit on the linens. The common, garden-variety tales involve those whose vegetables have been nipped in the bud. Whether or not the sage rat is truly responsible for every petty theft, every mutilation, and every transgression known to man, at least we can rest assured that there is not a single documented case of anyone being attacked by one in he wild.
Western Burrowing Owls
Western Burrowing Owls nest every summer. They are rat hunters too, but are only eight inches tall. They live at the edges of farmers’ fields where they do not cause any damage. The male owl must have a perch, such as a fence post, to stand on. The perch is an absolute necessity for him to guard his family by day. If you see a small brown owl on a perch, there is an owl family very nearby. Western Burrowing Owls are threatened or endangered over most of their range, and are protected under the Federal Migratory Bird Act
Many sage rats, being the wanton criminals that they are, go out in a hail of gunfire, High season for this sport is definitely spring time, when sage rats are most active.
It is a fact that Belding’s ground squirrels do eat alfalfa plants and roots, damage fields, bury plants, and build mounds that damage swathers and other equipment. They also attract badgers, a natural predator that can cause very major damage to fields. Badgers dig deep and they dig wide.