Letter: Be kind to ground squirrels | AspenTimes.com

Letter: Be kind to ground squirrels

If you Google “ground squirrels,” it will take some time to wade through the available methods of killing them and the companies that are only too glad to carry it out for a rather large fee. You can drown them, choke them with mud or, as took place on a grand scale north of the Intercept Lot Friday, shoot them. I guess the law of the Wild West persists: If it gets in your way, kill it. But the only crime ground squirrels commit is being plentiful at this time of year, their breeding season. By the middle of August, they will have retreated below ground for their lengthy eight-month hibernation.

Ground squirrels, as I was told by our friends at the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, are considered a keystone species that greatly benefits the soil ecosystem by aerating the soil. Fertile lands that result from their burrowing are referred to as ground squirrel meadows. In addition, the tunnels they build funnel rainwater down toward the water table, thus contributing to water conservation (something the Californian farmers are beginning to appreciate during their drought). Contrary to popular myth, ground squirrels at this elevation to do not carry the fleas that spread bubonic plague. So, what harm are they doing? Does their tunneling offend your horticultural aesthetic? Then get a new aesthetic. And the next time one of those meadows takes your breath away, thank the ground squirrels.

Claire McDougall

Woody Creek

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