Monitoring Vertebrates—Spring

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  • Ground squirrels
  • Pocket gophers
  • Voles

The most common vertebrate pests in alfalfa are pocket gophers, voles, and ground squirrels.

  • Look for fresh pocket gopher mounds each time the field is mowed.
  • Watch field edges for ground squirrel burrows and damage about once a month.
  • Identify vole trails and burrows and damage in late winter when the fields are dormant.
  • Record your monitoring results on a map of the field.

Names link to more information on identification and management.

Click on photos to enlarge
California ground squirrel.
Ground squirrels

Identification tip: Head and body 9 to 11 inches long with mottled dark and light brown or gray fur with a somewhat bushy tail about as long as its body.

Ground squirrel mounds
Ground squirrels (damage)

Identification tip: Look for large mounds of dirt piled over alfalfa plants.

Adult pocket gopher, Thomomys sp.
Pocket gopher

Identification tip: 6 to 8 inches long. Brown, gray, or yellowish with large clawed front paws, small ears and eyes and a short, scantily haired tail.

Pocket gopher mounds
Pocket gopher (damage)

Identification tip: Pocket gopher mounds are generally fan-shaped and have a plugged opening.

Vole (meadow mouse).

Identification tip: Stocky rodent about 4–6 inches full grown with blunt-nose, small ears and eyes, short legs and tail, and course dark gray or grayish brown fur.

Meadow mouse runways connect numerous shallow burrows.
Voles (damage)

Identification tip: Look for aboveground runways that connect the openings of shallow burrows.

For more Information, see Irrigated Alfalfa Management.

Statewide IPM Program, Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California
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