blooded creatures such as insects and
spider mites tend to come to
mind when discussing pests of the landscape or garden.
However, there are plenty of mammals that cause problems to
our plants. A few animals get blamed for damage that they do
According to Rollin M. Baker's book,
Michigan Mammals, most of
the common mammal pests belong to the Order Rodentia.
Common rodents include
chipmunks, mice, voles and woodchucks. They eat primarily
plant matter. Insectivores are mammals that eat insects and
include shrews and moles.
Rabbits fall in the Order
Lagomorpha which separates them
from the rodents. The striped skunk is a relative of the
The squirrel group includes several related
critters. Fox squirrels are the most common and are larger
than their cousins the red squirrels. In the garden, red
squirrels are the ones that chew the bark off trees such as
sugar maples in order to feed on the sap. Fox squirrels bury
their food in the ground while red squirrels hide theirs in a
cache somewhere. If their supplies are stashed in the attic of
a house and their entrance hole is blocked off, red squirrels
will cause considerable damage forcing their way back in to
get to their food.
The chipmunk and ground squirrels are also
part of this group. They are both primarily
ground dwellers and will dig holes and tunnels in the soil
and walkways. Chipmunks are small and have 3
dark stripes on their backs. The thirteen lined ground
squirrel is larger and has 13 alternating light and dark
stripes on its body.
Shrews are the world's smallest mammals.
They are often mistaken for young mice but are actually easy
to distinguish. Shrews have short, dense fur, long pointed
noses and sharp, pointed teeth that differ from the
chisel-like teeth of mice. Also, the opening for the shrews'
ears is often concealed by the fur.
Ounce for ounce, shrews may be the most
fearless, aggressive animals on earth. They will attack
snakes, birds and mice many times their size. It is believed
that they also feed on baby moles which may help keep these
pests in control. Overall, these are very beneficial creatures
and should not be needlessly destroyed.
are another insectivore that cause homeowners, golf courses
and others a lot of concern. The Eastern mole and the star
nosed mole are the two species commonly found in this area.
The Eastern mole leaves a trail of tunnels which may be
clearly seen from the surface. The starnose mole tunnels
deeper in the ground and leaves small mounds of soil at the
surface to indicate their activity. These mounds are excess
soil that they bring to the surface and are not entrance
Moles are much larger than shrews and the
distinguishing characteristics include their stout,
cylindrical body covered with short, velvety fur, pointed,
hairless nose, flesh colored tail and huge, spade-like
forefeet which turn away from their bodies. Since they spend
almost all their life below ground, their eyes are poorly
developed and ears are not readily apparent. The starnosed
mole has 22 fleshy, finger-like projections coming from its
Many people think that moles eat only white
grubs. In truth, they eat all types of insects and about half
of their diet consists of earth worms. They eat very little,
if any, vegetative matter and cause most damage by exposing
the roots of plants to the air as they tunnel below.
The meadow vole falls into the same family
as mice and rats but its rounded body, partly
concealed ears, absence of a conspicuous neck and short tail
distinguish it from the others. This is the creature primarily
responsible for tunnels formed in the grass above ground. Once
they are built, other critters such as field mice and house
mice will move in and use the tunnels too.
Meadow voles and field mice are often
responsible for damage to fruit trees by chewing at the bark
during the winter. This usually occurs under the cover of snow
weeds or grass are allowed to grow tall around the
base of trees. Both critters love this type of habitat.
The largest of these pests is the
The average adult's body is about 18 inches long followed by a
tail 4 to 5 inches in length. They weigh between 5 and 12
pounds and, although they generally feed on the ground, they
are good climbers and may be seen in trees or on split rail
fences sunning themselves.
live in dens in the ground which may have as many as 5
different openings. One or more of the openings will be in the
open and appear to be well-used but there will be others that
are hidden nearby for fast retreats.
Unlike the Eastern chipmunk which stores
nuts and seeds for winter feeding, the woodchuck relies solely
on body fat to survive the winter. They nod off into
hibernation in late fall and awaken again in the spring.
Reproduction occurs in mid to late April
with the average litter being 3 to 5 young. If woodchucks
become pests, it is better to control them prior to the
addition of the young who will eventually want to establish
burrows of their own in the area.
woodchuck may be the largest pest in
this group but the striped
skunk is undoubtedly the smelliest!
They can also be one of the most destructive when they make a
midnight raid on the backyard in search of grubs. The result
looks as if a group of extremely bad golfers had practiced all
night without replacing a single divot. Fortunately, if the
turf is laid back down in contact with the soil, most of it
will grow back.