The best thought requires conversation, and I have found that the best ideas
often come from the promptings of virtual irrelevancies on the mind, not
from tight discipline at a town meeting. And it does not help for another
person to slag those who express ideas as never having done anything
practical. Otherwise others in turn will get into the same rut and damn
practical people for being poor thinkers.
I have some thoughts on the mice; pardon if I mention things you know well,
I'm trying to be thorough.
I do not have problems with deer, but I do have some problems with mice and
with a deer equivalent, wallabies - not to mention the fruit competition
from parrots and bower birds. And I used to have a major problem with
neighbour's cows. And briefly in the eighties I was stupid enough to have
goats and fruit trees on one property. What I do not have is a problem of
spring emergence from a snowbound winter.
I take it that the problem is on the annual regular scale, rather than the
sort of mad breeding in odd weather/crop circumstances that saw millions and
millions of mice marauding south eastern Australia in the early nineties,
driving cows and people insane, and to which governments responded with
air-dropped poisoned wheat, which may or may not have been the reason why
the plague fell away. It is also not clear whether you are trying to do
something new in your region, in terms of the orcharding or particular fruit
tree types. Here we might try traps with food lures for mice, from which the
mice fall where they cannot escape. It may be still too cold in Ontario to
have them fall into water, on which I imagine even mice might walk at this
time of year at night up your way, but a barrel with slippery inescapable
sides might be otherwise contrived below a food lure on a pirates' plank.
Is this a brief annual mouse problem of predator numbers rising a bit too
slowly in spring, or is there a serious lack of predators? Longer term, do
you need to provide more accommodation for raptores, etc? Are there local
ornithologists to advise you? What allows the mice to breed up before other
feed is sufficient?
My mouse problem is modest/non-existent in the orchard, control of which I
share with the pretty and shy red bellied black snake and the occasional
glamorous python (but I do try to remove death adders (which wait for you as
quietly as a cow pat) and tiger snakes (which can jump at you from 10ft)).
Kookaburras (large kingfisher) are wonderful, and have been known to ride
bulldozer blades going to the hunt.
Shed problems (electric insulation attracts the protected marsupial mice
too) require good building closure, building away from forest, trapping.
Poisoned rodents must not be able to escape to where they can be eaten, as I
am sure you appreciate. Do you have snakes in your area that deal with mice?
Are mice breeding up on stored or spilled grain, heading out across country
in early spring? Keep a python in the shed? Blame neighbouring grain farms,
The deer-taking-new-growth is much like the wallaby (small kangaroo) problem
we have, but it is interesting that both birds and wallabies are selective
about what they take, and favour, notably, plum over peach or nectarine,
pear ahead of apple. My approach is to allow to some extent, the survivors
to select themselves: e.g. early on, apricots made their own decision to
turn up their heals in the local micro-climate. Some apples do much better
than others, similarly. I don't try hard to protect the plums from having
their shoots taken; they have to hack it or go. The pears have gotten above
the wallaby reach, for the most part. Do the deer discriminate, or is their
damage wholesale? Where that kind of problem exists here (cattle, goats on
the loose), the answer is either adequate fencing (and I have found fat
white [for horses] electric tape useful - yellow may do better with snow on
the ground*) culling or removal of the pest. That I can't do with the
wallabies, nor are they easy to fence out. I have established some good
pasture for them away from the orchard, in an open reserve giving them
access also to the creek. Also a dog helps, but you need to be there at the
right time with the right dog. Piddle (human, dog) on the trees may or may
deter deer, but it's cheap to try, and may help the trees, if not put on the
young leaves themselves. Put a little in a milk bottle each night; maybe you
could make a sub-snow piddle cache over winter - think of that bottle
To get really depressed about deer in spring (among other things) read John
Updike's 'Towards the End of Time'.
Bodalla NSW Australia
*FENCING:: I have had a flood problem which has made it unwise to have heavy
fence around the orchard. If deer are bad, a strong piece of galvanised
wire, snagging logs going through the orchard, is worse. I use fibreglass
posts, with multiple strands of tape attached to one post, and attached with
a breakaway tie at the next post. This system may work if you are needing to
put out fence quickly and have to adjust to snow levels, new plantings, etc.
It won't stop a charging animal, but what will. The 'breakaway' connection
is made by having a curtain ring - the cheap kind like a simple key-ring -
attached to the post and tape, so that the loose end from the next post is
looped to go through the double part of the curtain ring, being held with a
small piece of stick. You can get a reasonable strain by using trees at
corners to brace such a system. You have to wire the thing so that the bit
that falls to the ground is not live.
(Maybe a device detecting a fence break, or sudden earthing, could let out a
bark or some other deterrent sound.)
Where neighbours with fancy fences have lost the lot in big floods, I have
put mine back together, 400 metres all broken through, in an hour or so.
Same system might be helpful in snow areas. With a fence like that you can
run it through the orchard too, not just around it, to make life difficult
for intruders. It must be very visible and identifiable and you need to
check it daily. If your orchard is small, you could use a product sold here
but imported, I think, from the USA, called Electranet, which is 50 metres
long and 1.8 metres high multiple strand electric fence, easily moved, with
tread-in posts, which is primarily used here to keep chickens safe from
foxes and dingoes, and does that well. Can you run poultry in the orchard,
or is it still too cold for that? They might reduce the cover for mice and
get some of them, if allowed to forage in the litter during the day. They
might also attract raptores.
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