U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Date of this Version



Proc. 25th Vertebr. Pest Conf. (R. M. Timm, Ed.) Published at Univ. of Calif., Davis. 2012. Pp. 208-212.


U.S. government work.


Many rodent species are effective burrowers. In North America, these include species of ground squirrels, prairie dogs, marmots, and pocket gophers. The burrow systems of other species of rodents such as voles and mice are less elaborate and pose less potential for direct damage. Burrowing abilities, coupled with other characteristics (e.g., prolific, adaptable, ever-growing incisors for gnawing), can result in many types and amounts of impacts to human resources and ecosystems. Damage occurs to levees, roadbeds, buried pipes and cables, intrusion to sensitive areas (such as military sites, capped hazardous waste burial sites), vegetation effects, effects on water infiltration/runoff, and soil erosion. We describe burrow systems of select rodent species of North America and then put them in the context of potential impacts and damage reduction methods. Population reduction with rodenticides and traps are common methods of damage reduction. Non-lethal approaches such as barriers are another method of damage reduction, but these pose many challenges such as effectiveness, durability, and cost. Additional research is needed to better understand rodent burrow systems, impacts of burrow systems, and to improve effectiveness of damage reduction methods. We propose investigations of physical barriers that are effective and economical, and note that a thorough understanding of rodent burrow systems and activities is a prerequisite to the development of effective barriers.

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