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Interactive kiosk helps the public deal with ground squirrels

The Issue

California ground squirrels are found in most areas of the state. They become pests in agriculture when they feed on crops and damage vines and trees. In home gardens and other landscape areas, their feeding and burrowing can be very destructive. Ground squirrels have been implicated in levee failures and they damage conventional irrigation systems. In rangeland areas, they can be carriers of plague, a deadly disease transmitted from squirrels to humans by flea bites. Dealing with this pest can be very challenging. Many of the methods used can have unintended harmful consequences to pets, other wildlife and the environment. Science-based information about controlling ground squirrel damage is essential, but unfortunately not always available to people who need it.

What Has ANR Done?

Researchers at UC Cooperative Extension in San Diego County developed the Ground Squirrel Control Interactive Kiosk. This touch-screen stand-alone system incorporates images, videos and text to provide growers, homeowners and others comprehensive information on ground squirrels and their control. The kiosk has an application that allows users to determine the most appropriate squirrel control efforts for their individual location and specific needs. The kiosk includes information on potential environmental impacts and risks associated with control methods. Finally, the kiosk allows users to test their knowledge about dealing with ground squirrel pests. If the test taker gets a answer wrong, the kiosk automatically provides the correct information. In this way, the test reinforces the kiosk message.

The Payoff

Users learn benefits and environmental risks of controlling squirrels

The kiosk has been tested in four California counties. Users have been universally positive about this new learning system. Since the kiosks are in offices where the public goes to get information on dealing with ground squirrel pests, they reduce staff time needed for responding to questions. The kiosk permits users to access whatever depth of information they desire. It leads to safe, effective and environmentally sound ground squirrel pest control in California agriculture, landscaped areas and home gardens. Successful education of private users, growers and the public will reduce the potential for misuse of rodenticides that could have harmful consequences to the environment. UCCE plans to expand the program to more counties and to include more rodent pests.


Terrell P. Salmon, (858) 694-2864

Peter D. Newman, (858) 694-2190