Return of the Dakrats Published April 7, 2009 By Vicki Johnson 5th Civil Engineer Squadron MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- Newcomers to the base often are delighted by the cute little critters, affectionately known as "Dakrats", they find popping up in their yards as spring approaches. For those who have lived here a little longer, the delight has faded and the critters are no longer welcome. Dakrats, also known as gophers, prairie dogs and several names not suitable for print are actually Richardson's ground squirrels. They are capable of reproducing at high rates to meet the demands of a mostly defenseless animal in a world full of predators. Trouble is, there are very few predators in the housing area. For this reason, a few ground squirrels in the backyard in April will turn into dozens by June and create a major pest problem. Large numbers of ground squirrels cause damage to turf and underground utilities through their extensive digging. They rarely eat trees, but can damage trees when their tunnels cut through the roots. Open holes create a tripping hazard. Ground squirrels eat a wide variety of foods, but seem to prefer carefully tended vegetable and flower gardens. Do not try to use poisons to control the problem. No poisons are marketed to housing residents that will control ground squirrels. Using poisons labeled for moles or gophers can lead to accidental poisoning and create a hazard for children, pets and birds. Use of these products to control ground squirrels is also a violation of federal law. For more information or to report problems with ground squirrels, contact the Pest Management shop at 723-2393.