The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

October 20, 2013

Squirrels, walnuts drive fall problems

Nuts, squirrels an autumn plague



His advice to others who have been used as substitute tree trunks by squirrels: “Just let them.”

Francis was bit in the finger when he’s tried to unattach a squirrel — its sharp teeth cut through the heavy leather glove he was wearing. Francis, the owner of Falls Creek Animal and Pest Control, advocates removing the animals by using a live trap attached to the holes they create. Squirrels are captured as they exit a building, then relocated.

“I take them about 10 miles away — it has to be at least 8 miles as the crow flies,” Francis said.

Squirrels will make heroic efforts to come back to their nesting site and the black walnuts they've been saving for the winter months.

The little animals will collect bushels of nuts each fall and they are creative in finding places to put them. Francis told of a family whose brand-new RV was used as a squirrel storage bin.

“A little red one filled its air conditioner unit with nuts. There were buckets full.”

Francis gets more inquires about walnut tree removals than about where to buy or sell the nuts.

“Beginning gardeners soon see the direct results of planting too close to juglone,” Struck said, using the scientific name for walnut trees.

The roots of a black walnut tree release a substance into the soil that can stunt the growth of nearby plants. The toxin spreads about 50 feet from the tree’s base, he said.

“Tomato plants and apple trees shouldn’t be planted anywhere near.”

Struck has a list of plants that are not affected by the toxins. “More things can live by them than can’t. Mums, bleeding hearts, lilacs are fine near walnut trees,” he said.

"Some nurseries that specialize in native-type plants do sell black walnut trees," Struck said. Minnesota Extension Service considers Juglans nigra — the specific name of the black walnut — the hardiest of Minnesota’s walnut varieties.

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