Barn Owls
Submitted by Chris Pedemonte
 
We at Colinas Farming Company recognize that to be successful in preventing or limiting rodent damage, particularly gopher damage, we have to be as tenacious as the gophers. There is no single best method to keep the critters in check.
  
Rather, a multi-pronged effort that is consistent and timely is the only path to success. In keeping with our sustainable farming philosophy of limiting the use of pesticides and rodenticides we at Colinas Farming Company, employ a combination of timed trapping and the use of natural predation from raptors: in this case, barn owls. Throughout most of the vineyards we manage, we have established owl boxes to encourage owls to inhabit the vineyards and act as natural predators of the various rodents, thereby keeping them in check. In addition to the bio-control effects of owls, we employ trapping as a method of control. In those areas of the vineyard or as a method of control. In those areas of the vineyard or olive orchards where gophers are not adequately controlled we will start trapping in the early spring, hopefully before they start to breed, in an effort to reduce their fecundity. These two techniques of predation and trapping are especially important where we have permanent cover crops. While the cover crops provide a cultural benefit to the vineyard, they also provide good habitat for gophers and mice.

As in all things in nature, there should be a balance. We recognize that the gopher and field mice are an integral part of the food chain and that they provide a food source to owls and various other predators. It is not our intention to bring the populations down to zero, but rather to maintain a healthy balance – an equilibrium- between sustainable agriculture and manageable population of all naturally occurring animals in the various habitats within and around the vineyards.