By Audra Brown
Plowing, planting, branding, weaning, harvesting, herding. Agriculture keeps you plenty busy, but you might not believe how much time is spent on pest control.
Fact is, there’s never enough time for this particular duty. It’s almost as never-ending as building fence.
On the lower end of the size-spectrum and the upper end of the priority list, are the bugs. Insects and worms, larval and mature; bite-sized varmints are responsible for many a lost crop.
One uncontrolled hatch of army worms can turn a fine, green, growing wheat field into a dead, worthless patch of dirt. And the only thing that will do a thing about it is a timely application of pesticide.
But there are other, bigger, not so easy to handle pests that plague us. I tend to call ’em varmints.
Now, there is some confusion as to the terminology of what constitutes a varmint as opposed to say, a critter. In my lexicon, a varmint is any sort of critter that consistently causes harm to crops or livestock.
Examples of varmints include: coyotes, rattlesnakes, mountain lions, prairie dogs, feral swine, certain avian species, and anything else that might do damage (porcupines will have to get their own write-up, not enough time today.)
Predators like coyotes and lions will kill cattle if you let ’em and one dead calf is like somebody eating a month of paychecks. Rattlers are the same, if deadly in a different manner.
Prairie dogs are little evil lawnmowers that cut down any vegetation for several yards around each hole until there is nothing left alive. They kill grass, crops, everything around them. They can turn a field or a pasture into useless dirt almost as fast as a wildfire — but at least with a fire, it’ll grow back.
Feral swine are not always a problem in these parts, but when they get a foothold, they are a terrible pest. They are not only dangerous to people and animals, they will root around and dig up crops.
There are other varmints around and the one thing they have in common is that getting rid of one makes us and our food safer.
Audra Brown knows one when she sees one. Contact her at: