Grit Blogs > Life in the Fast Lane

This Means War!

By Andrew Weidman

Tags: Wildlife, Groundhogs, Nuisance Animals, Trap And Release, Andrew Weidman,

We have met the Enemy, and the Enemy is – cute.

We have met the Enemy, and the Enemy is – cute.

Andrew Weidman(Note to tender-hearted readers sympathetic to suburban wildlife: Now might be a good time to pick a different blog post to read.)

If you’ve ever kept a garden, you’ll know we get more than our fair share of unwelcome visitors. Nothing gets my blood boiling faster than seeing what used to be promising tomato transplants mowed flat or nearly ripe sweet corn cobs left hanging in shreds. Worse, there’s never any warning, the damage done seemingly in the blink of an eye.

Gardeners go to great lengths to protect our gardens from marauders, including plans for supposedly deer proof fences and bird proof berry enclosures. Note, I said ‘supposedly.’ Scarecrows, motion activated sprinkler systems, and rescue dogs all make the list, along with bars of deodorant soap, bags of hair, and blank compact discs hung from tree branches. They all work, for a while.

You get the strangest visitors in Suburbia.

You get the strangest visitors in Suburbia.

I’ve ‘hosted’ rabbits, deer, catbirds and turkeys, but my nemesis is, and always will be groundhogs. They’ve climbed my fences and crawled under them. One even dug its burrow inside the garden, hidden beneath a huge Brussels sprout stalk.

Bordered by a Christmas tree farm slowly returning to the earth, my backyard apparently represents the definition of hog heaven, at least for the digging kind, providing lots of grazing, a smorgasbord of fruit and flowers for snacking, and lots of undisturbed territory for cover.

Over the years, they’ve set up shop under the garden shed, gotten themselves locked inside it (well, once, anyway), and have driven the dogs to distraction. The dogs are eager to attack, but when a full-grown hog outweighs the little ankle biters, you can understand our fears.

Meet our Small Animal Rapid Response Team.

Meet our Small Animal Rapid Response Team.

Those bold buggers trundle across the lawn without a care in the world, grazing on clover blossoms, acting like they own the joint. Nothing concerns them, or so it seems. But just let me grab the pellet gun and step out the door, even the front door, and they’ve already gone to ground. It didn’t take long to realize that more extensive methods of detention are required.

The irony of a Havahart trap is not lost on me. Point of note: If you trap an animal, by law you have two choices, release on site and dispatch. You cannot relocate a wild animal. Besides, they come back. Every. Time.

When our paths have crossed, however, more than a few groundhogs had their tickets punched for the other hog heaven, if you follow my drift.

The trouble is as soon as one hog dies, more move in. My dad is fond of saying if you kill one, 10 more come to the funeral – and move in.

The only good hog is a properly taxidermic hog.

The only good hog is a properly taxidermic hog.

I know they’re just doing what they’re designed to do, and that every creature has a right and a drive to live and procreate. But when they strip plantings faster than I can install them, when they ruin a year’s worth of grafting effort in the span of an afternoon, when they snap every branch of my gooseberries in order to strip off the fruit an hour before I can harvest, that’s when I declare war.

My son once told a friend that groundhogs tend to contract high velocity lead poisoning in our backyard. His friend wanted to know what kind of plants we grow. The kind worth protecting, that’s what kind.

6/26/2015 10:12:10 AM

Good morning, Dave, and thank you for the welcome, as well as the encouraging words on the poison ivy article. I can only imagine the cold silences in your house during the 'Ivy Incident." She did finally forgive you, i hope? While deer do make appearances in my yard, I've never had much trouble from them. a fawn did once crash a barbecue, but only to see what my wife was grilling. Another time, I lost some top worked grafts from an apple tree. Surprisingly, I've had more issues from wild turkeys eating my tomato transplants.

6/24/2015 12:16:18 PM

Andrew, yes I have hogs to contend with in my garden area. I too did research and found that they were vegetarians which meant every thing in the garden was food for them. Strangely, they haven't damaged much in my garden. The culprits in my garden are the deer and raccoons. Just a few days ago my newly planted strawberries were growing nice fruit and had just a couple more days before I could harvest some. Yeah, over night, all the strawberries, even the green ones, were eaten and every leaf as well by Bambi and his mother, I expect. The plants will survive but the berry harvest will have to wait until next year when I cover every thing with chicken wire. Since then every day I see fresh deer tracks through out the garden. I'm still working on the six foot wooden fence to keep out the deer. Sweet corn is candy to the marauding raccoons. I'm not sure a wooden fence will keep them out of the garden as they can climb and dig. So I may just have to electrify four feet of chicken wire surrounding the corn patch. Most animals respect electricity. Well, and then there is the wild turkeys. They can fly but I've not really had them bother the actual plants but see evidence of scratching in the mulch to root out the bugs. So I think they are actually a benefit to the garden. ***** Hey, congrats on the published article about poison ivy. Poison ivy never was a problem for me. The first time I came in contact with it, that I know of, was when I was pulling this vine off a tree in my back yard. I'd just bought the house and was trying to clean all the brush out of the back yard. The neighbor kindly informed me from a distance over the fence that I was touching and digging in poison ivy. Since I was almost finished, I figured it was too late and bagged it all up and set it out in the trash. One important thing I didn't do was tell the wife. Since it didn't break out on me, I just thought the neighbor was miss informed until my wife broke out all over her arms and face. Yeah, she came in contact with the poison ivy oil on my clothes when she washed them. When she found out that the neighbor had told me it was poison ivy and I didn't tell her .... well let's just say until the scratching and itching stopped, conversation was a bit dicey. The good news was the ivy didn't come back again. ***** Have a great buffet growing day for the animals and stay away from the ivy.