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