Thursday, August 20, 2009


For the past couple of weeks I’ve been admiring a large flock of Canada geese that have taken up residence at a house near mine. The place is a mini-farm with a pasture and a pond, so it’s an ideal stop for migrating waterfowl. I haven’t noticed it attracting many birds in the past, but this year it’s goose central. There are always at least three dozen geese strutting around the property when I drive by in the morning. Occasionally they go for a group nibble on the grass across the road, forcing drivers to slow down and edge through the crowd. The folks who own the house seem to be the tolerant type. I haven’t seen any sign of them trying to evict the birds—but as it turns out, they didn’t need to. I drove by yesterday morning on my way to the park, and there was not a goose in sight, nor any sign that they’d been there. Same story today. Apparently, the anserine rapture arrived.

The absence of the geese made me feel a little sad, so I was happy to encounter a woodchuck when I got to the park. I love woodchucks. This one was standing up in a grassy area near a picnic shelter. He let me get within about 30 feet of him, then he turned around and ran toward the trees in that loping, faster-than-you’d-expect woodchuck way. He came to a narrow sidewalk beside the shelter and abruptly disappeared—just vanished, like Alice down the rabbit hole.

Woodchucks are burrowers, but they like to make their homes in sheltered places, usually along the tree line. I couldn’t believe this one had dug his hole right out in the open. When I got to the spot where he disappeared, I couldn’t even see a hole. I hunted a while and finally discovered a tiny opening under the sidewalk, clearly a rodent excavation. It seemed way too small for a fat woodchuck, but he had to be in there. I peeked inside carefully (woodchucks bite!), but it was too dark to see him, and he didn’t stir. I marveled at his brilliance. A concrete bunker might lack the charm of a burrow under the trees, but no coyote or bobcat will ever successfully invade his space.

As I type this, I can see “my” woodchuck rooting around under the bird feeders in the back yard. I worry about her safety, but I doubt she’d make use of a concrete bunker if I provided it. I suspect it’s hard to impose innovation on a woodchuck.

Groundhog photo by EIC from Wikimedia Commons.


jmcleod76 said...

"... anserine rapture ..." Ha! Guess none of them got "Left Behind," though.

There's a woodchuck living under my garage. She's been there since spring , at least. We were going to trap her a few months ago, when we notices that she had babies - six of them! - and decided to let her raise her family in peace. The "kids" are now gone, and we have an open invitation to borrow a friends Havahart trap, but I haven't bothered to pick it up. The wife thinks I'm loopy, but I like the ol' gal. She's destructive as all f**k, chewing and ripping slats out of our fence, but there's just something about her presence I enjoy. Often, in the morning, I'll be sitting on my back porch, waiting for the dogs to do their business, and she'll be over next to the garage, safely on the other side of the fence from the dogs, sitting on her "front porch" (one of the railroad ties that demarcate my flower beds). I'll look at her. She'll look at me. We sit less than 20 feet apart, but she never seems bothered in the least, unless the dogs catch her smell and start barking. Even then, she scurries back out from her hole as soon as they quiet down. She's got chutzpa, that one. Maybe that's what I admire about her.

BitterGrace said...

I say give that woodchuck a name and declare her an official resident. Woodchucks are good company, even if they do tear stuff up and demolish gardens. I'd take care to avoid any contact between the woodchuck and your pups, though. My mother had an oversized golden retriever who tangled with a woodchuck. The woodchuck lost (RIP), but the golden retriever sustained serious damage. Those rodents do have chutzpah.

chayaruchama said...

I say, let 'em do what they
must ;-)

Love these critters and their personalities ; if we exterminated everyone and everything which troubled us-

BitterGrace said...

Ha! So right, Chaya--worthy of Pema Chodron.

jmcleod76 said...

For the record, there was never a question of exterminating our dear guest. No no no. Just relocating her. Had we wanted a "final groundhog solution," the fact of her plentiful progeny's existence would not have been an issue. They would have been fair game, too. We live in the city - not really the best place for a groundhog - and there are vast swathes of lush country not far from us with lots of room for her, and however many kits she has next spring, to roam.

BitterGrace said...

Oh, trust me, J, I never for a moment thought you were planning to snuff Ms. Woodchuck. You're probably right that she'd be safer away from the city--although you might have trouble convincing her of that!If you decide to go the trap route, be careful.