Saturday, May 30, 2020

Groundhog Day, Part Deux

The last time I tried to trap a groundhog, it didn't work out so well.

We borrowed a friend's humane Havahart trap, baited it with cantaloupe as per Google, and caught absolutely nothing. Except, maybe, the ants on the cantaloupe.

That was last year. Even though we live within the Lexington city limits, a family of groundhogs – a mama and her litter of four – burrowed under our next door neighbor's utility house and promptly mowed through our vegetable garden. I wrote a blog about it.

We hoped winter would solve our problem, but about a month or so ago, there was mama, back from hibernation, with this year's brood of five young'uns.

I was crushed. Kim was crushed. She was hoping to raise a vegetable garden this year, along with sunflowers, but now we had no hope.

I lamented this tale to my other next door neighbor, who let me borrow his Havahart trap. I baited it with cantaloupe and, again, caught absolutely nothing.

I was getting discouraged. I let the trap go unattended for a few days, and then, for some inexplicable reason, I reset the trap without baiting it.

There's finally a groundhog in my trap. Cute, isn't it?
 The next morning, I had to release the squirrel I caught. I reset the trap, again without bait, and an hour later, I had to release the squirrel I caught. I don't know if it was the same squirrel I caught the first time or not, but I was starting to feel, umm, lucky, maybe? At least I was catching critters now.

I set the trap once more, still going with cantaloupe.

The next morning, lo and behold, the trap had sprung. But no groundhog. I'd caught an opossum.

For crying out loud. What next, the neighborhood cat?

That evening, Kim was making our lunch salads for the next day, and just on a whim, I took an apple core and some celery clippings from the salad prep and put them in the trap.

The next morning, there was a groundhog in the trap, a young'un, looking up at me with pitiful eyes. Yes! Success. My very first groundhog.

But now I had the problem of disposal. Sometimes I don't always think these things through.

Harold checks out his new home.*
 So I went knocking on neighborhood doors. I came upon Amy Dillard and asked if her husband, Shawn, was around. I told her my story about the groundhog, and wondered if he could help me take him somewhere.

I just missed him, she said, but wait a minute, she'll call around and see if she could find somebody who could take a groundhog.

The next thing I knew, I was riding in the Dillard's pickup truck, heading to Rockcrusher Road.

"I called my ex-husband," said Amy. "He lives down by the quarry. He said he'll take it."

OK. I know what you're thinking. I thought it, too, squirming, as I was in the passenger seat, maintaining a decent social distance from Amy. For one brief moment, it came to me in a blinding flash: I was riding in a pickup truck with my neighbor's wife, driving to her ex-husband's house out in the sticks, with a groundhog in tow, in the middle of a pandemic. You can't make this stuff up. It's not how I usually roll.

But we finally got to Robbie Mallard's place, a heavily wooded area quite suitable for groundhogs, as well as squirrels, deer, possums, and, if need be, pterodactyls.

Robbie greeted us with a smile and took the trap. He promptly named the groundhog Harold, which suddenly made everything a little more personal. We walked down to a creek, where he opened the cage. Harold didn't budge, even with freedom beckoning. I think Harold probably was petrified by all the humans peering at him.

His hesitation didn't last long. He finally edged his way out of the trap and slowly explored his new environment. We gave him a quiet cheer.

Amy drove me home, both of us feeling pretty good about the moment.

Then, today, I looked out my window. There, in my neighbor's yard, was another groundhog. I figure it's Harold's sibling.


Bill Murray found himself in a pickup truck with a groundhog, too.

*Photo by Robbie Mallard

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