THE WHISTLEPIG AND THE PEAR

in #homestead2 years ago (edited)

Groundhogs. Woodchucks. Whistlepigs. UGH. Need I say more? Well, I will.


A few falls ago I remember seeing a beaver walking around on it's hind legs in the orchard nearest the creek. That was the best way I could describe it. Walking upright from apple to apple, cleaning up their litter on the ground. At the time I had no idea what a groundhog was.


Two springs ago I saw a really large silhouette of an animal that had burrowed up into the window well of the basement. Again, standing upright, looking around at the sky. I still was not sure what it was because the window was dirty and I'd never seen this type of animal before.


Last fall I saw it stuffing its face with dropped pears. Not long after, it walked down the steps to the patio where I was sitting. We were both surprised. It scurried away quickly. I went straight to facecrack and dr goggle where it was promptly identified as a woodchuck. Disappointment swept over me. How on earth were we going to get rid of it. I'd read a lot about it and learned there wasn't any very effective long term strategy other than to trap and kill or trap and release it. Neither of which I was prepared or wanting to do.


This spring I once again saw it. This time it emerged from an old makeshift chicken door on the side of one of our barns. That little booger thought that door was made especially for it. Come to find later on that a huge mound, most likely its den, was inside that barn under a pile of rubble we've been saving to one day recycle into something useful. So, we called out an exterminator to do the catch and release for us. They set the trap and added an apple.


There are actually two doors for animals to enter this barn. Of course, with a groundhog, there wouldn't even need to be doors. That there are entryways are added amenities. This used to be a dog door. Probably for a chicken guard dog. I saw this groundhog standing in each of the animal doors. This is the one closest to the den. (Yes, I understand it's important to take care of it, but we don't have the means to do it ourselves at this time. I'm hoping by the spring we can nip it in the bud for good).


When the company came to set the trap, nothing tripped it for 2 weeks. They did not give us much instruction about it as far as closing the trap at night to keep other animals from going in the trap. You see, we own a meager amount of acreage in a fairly rural area. We have wildlife galore.


Since we did not trap the groundhog and there was a large raccoon raiding the itty bitty garden we'd planted, I asked if they'd trap it instead. The trash panda was caught and relocated. It got pretty tangled in the blanket. They didn't tell me until after it was caught that covering with the blanket wasn't a smart idea. There were a lot of things they didn't tell me.


One day I was called into the barn when a dead animal's remains were found beside the mower. It was crazy how fast this animal decomposed. While we don't go in that barn daily, it hadn't been more than 2 weeks. Come to think of it, the day the company first set the trap beside that doggie door, after being shown the den.


This animal was only about 5 feet away from the entrance to it. Could it be? Surely not?! Why, yes it was. After looking closely at it, the distinctive teeth made it a positive ID of the groundhog. It must have perished very soon after that trap was initially set. I asked the company if they put out any poison or anything. They said they did not. I don't know if I believe them, but that was their answer. They chalked it up to a predator. Seemed like a crazy coincidence.


Something we were leary about was the fact that it was pretty late in the year to be trapping groundhogs. We had our fingers crossed that there was not a family of them since the birthing period was underway. Throughout the Summer there was no indication. That is until a couple of weeks ago. At first I thought it was rabbits or raccoon going after the fresh leaves in our fall garden.


There were red tomatoes eaten in the volunteer compost bins. One of the butternut squash had some distinct bite marks but I blew it off as a raccoon because that groundhog had died, right? One day I saw it rummaging in that area and quickly chased after it. It crawled away as if a soldier in boot-camp. All I saw were flashes of greying brown fur. I thought it was a raccoon. It got away so fast I didn't get a really good look at it other than it went straight for that doggie door.


Today I was surveying the yard after our first hard frost happened a few days ago. Low and behold, that groundhog has been having a good old time chewing up the roots of one of our two mature pear trees. This is one side of the trunk. Notice the mushrooms starting to grow on a previously cut branch. That's not a good sign. Mushrooms don't grow on live wood.


Here is the other side of the trunk.


Walking about 15 feet away from the pear tree, into the field where the exterminators insisted the mounds were of gophers, not of a groundhog, was yet another mound. This one was fresh, albeit compacted in after the 2 days of rain we just had. The foot prints are telling that it's not a gopher or mole. This is probably an escape hole of the groundhog. This particular spot is midway between the pear tree and a previously cut down full sized but dying pecan tree that is overgrown. Likely where their nest was originally.


We are going to have a heck of a time getting rid of this groundhog. We don't have the finances to bury and construct a fence along the whole property. It's not legal to catch and release these in my county. It is legal to kill them but that's cruel. We have buried utilities and septic in the vicinity of where these tunnels have to be. Newly planted fruit and nut trees. Ugh. Between the insane weather, bugs, and fungal diseases plaguing our property, the vermin are the cherries on top of the bitter pie. Homesteading isn't easy. It's certainly not free from stress, either. Don't let the fairy tales fool you.


Additionally, I believe this is opossum holes. They eat grubs and worms that are in the soil. There are hole alllllll over the yard. One to two inches deep. Eating all of our earthworms. Sigh. I don't really care about the 'possums much because they aren't as destructive as groundhogs. But, I'm not thrilled, either.



The end of the growing year and I'm feeling quite disenchanted, if you can't tell. BUMMER. Well, I guess I'll post another post next week …Please consider upvoting, resteeming, following, and commenting if you like.



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We've had groundhogs off and on here. The most dangerous scenario we encountered was when they tunneled across the width of the barn. This just happened to be the area my husband works on the car. We discovered it when a loose cow's foot went through the tunnel. It could have been one of the jack stands holding up the car.....

For whatever reason, the last year they've stayed out of the barn. But we still see them in the pastures...

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