Metro-East Living

Wally has had plenty of pets through the years, but never a groundhog. Until now.

Murray sees his shadow on Groundhogs Day

TreeHouse Wildlife Center's resident Murray the Groundhog saw his shadow Friday morning during his visit to the Alton Visitors center.
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TreeHouse Wildlife Center's resident Murray the Groundhog saw his shadow Friday morning during his visit to the Alton Visitors center.

Through the years I have spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours feeding and caring for various animals.

I have fed cats, dogs, rabbits, birds, turtles, a gerbil or two, squirrels and even mice. I’m not as much of a sap as my mother-in-law, who not only feeds some feral cats at her farm in Missouri, but feeds them twice a day, morning and evening, in case some don’t make it to one of the feedings. Like, cats have business that makes them miss meals.

Anyway, the other day I was sitting on my concrete patio, waiting for the fish pond to fill. (Forgot to mention feeding goldfish.) I noticed something moving in the grass inside a fenced area that used to enclose a garden. I have seen raccoons in there and an occasional opossum but this was a groundhog. I have seen a lot of them in the neighborhood.

They seem to thrive in town where the dogs are mostly tied up or in enclosed spaces and there aren’t many predators. I know we have had them under our porch at times and in the detached garage where they tunnel into the gravel driveway to get under the garage door. They are wary of people but don’t usually run unless people get close.

I sat quietly and watched as the groundhog — I thought of it as a he, although I don’t know, could have been a she — made its way through the fence gate and waddled across the concrete toward me. He was walking at an unhurried pace. I expected him to become startled and scurry away, but suddenly, from about six feet away, he looked up and saw me. He paused for a second and then unhurriedly continued walking, under my chair and through the outer fence gate toward the garage.

I was bemused. How harmless am I? I don’t even fluster a ground hog!

2020 Wally Spiers
Wally Spiers

It occurred to me that I now had another pet. How could I hurt him after that little display of indifference? He was so darn cute.

I read that these animals can eat up to a pound of vegetation per day. That would explain all the tomatoes we have lost through the years, half eaten whether green or ripening on the vine.

I guess I could trap him — or her — and relocate the critter. But where? It would have to be a good ways away and I doubt that rural property owners want anymore ground hogs than they already have.

A couple of years ago I found an injured groundhog struggling alongside the street behind my house. I called the wildlife rescue lady and she came and got him. Unfortunately she died in a tragic accident and isn’t around anymore to provide help for endangered wildlife.

I read that red foxes are groundhog predators and I have seen a few foxes crossing South Belt East near Walnut Hill Cemetery, not too far away. But I’m not counting on them.

I don’t have any garden this year for the groundhog to eat and I’m pretty sure Purina doesn’t produce a groundhog chow. I guess it can do pretty well on the watermelon rinds I throw on the compost pile. At least something cleans out the insides of those things. I’m not buying vegetables to throw out for it. I do have my limits.

I haven’t seen him again this week but sometimes I see an animal hustling to run under the garage door when I pull in the driveway. That mostly likely is my guy.

I think I’ll call him Rodney. He seems like a youngster and not to wish him bad luck or anything, but I hope he doesn’t find a mate.

Wally Spiers: wally.spiers@gmail.com
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