Saturday, June 20, 2020

They May Be Cute, But Watch Out

No matter how hard we try, we can't outwit nature.  We can try, but nature always wins.  I enjoy watching the birds and the other animals.  I usually leave well enough alone even if I sometimes don't like what I see.  It is cruel.  At times however, I have to intervene.  I only step in when it affects certain things like the structure of our house or our foundation. 

My story starts with this adorable little woodchuck.  For years we have seen woodchucks lumber through the yard.  I usually take their picture and comment how cute they are.

Well unbeknown to me, this one was causing trouble behind the scenes.  We hadn't seen him for quite a while and pretty much forgot about him.  Then a week ago I went down under our deck to check on a wood duck that was nesting in a house we have in that area.  I wanted to see if there were any signs of the babies being hatched.  I saw fine downy fluff stuck in the bushes so I knew they had.  In that same area we store excess pellets for our pellet stoves.  I noticed the area was disturbed, and there was a pile of sand.  Then I saw the hole.  Something had dug a hole under the concrete slab we have.  We thought it could be a fox or a woodchuck but at that point we weren't sure.  I was hoping it wasn't a skunk.  I had heard that you just have to put mothballs where they have dug, and the smell will drive them away.  In my next grocery pickup order, I ordered a big box of mothballs.  They came in mesh bags.  I threw three bags into the hole, but the next morning two of the bags were at the opening of the hole.  It was time to go to plan B.  I got the big live trap from the garage and mixed up a dish of carrots, lettuce and celery.  Within two hours, I caught him. 

Before I set the live trap, I looked on the Wisconsin DNR webpage.  I found the following information.

If all else fails, woodchucks can be captured in a live trap with 10x12 inch access door, which are readily available at garden or farm supply type stores. A good bait to use is sliced apples or lettuce. Keep in mind after capturing it must be dealt with in one of two ways. Relocation is an option, however permission from the property owner must be granted before the woodchuck can be released. It is illegal to relocate animals to state-owned property. The second option is euthanization, which should be done by someone who is familiar with firearms and done in a location where firearm discharge is legal. Another option is to contact a nuisance wildlife contractor to assist with resolving your conflict.

I had permission from a person who owns a large woods a long way from our home, so we packed up the little critter and took him for a ride.  He was heavier than I thought he would be as I carried him to the truck, but he was fairly calm.  They make a click, click, click sound.  At our destination, we opened the trap and off he went.  What a relief.  Now we just had to fill in the hole.

Well it got hot and we had things to do.  I was dealing with calling the air conditioner repair person because our air wasn't working.  Neither was our landline.  I made three calls to Spectrum and had a technician to the house.  By the way, this person wore a mask the whole time so I was impressed.  They were taking the COVID 19 virus seriously.  We got a new telephone modem, but our phone was still not working properly.  As it turned out, it was the phone itself that was bad.  We could call out and get a dial tone, but no calls were coming in.  Since we are not brave enough to go into stores yet, our daughter went and bought us new phones. That has fixed that problem.  So five days had passed since we took Mr. Woodchuck to his new home.  We hadn't filled that hole, and I was a bit concerned.  I could smell mothballs in the lower level of our house.  I was wondering how extensive the tunnel was.  Then on the sixth day, I was sitting drinking my morning coffee and what do I see? Yes, A WOODCHUCK.  My first thought was that the one we relocated had come home, but that couldn't be possible.  I could barely find our way home.  This one went up on our deck, then down the steps to the famous hole under the slab.  I had smoothed the sand when I removed the trap just to be sure no foot prints appeared.  I went down to check and sure enough there were footprints in the sand.  I immediately got the trap out again and baited it with fresh produce.  I checked before bed and there was no activity.  The first thing in the morning I checked again, nothing.  Then about 8:00 am I checked again.  I had activity alright.  The woodchuck had removed the bags of mothballs.  The only thing in my trap was a bag of mothballs. 

So now it's war.  I set two cameras up in this location.  We don't know if he left or is way down in the hole.  Leaving the mothballs could be his last act of defiance or we are in real trouble.

The next morning I did another trap check.  Oh dear, there wasn't a woodchuck in the trap but a raccoon.  I don't know if it was living in the hole and the one responsible for tossing the moth balls out, or if he happened upon the bowl of veggies in the trap.  My inclination is that he happened upon the food.  I think this because he was checking out the camera I had set up.

The same rules for relocation apply for raccoons, so we packed him up and took another ride.  We will be getting out to fill the hole as soon as the rains have stopped.  We should know soon if the problem is solved or if we are in for another week of torment. *

* Update:  It appears the problems were not solved.  Our telephone is still not working.  We had a second technician work on it.  He was sure the problem was solved, but it was not.  Another is coming in a couple days.  I can only hope that five calls, three technicians and new phones will finally solve the issues.  As for the woodchuck, another was caught on camera.  I had filled the hole which was dug out again.  Here is the picture of the critter from the trail camera.  I filled the hole again and so far so good.  Hopefully he left for good, and isn't living under my house. 

He or she did not leave, but was enticed into the live trap by apple peelings and carrots.  I hope it enjoys its new home away from here.  It's been less than two weeks since we have been dealing with these woodchucks,  but it seems much longer.  We will fill the hole again, put the trap away and hope.

Our next problem is a bear in our neighborhood.  Obviously we can't relocate it, so we hope it moves on.  This is the first time we have had bear damage here in south central Wisconsin.  With environmental changes and the taking away of their habitat, it was bound to happen.