Friday, July 16, 2010

Driving Mr. Groundhog

Yesterday one of our cats got loose. His name is Spooky, and he is a black cat with a scattering of individual white hairs, including one white whisker. We found him after some effort, hiding under a tarp under a rhododendron. But before that discovery we set out our Havaheart trap baited with cat food, hoping to catch him. Two weeks ago he got out without anyone noticing and turned up in the trap that we had set out for a groundhog, baited with an apple. We found the apple outside the trap, and him inside it. He apparently went into the trap to play with the apple, batted it out, and tripped the mechanism.

We never bothered to unbait the trap this time. This morning it was still positioned in the front garden where a groundhog had dug a burrow next to our foundation. Groundhogs may seem like annoying but not especially dangerous herbivores, oversized relatives of squirrels and chipmunks, but in reality their extensive burrows can cause considerable property damage and even undermine foundations. So when we discovered that we had caught something overnight, I wasn't too upset to see that it was a groundhog.

We caught a groundhog once before. It was a big, cheeky fellow, who was really not very pleased about being in the trap. The groundhog who has been menacing our neighborhood lately is also a big bruiser. This was a smaller specimen, who I have since dubbed Groundhog II: Son of Groundhog. It might not have been the groundhog, but it certainly was a groundhog.

So now the question was: what to do with him?

The last groundhog we caught we drove to a semi-remote forested area several miles away and released him. And that was good, but...I've always had a sinking feeling that the groundhog could retrace our steps and make it back. Based on no information at all, I have decided that groundhogs (like ghosts) cannot cross running water. So it seemed to me that the best thing to do would be to take him across the river, through the mountains, and along a creek to the area of Moon Lake Park and release him there. If they're going to do gas drilling there, may as well lend them a hand. Or some paws.

Yes, this should do.

I wasn't in a hurry. I took my time eating breakfast and getting myself and my car ready. I laid out an extra tarp on the back seat, rolled down all the windows, put on some leather gloves, and after showing our "latest acquisition" to a neighbor loaded the trap into the back seat. As I did so I had an awful thought: I hope there's no way he can get out of there.

It was a longish drive, with me playing Morgan Freeman to the groundhog's Miss Daisy. (He wasn't much of a talker.) At no point did I consider letting the groundhog take the wheel, despite suggestions from friends.

This is why.

I missed the park. It's been well over twenty-five years since I was last there, which is a bit of a shame. I drove until I knew where I was - briefly considering letting the groundhog loose on the lawns of the rich bastards who have cut off all public access to Lake Silkworth - and backtracked until I found the sign marking the entrance to the park. I drove up to the park, noting the general lack of traffic along the access road as well as the broad open fields and densely forested areas along the way, a nice, safe place for a young groundhog to start a new life. I turned around in the park entrance, drove back down the access road a little, pulled off the road, and released the groundhog. He immediately dashed across the road and, I hope, to safety.

Now we'll see if any of his relatives come around seeking revenge. Or perhaps he will make it back somehow, and we will witness Groundhog III: Return of the Groundhog.

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