Alan Chartock | I, Publius: Pesky groundhog has overstayed his welcome


GREAT BARRINGTON >> The Chartocks are lucky enough to own an acre in the middle of Great Barrington.

I'm not bragging. Roselle saw it and we bought it many years ago. It turns out that it is not only an acre but it is also a living wildlife zoo.

We have shared that knowledge with Murray the Westie, who now sees it as his personal responsibility to raise a storm every time one of God's creatures is anywhere on the property. That means that Murray will raise hell and wake every one of the residents of the house when he sees or hears a herd of deer in the yard.

So, here is an inventory of creatures who visit us virtually every night.

Let's see, there is a bear who loves to bend our steel bird feeder poles into pretzels. There are raccoons that wreak havoc with our garbage. There are skunks that cut loose just often enough to let us know that they are around. There are porcupines who shoot their quills into our dog's nose. There's a big fat cat from elsewhere in the neighborhood. There are moles and voles and mice and like that.

We once resorted to a Havahart trap to capture our most destructive nemesis, the shameless groundhog. We finally captured him but only after several other tries during which we were rewarded with a skunk or two. I am also reminded of the often-seen fox who, as the song suggests, went out on chilly night and prayed for the moon to give him light.

Then there are the gray squirrels with whom we coexist and the huge numbers of birds we love without reservation. The more gardens we plant, the more birds come visit. I went to Ward's Nursery and bought myself a wonderful sculpture bird fountain that recirculates the water and attracts the birds.

The last one I saw was a yellow-bellied something that was quite beautiful. What with the cardinals and the robins, the woodpecker, and all the wonderful doves who make a sound that calms me down like none other, I am a happy man.

Now there will be those who write to me and suggest that I am arrogant for not wanting to share my space with the groundhog (someone told me that they have five offspring each year). I offer my apologies. But you should see the holes that the thing digs.

If you go online you see lots of products being sold including fox urine in the form of granulated something-or-other that can be spread around the grounds. A few years back we paid a lot of money for a fix near our swimming pool where the groundhog liked to burrow. Now he's dug a huge hole under a big rock under on our property.

We are told that you can kill critters like groundhogs but you can't move them. Me, I don't like to kill things but I would like to relocate them. Not so fast — apparently that is against the rules.

Some people hire professional trappers who cost a lot but don't always deliver. Some people tell me that they break the rules and transport the critters to different places. However, if your name is Alan Chartock you really don't want to break the law.

There are people who swear by motion-activated lights (we have them) and by motion-activated water devices (we don't). We had a professional come in but these trappers have rules including, often, a fee for every time they have to come back.

Murray the dog gets crazy when being walked and there's a groundhog around. Once a friend trapped one and I brought Murray to see him. That was a mistake. The groundhog, in a cage, bared his teeth and hissed and Murray went nuts. That's the last time I'm doing that.

Alan Chartock, a Great Barrington resident, is president and CEO of WAMC Northeast Public Radio and a professor emeritus of communications at SUNY-Albany. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of The Berkshire Eagle.


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