My life is overrun with woodchucks. Today one sits eating seeds below the bird feeder outside the screened-in porch where I write. “Oh, I see you’ve discovered our friend,” my writing retreat host says as she brings birdseed. “She’s the big one. There are babies around as well.”
I flash back to earlier this summer and my visit with another woodchuck at our rural Wisconsin home. I trapped her, unharmed, and escorted her to a new location five miles to the north. I wondered at the time if the woodchuck at our home had a mate or, if she was a mother with young ones in the burrow beneath the shed.
I was uncertain, prior to capture, whether this woodchuck was the critter that had dug under our shed, chewed a hole in the plank floor and shared space with lawn mower and tools. If she was the culprit, and chews wood, could lawn mower cables and tires be next?
Woodchuck is a rodent, also known as groundhog, or whistlepig due to the squeal she emits when surprised. A member of a family of large ground squirrels, called marmots, woodchuck resides at the edge of woodlands. She may invade farms and homes to burrow under buildings, and chew her surroundings with razor sharp, constantly growing incisors. Woodchuck is territorial, difficult to relocate, and will aggressively defend her home from intruders.
I placed rocks in the first entrance to her burrow. She dug another. Rocks and topsoil filled this one too so she created a third tunnel. Maybe she was a skunk or a badger? They dig burrows too. To remove a badger from a live trap would be dangerous. Removal of a skunk would be, ah…tricky. I needed to confirm her identity before I set a live trap.
Later that week I confirmed with binoculars that she was a woodchuck. She sat upright on the stoop of the shed, stared at me, and squealed. What should I do?
My friend Pete proffered, “I prefer lead poison. I tried to trap woodchucks in my unfinished basement but they were wary. I heard they like cantaloupe but I never tried that. I ended up shooting them.”
Hmm… I didn’t want to harm our interloper.
Another friend Tom, suggested, “Leave her alone. Share the shed with her.” I didn’t want to cohabitate with a destructive rodent, so I baited a live trap with cantaloupe. Later that day I escorted her, unharmed, to a distant location.
Two weeks ago, I flew to San Diego to visit my daughter and her family. After my visit, I stepped aboard Delta 1687 to return home.
Flight Attendant: Please take your seat. We can’t move away from the gate until all passengers are seated in their assigned seats.
Me: Is this your purse on my seat? I have seat 21 C.
Passenger in Seat 21 A: No. It belongs to the lady who went to the restroom.
Me: Great! Oversold. How will I get home?
Lady: (Returns from the restroom and sits facing me.)
Me: Excuse me. Please check your boarding pass. I believe I have reserved seat 21 C.
Lady squeals: No! This is my seat. I’m not leaving!
Me: Please check your seat assignment just to be sure.
Lady: (Produces her boarding pass and shoves it in my face.)
Me: It says on your boarding pass that your seat is 22 C. This is seat 21 C.
Lady: Oh, my next flight must be 21 C.
Flight Attendant to Lady: May I escort you to where you belong?
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Richard Wilberg, MS, PLCC, ACC
Life Coach for Personal Fulfillment and Career Success
About the Author
I write personal essays, creative non-fiction, flash fiction, and self-development articles from my home in Madison, Wisconsin.