I am finding myself with more free time than ever this spring and summer, and my gardens are enjoying the extra attention.
I got up the other morning and was looking out my window, surveying what garden chores were on the day’s list, when I noticed a slow, large furred animal lumbering up the hill toward the first garden in his path. As he moved, he looked like a vacuum inhaling violet leaves as he swiveled his head left and right.
The dirty bugger was Marmota monax, more commonly known as the woodchuck, groundhog, or in southern Missouri as the, "Whistle Pig," as they emit a loud whistle when scared, or threatened.
These large rodents are in the squirrel family and from the front are the size of and look very similar to beavers. Often, it is not until they turn around and run and you see their short, squirrel-like tail that you can tell the difference between them and a beaver. Woodchucks live in forested areas, fencerows, along streams, and other habitats where there are timber stands. Woodchucks are herbivores, meaning they eat a vegetarian diet of plant leaves, soft stems and flower buds.
I continued to watch this marauder until he came to the small fence I had constructed around the garden. Someone had been munching on my flowers, and digging up plants, right after I had planted them. My suspicions of a woodchuck were now proved correct!
He pushed the fence with his nose and tried to just push through it. When that didn’t work, he simply climbed over the fence until the fence collapsed and he easily gained access to my garden. So, much for keeping him out.
He continued inhaling violet leaves throughout the garden as he made a direct beeline to the coneflowers. I didn’t mind too much about the violets. While I love them, they grow wild all over the yard.
I continued watching his progress with a steely stare as if it would stop him in his tracks. It didn’t. He waddled right up to a very perky coneflower, stood up on his back two legs, reached out and grasped the stem with one greedy paw, ready to take a chomp.
I screamed inside, "No!"
Clearly, he didn’t hear me. Wildly, I started rapping on the window. He stopped with his mouth wide open, no doubt already anticipating the tasty morsel, salivary glands dripping, and looked toward the window. I ran to the nearby door, threw it open, running to the porch. I started yelling at him to get out of my garden and never come back. He can eat all of the violets he wants and doesn’t need to come into the garden to get anything else.
Living in the middle of 24 acres of forest, our neighbors are some distance away. However, I am often yelling at woodpeckers pecking on our eaves, getting raccoons off of our porch, squirrels digging up my pots, and a host of other critters helping themselves to delicacies of our rural living. Once again on this morning, I deeply hoped our neighbors did not hear my interlude with a woodchuck.
Lynn Youngblood is the executive director of the Blue River Watershed Association in Kansas City. Reach her at TheGreenSpace@sbcglobal.net.