How do you ask a groundhog to leave?
We have a persistent squatter living with us at 105 S. Maple.
Actually, living under us.
Last fall we noticed a sizable hole at the base of an old crumbling concrete ledge along the base of the north side of the house. The ledge, about two feet high, provided a step to access the basement door entrance.
The ledge was original to the house, so it was nearly 120 years old. It was not solid concrete; the house contractor had piled up all kinds of rock, sluffed concrete chunks, ossified material, etc., then shaped it and covered it with a concrete slab: the ledge.
Something disturbingly large had excavated a hole through the side of the ledge, pulled out much of the interior material, piled it next to the hole, and in essence made itself a home inside the half-hollow ledge.
Not particularly an expert on urban wildlife, I thought it might be a raccoon. We have had raccoons in the neighborhood in the past — I had even caught a couple in my live trap.
But a couple of more experienced friends assured me it was not a raccoon.
It was a groundhog.
That made sense. Years earlier Kathy had spotted a groundhog waddling through the spirea bushes that line the porches on the south and west of the house. But that had been years ago, without a subsequent sighting.
Apparently he, or she, was back. Or a cousin or offspring.
Our knowledgeable friends described to us the strength, ingenuity and grumpy disposition of groundhogs. It didn’t sound like a compatible match for our way of life.
And who knew how much farther under the house our squatter might travel? Would we go down to the basement some day to come face to angry face with an invader?
So, taking expert advice, we had the ledge removed and crushed rock laid down in its place. With the groundhog dispossessed, we figured we had eliminated the problem.
Not so fast.
About six weeks ago Kathy noticed a large hole had been dug underneath the north side of our back porch, next to the house. The adjacent hydrangea had been mashed down. The dirt had been neatly piled adjacent to it, along with a couple of bricks. The bricks gave us pause. Were they just throwaways from long-past construction, or had they been an integral part of the house’s foundation?
Groundhogs are surprisingly strong. It would not be impossible for one to dislodge loose bricks from the foundation and move them on out along with the dirt.
The porch has cross-hatched wooden latticework around its base. I got a flashlight and peered in, but nothing looked back at me. So if there had been a beast under there, it didn’t seem to be home.
Groundhogs like to feed in early morning and at dusk. We watched, but nothing appeared.
But just to be on the safe side, I baited the live trap with fresh greens and sweet corn, purchased especially for the occasion, and placed it next to the burrow. Several days passed with no action. I stuck a large concrete block into the hole entrance. We figured our guest had moved on.
And apparently it had. About 40 feet, to the north side of the garage.
We have a two-story stucco garage (it’s properly called a carriage house, but it hasn’t housed carriages for over 100 years) just to the northwest of our house. I pile branches from our trees along its north wall to be hauled away periodically.
As I was dropping off a large branch onto the pile last weekend, I spotted a familiar-looking hole beneath the stack, going back underneath the north wall. The dirt had been piled next to it.
I got a few old bricks and stuck them down the hole. They didn’t fill it completely, but made it pretty difficult to serve as a comfortable subterranean domicile.
I’ll watch over the next few days to see if the bricks remain in place.
I don’t really object to sharing our property with an interloper, if it weren’t for the potential damage to our building foundations.
Maybe we can work out an arrangement: he can live with us rent-free if he’ll do some weeding and learn to push my lawn mower.
I just hope it’s a single individual and not a colony.