Disoriented Groundhog

There is a disoriented groundhog roaming around my yard lately.  He’s been a resident in our yard for the past six, maybe seven years.  I call him Chuck (yeah, I know, very original).  A few years ago, he acquired a mate (she was quite a bit smaller than he was), and my husband and I used to watch them both feeding in the backyard.  I’ll confess that I used to throw out fruit and veggies for them.  They absolutely loved bananas and banana peels.

When they felt threatened, they would always run into a very large forsythia bush that grows on a sloped hill beside our driveway.  One winter we found the entry into their burrow there.

Mrs. Groundhog disappeared after a year or so and we never saw her again or knew what became of her.  Groundhogs are not monogamous so maybe she just moved on to another mate.

Now it’s just one solitary groundhog and he’s big and healthy looking.

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In January of 2013, we suddenly had a large sinkhole open up in our backyard.  For days it rained hard and we stood from our bedroom window watching the hole get larger and larger until it was big enough to fit a car inside it.  It was quite scary to say the least.  We estimated it to be about 10-12 feet long, about 10 feet across, and about 12 feet deep.

This is what it looked like the week it opened up.

143017012It got bigger over time as the walls of the hole eroded and dirt caved in.  A fairly large-sized cavern opened up in the sinkhole and after a heavy rain, you could hear water running in that cavern for days, even after the sun had come out and dried things out. Most of the geological experts and engineers who looked at it agreed there’s probably a large cave under there.

Pray you never get a sinkhole.  I can’t think of anything in my life that’s caused more stress or more worry.  For several years it was tied up in litigation, and believe me when I say it’s no fun dealing with lawyers and insurance companies where sinkholes are concerned.  We worried constantly about our yard, our house, and our safety.  Multiple geologists and geological engineers from all over came to look at it and our sinkhole was even featured on a few of our local news stations.  There was a lot of geological testing done in our yard and around our home.

After the sinkhole opened up, Mr. Groundhog decided he would take up residency in this hole since he fit nicely into the cavern.  I guess he found both shelter and safety there.  He lived there for several years.  And over the years, trees of every kind took over the hole as well as Pokeweed and poison ivy (it was such an eyesore and I never took any pictures of it when it was in that state– I hated it).

This past August we were finally able to get the sinkhole repaired.  United Structural Systems (USS) had that job (and I can’t say enough nice things about them).  Here’s a photo progression of the week-long repair.  Most photos I took from our den window and there’s a few shots from outside.

 

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As you can imagine, I worried about our resident groundhog during all this digging and commotion.  I hate more than anything to stress an animal– wild or domestic.  I hoped Chuck had not been buried alive on day one when the digging began as his cavern collapsed and was filled with dirt.  I was comforted that that probably wasn’t the case when I read that groundhogs just about always have 2-5 entrances to their burrows so that they can easily escape.  I hoped and prayed that he was okay.

Finally after about 3 weeks, he reappeared.  We watched him from the den window as he circled on top of the straw blanket USS laid on top of the now repaired sinkhole after they sowed grass seed.  The new grass was coming in nicely and Chuck would stop for a while and nibble a few bites, and then he would get back to circling and sniffing.  Busy, busy, busy.  At times, he would gaze up at the window we were watching him from, as if he was asking us, “What the heck happened to my hole?  Where is my cavern?”  He circled some more, then lumbered away looking mighty bewildered.  He’s been back a few times and I’ve seen him go into the forsythia bushes (for all we know his burrow there connected to the sinkhole cavern.

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Grass growing over the repaired sinkhole site.  It’s so nice to be able to look out the window and not see a giant hole!

I’ve learned a lot about groundhogs since Chuck has come to live in our midst.  I’ve learned they can climb trees.  I’ve seen him climb with my own eyes and he’s darn good at it.  I’ve heard his whistles (they’re also called whistle pigs).  I’ve read they can be pretty aggressive and I’ve heard him growl and grunt when I’ve approached the sinkhole and he’s in the cavern.  My husband asked me one day if I knew how fast groundhogs could move.  He saw Chuck hightail it to the sinkhole one day and said, “Man, that thing can move!”  I’ve read that they build very elaborate burrows, which can be anywhere from 8-66 ft. long!

I’ve seen Chuck walking from the backyard to the front yard the past two days.  He goes back and forth, back and forth.  He seems intent and busy.  October is usually the time their hibernation begins but this week it’s been back in the 90s here so it’s not exactly fall like weather we’re having.  Today at 2 pm it was 88 degrees outside and the heat index was 96!  It’s sweltering out there, just ask my cats.

So no, it’s not exactly hibernation weather for poor ole Chuck.  But he’ll figure it out.

Gail 

About Gail

I am a wife, mother, sister, aunt, friend, veterinarian, and wanna be writer. I love nature and animals of all kinds, music, cooking, and spending time with my family.
This entry was posted in Animals, groundhogs and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Disoriented Groundhog

  1. Wendy J Reasoner says:

    Love reading about Chuck, Gail. For several years we had a groundhog who lived down near the creek in our neighborhood. We always referred to him as the whistle pig. But we haven’t seen him for more than a year now. I wonder what happened to him.

    • Gail says:

      They are interesting creatures, aren’t they Wendy? I’ve had people tell me I should shoot Chuck as they are such destructive nuisances! I could never do that! Now, if he decides to start digging a new hole where the sinkhole was I guess we will have to relocate good ole Chuck.

  2. Backyard Birdlady says:

    You have a beautiful yard. We had and still have a groundhog. He was extremely destructive to all of my gardens last year. This year I planted with him in mind, going for flowers that he wasn’t supposed to eat and fencing the vegetable garden extra well. I think it worked because he only tried a couple of flowers and didn’t do anywhere near the damage that he did last year. I wrote about him in one of my blog posts, if you get a chance, check it out. It’s called Groundhog Stew. My first thought when reading this post was that Chuck made such a large burrow under the ground that it caused the ground to fall in. Maybe that’s also why he was so attracted to it, it was his home.

    • Gail says:

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting! I did go to your blog and read your Groundhog Stew post…. what a great post! You have some really good pictures of Ted! They can be very destructive but they’re so darn cute aren’t they? We had the sinkhole a good long while before Chuck started getting in it. I really think it connected to the burrow we found in the forsythias (I’m guessing it’s about 30 ft between the two), so it’s very possible. I could never have a garden because we have so much wildlife- lots of deer, turkeys, raccoons, squirrels, opossums, and rabbits.

      Thanks again for stopping by. I look forward to reading more of your blog!

      • Backyard Birdlady says:

        We have all of those animals too. I have to use deer spray every so often to keep the deer from eating everything. The possums, skunks and raccoons don’t bother my plants. Maybe because I feed them so much- peanut butter, peanuts, grapes, apples and more. I love all of them.

      • Gail says:

        I used to feed the birds but the squirrels ended up taking over. We had a mama squirrel and two babies get trapped in our attic once and that was a nightmare!!! I wrote about it in a post called “Scent” if you care to read about it. I stopped feeding birds after that!

      • Backyard Birdlady says:

        I will check it out. Thanks

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