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.
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.
It 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.
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.
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.