I killed a woodchuck

When I went out to the vegetable garden yesterday afternoon, I saw a woodchuck inside the fence that we’d spent so many hours building two years ago. The fence goes a foot down in the ground and then a food outward, to prevent woodchucks and rabbits from digging a hole under it. The top of the fence is wobbly instead of taut, to deter woodchucks from climbing it. Yet this woodchuck somehow beat the system.

Woodchucks are the bane of gardeners. They can take all the effort you put into improving the soil and planting crops and watering and weeding, and destroy it all overnight. Our neighbor Donna, whose garden didn’t have such a deep fence, was very upset when woodchucks decimated her crops. It seems we have a family of them living in the woods nearby.

When I saw the woodchuck, I went berserk. (GORE ALERT! IF YOU’RE SQUEAMISH, JUMP TO NEXT PARAGRAPH!) First, I picked up some rocks and threw them at the woodchuck, which was now trapped inside the fence. But my aim wasn’t very good, and I knocked over a tomato cage instead of hitting the woodchuck. Then I entered the garden, picked up some bricks that were holding down a row cover, and threw them. One of them hit the woodchuck, stunning but not killing it. I went to the shed and got an ax and brought it down on the woodchuck like it was a maple log.

Did I feel bad about killing a fellow creature? Not a bit. I felt as much remorse as I would feel killing a tick I found on my body, or a cucumber beetle on my vegetables. But I was a little surprised at my fierce impulse to destroy my enemy. I felt outraged that the woodchuck had violated our space. We put a lot of effort into this garden, and there is plenty of vegetation for wildlife to eat outside our garden fence.

Before we built the fence, we borrowed a farmer friend’s trap and caught two live woodchucks. The problem with trapping woodchucks is what to do with them, as releasing them away from your garden just gives the problem to someone else not to mention being illegal.  One woodchuck we took to our farmer friend’s house (inside the trap), and let it out to meet its fate at the hands (or jaws) of his Jack Russell terrier.

The other woodchuck we tried to drown in the rainbarrel, but the water wasn’t deep enough.  I then took it to Puffer’s Pond with the intention of drowning it, but a young woman looked at it in the cage and said, “Aw, he’s so cute!” When I told her of my intentions, she followed me, saying, “You’re a shitty, shitty man!”  This deterred me,  so I wound up, with regret, releasing it in the woods nearby.

All vegetarians are free to criticize me for killing the woodchuck yesterday. Everyone else should remember that whenever you eat meat or chicken or fish, you are complicit in the death of a fellow creature.

UPDATE LATER THE SAME MORNING: We saw another woodchuck in the garden, and when we approached it fled over the wobbly fence. I guess we now know how they’re getting in. We’ve started saving our pee to spread on the perimeter, and may have to go for more drastic measures, like electrifying the fence or buying coyote pee.


4 thoughts on “I killed a woodchuck

  1. My best efforts this year have been with Bobbex-R, a vile, foul, I mean, really putrid smelling spray that only deters them, does not kill them. It is however expensive and need refreshing every week or two in prime time – which is now! I found it at Amherst Farmers Supply.

  2. Good account of the moral dilemmas we face in protecting our crops, homes and domesticated animals. I reacted similarly some years ago when confronting red squirrels that were wreaking havoc in an old schoolhouse we used as a summer place. Caught one of them in a rat trap and had to drown it. Couldn’t believe myself capable of such violence and felt guilty afterwards. But as the battle continued and their pee stains and claw marks ruined the ceilings, I dug out my dad’s old shotgun to blast another one that had just jumped from the eaves into a tree. Felt it unsporting to shoot him at close range so let him climb up the tree a bit and then missed him with my last shell. Though I’m probably anthropomorphizing, the little bugger looked right at me for a moment and chattered what I took to be a squirrel epithet before scampering up the tree!

    On a larger scale, this is what ranchers out west do to coyotes and wolves who threaten their sheep and cows. Since wolves are a threatened species and improve their habitat, there’s an argument to be made against killing them. Oh, it’s all so complicated!

  3. Pingback: A simple living index | Adventures in the good life

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