I killed a woodchuck yesterday with no more remorse than I’d feel after killing a cucumber beetle. Betsy thinks it’s not so simple; her thoughts are at the end of this post.
Our neighborhood has seen a surge in these crafty critters this year, and I’ve talked to several distraught gardeners whose plants have been pillaged. I don’t see woodchucks as cute, furry wildlife; they are like burglars who break into your house while you’re sleeping and steal your valuables.
I’ve tried deterrence. We put up a fence around our garden, laboriously digging a trench so that it could go underground and prevent woodchucks from tunneling underneath. They climbed over it. We constructed an extension on top of the fence, a foot-long horizontal jut-out to make climbing harder. They found a way over it. We bought some expensive fox pee and placed it in little bottles every 10 feet all around the fence. The woodchucks figured out that there was no fox.
I came to realize that even if deterrence were successful, the woodchucks would just go torment my neighbors. I started thinking of this as a community problem rather than an individual one.
So I spent $50 on a trap from Home Depot. I baited it with banana and apple slices and placed it outside the fence. But we caught first a squirrel and then an opossum, which are cute, furry wildlife, so we released them. Then Betsy got the idea of placing the trap inside the garden fence, where woodchucks are the only trespassers. Yesterday, we finally caught one.
So what do you do with a woodchuck trapped in a cage? Some people transport them miles away and release them, but that just shifts the problem to someone else. Besides, it’s illegal in Massachusetts. Some people shoot them, but I don’t believe in owning guns. You can’t give a woodchuck a lethal injection.
After doing some research, I decided that drowning was the best solution. We borrowed a large plastic trash receptacle from a neighbor, filled it with water, and then plunged the cage (and the woodchuck) into it. This was not pleasant. But it didn’t take long for the woodchuck to die, and we buried its body. Now we’ve upped the ante by baiting the trap, inside the garden fence, with broccoli smeared with a gooey substance that supposedly attracts woodchucks.
This could be the first of many woodchucks we dispatch; if so, I’ll bet my neighbors will thank me. Over the past month, I’ve killed over 100 cucumber beetles, which spread a disease in the garden. If someone is offended by going after woodchucks, could he or she tell me what the difference is?
Betsy experiences this somewhat differently. She too hates coming out to the garden and discovering that her carefully nurtured kale crop has been decimated. But the necessity of killing the woodchucks we have trapped is painful to her. In addition to a philosophical belief in the intrinsic worth of each being, she empathizes with other creatures. She says that the closer the relationship is (furry mammals, for example, feel closer than insects or slugs) the harder it is to feel okay about taking their life.
Nonetheless, she agrees that this needs to be done. Of course, being a complex bundle of contradictions, she eats mammal meat, primarily locally raised, grass-fed lamb and beef, pig and goat. As she buries the woodchuck, she commends its body to the embrace of the Earth Mother. Likewise, our bodies will someday return by fire or decomposition to the circle of life.