New neighbor. Welcome?

We have discovered a new neighbor. Nancy was out in her garden (tomatoes , strawberries and berry bushes) in a sunny patch next to the Lilac bush behind the house. She came back in and announced that we had a new neighbor.  I was amazed as none of the houses were for sale, no moving vans were in evidence indicating that someone had moved out or was moving in. “Where?” I asked.  She took me into the back yard and pointed towards the foundation of the house. There was a freshly dug burrow.  Too large for vermin or rabbits. She described a brief glimpse she had caught of an animal the size of a small cat.

Looking carefully at the burrow I realized I had seen them before around, the church in Greece. A day or so later I spotted it munching on grass in the back yard, so it was confirmed. We had a woodchuck (also known as a groundhog) as a new neighbor. I suppose I should not be surprised as we do not live all that far from the Erie Canal with its wooded banks and we are close to Genesee Valley Park. But we are in the city. Yet I have seen raccoons and a opossum in the neighborhood.  But they were roaming through the “hood” not taking up residence at my house. Somehow this seemed different.

So I began to look into how to get rid of woodchucks. There is a lot of information on the internet and I began reading about them, trapping them, pouring ammonia down the hole and filling it up when he leaves. All sorts of possible ways to evict him from his new habitat.

Then I was struck with a thought. Are they dangerous? NO! Do they carry disease? Have to check that out, but probably not. So why do I need to get rid of him?  And the answer I got back was not pretty – I didn’t want to share my property with him even knowing he was not destructive or any threat to me. How telling.

And how instructive about a major problem with us in this country. We talk about environmentalism and the wonders of nature. BUT we want to control it. We want to keep it relegated to where we want it; to do what we want and the rest we feel we can change, relocate, rebuild or destroy with impunity.

While I will not be knocking at his door with a “welcome to our neighborhood gift basket” – I think he already found the tomatoes. I am going to leave him in peace for now.  If he presents a danger to the house, or us or neighbors I may yet choose to evict him. But for now I sit in the kitchen through the window watch him cautiously explore his new digs and wonder at the adaptability of nature and these creatures with whom we are so reluctant to share the earth.

Don

About don

The Rev Don Hill is an Episcopal priest, rail fan and writer. He and his wife the Rev. Dr. Nancy Woodworth-Hill are currently Co-Pastors of St Paul's Episcopal Church, Jeffersonville IN, in the Diocese of Indianapolis. They also work as parish consultants in Appreciative Inquiry, strategic planning and spirituality development for parishes and vestries.
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