Death to all who eat our plants

We've all had our fights with pests. The family of deer who live in the woods behind our house eat all of Amy's rose bushes. Mowing brings up comparisons with the dust bowl when mounds from mole holes explode into a mini dust storm.

Those with gardens try just about everything to stop the animals who see the nice, neat rows of vegetables as an endless buffet. Fred and Ann First over on Goose Creek built a garden shelter with Gestapo-like security to try and keep out the varmits.

But Joyce Walder's story, titled Peter Rabbit Must Die, in the New York Times had us laughing until we cried:

The homeowner, a city-boy artist and illustrator who had moved to rural Pennsylvania, never wanted to kill the woodchucks. Sure, they were ruining the garden and digging up the foundations of outbuildings, but it was a moral issue: the artist, who is still so uncomfortable about what transpired — and so concerned about how his New York clients would feel about it that he is not willing to be identified — did not want to take a life.

Given the size of the property — a 12-acre former horse farm — fencing was out of the question. He bought a Havahart live animal trap but did not catch a thing. And he worried that releasing woodchucks down the road would only be dumping the problem on a neighbor. So he moved on to that tried-and-true landlord’s tactic: harassment. He attached a hose to the exhaust pipe of his old pickup truck and stuffed it into a burrow — not to kill the woodchucks, just to encourage them to move on. That didn’t work, either.

Finally, the artist decided he would have to shoot the animals. First, though, he went to each hole and made an announcement.

“I said: ‘I intend to kill you. You have 24 hours to get out,’ ” he recalls. “I wanted to give them fair warning. I said, ‘If I were you, I would find another place to live.’ I also promised them I would not take a shot unless I knew it would be fatal.”

He is making this into a funny story, he says, but when he killed his first woodchuck he “literally felt sick.”

“I went outside and knelt down to it and said a little prayer to whatever the powers that be that when my turn comes, I will do it as gracefully and uncomplainingly.”

Eventually, though, he embraced his mission, and grew so obsessed with it that an aunt began to call him Woodchuck Johnny. How many did he kill that summer?

“I stopped at 19,” he says. “One was a suicide. It realized its days were numbered and ran in front of a car.”

We’ve all had our fights with pests. The family of deer who live in the woods behind our house eat all of Amy’s rose bushes. Mowing brings up comparisons with the dust bowl when mounds from mole holes explode into a mini dust storm.

Those with gardens try just about everything to stop the animals who see the nice, neat rows of vegetables as an endless buffet. Fred and Ann First over on Goose Creek built a garden shelter with Gestapo-like security to try and keep out the varmits.

But Joyce Walder’s story, titled Peter Rabbit Must Die, in the New York Times had us laughing until we cried:

The homeowner, a city-boy artist and illustrator who had moved to rural Pennsylvania, never wanted to kill the woodchucks. Sure, they were ruining the garden and digging up the foundations of outbuildings, but it was a moral issue: the artist, who is still so uncomfortable about what transpired — and so concerned about how his New York clients would feel about it that he is not willing to be identified — did not want to take a life.

Given the size of the property — a 12-acre former horse farm — fencing was out of the question. He bought a Havahart live animal trap but did not catch a thing. And he worried that releasing woodchucks down the road would only be dumping the problem on a neighbor. So he moved on to that tried-and-true landlord’s tactic: harassment. He attached a hose to the exhaust pipe of his old pickup truck and stuffed it into a burrow — not to kill the woodchucks, just to encourage them to move on. That didn’t work, either.

Finally, the artist decided he would have to shoot the animals. First, though, he went to each hole and made an announcement.

“I said: ‘I intend to kill you. You have 24 hours to get out,’ ” he recalls. “I wanted to give them fair warning. I said, ‘If I were you, I would find another place to live.’ I also promised them I would not take a shot unless I knew it would be fatal.”

He is making this into a funny story, he says, but when he killed his first woodchuck he “literally felt sick.”

“I went outside and knelt down to it and said a little prayer to whatever the powers that be that when my turn comes, I will do it as gracefully and uncomplainingly.”

Eventually, though, he embraced his mission, and grew so obsessed with it that an aunt began to call him Woodchuck Johnny. How many did he kill that summer?

“I stopped at 19,” he says. “One was a suicide. It realized its days were numbered and ran in front of a car.”

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2 Responses

  1. Thank goodness we don’t have gophers burrowing near our house or barns; I think we have our three dogs to thank for that. I’ve heard of people dumping gallons of gasoline down gopher holes; not to burn them out, but to poison them. Besides the fumes, soaking in gasoline for a short period of time is apparently even deadly for humans (chemicals absorb through the skin, and internal organs fail soon thereafter). Besides being bad for ground water it seems like a terrible way to kill a pest.

    For lawn and garden destroying moles and other shallow burrowers, I have a very medieval looking spring loaded contraption that is pretty effective and I’m quite sure is NOT PETA approved 🙂 But the mole only suffers for about 1/100th of a second; I’m okay with that 🙂

    I have a 20×40 garden surrounded by a 48″ tall picket fence (3″ pickets, 3″ spacing) and the deer never try to enter the garden. And we are absolutely surrounded by deer; we’ll have herds of 10 or more grazing with our horses and I’ll mow within 20′ of them before they move on. I think the picket fence must really put them off because they can’t see through the fence clearly and into the garden to assess the potential for danger.

    Sean

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