Last summer was the first I spent in this little house. Tucked between nature parks with walking trails on the north and west sides. The tiny creek on the west (behind) my property connects into a larger creek bisecting the park on the north side. Flowers grow along the banks and there is a perfectly placed bridge enticing children to fish or play 'Pooh sticks'.
In addition to the numerous common city birds, I've seen Great Blue and Night Herons fishing. While numerous hawks patrol the sky looking for fish and rodents.
A narrow boulevard separates my house from park on the north. My closest neighbors are located east across the street on the front and to the south of me.
There's a small storage shed in my backyard and I soon learned there was a sort of animal United Nations underneath. Groundhogs and bunnies go in and come out the same two access holes. How, I often speculated, did they cohabited under the shed? Did they share one big hole or did they keep separate homes?
I began feeding them - more for my sake than theirs but it was so much fun to watch them. The bunnies are particular. The only offerings they'd accept were peeled, baby carrots. The groundhogs are less fussy. They especially love carrots, apples, watermelon, and broccoli. Surprisingly, none of the critters would eat celery.
If I was late getting breakfast out to them, they'd come sit on the ground outside the kitchen window. They'd wait, rather impatiently I must admit, staring in at me until I remembered to feed them.
Over the winter I saw the bunnies once or twice but groundhogs hibernate. I was delighted to see them emerge about mid-March. I stocked up on carrots. Then about two weeks ago my furry neighbors disappeared. I consoled myself by inventing reasons. Perhaps, they were off looking for mates or they were back under the shed having babies.
I watched, waited, and began to worry.
Yesterday, I discovered the new homeowners, living further down the street, had set traps for them. Evidently, my groundhogs had begun excavating under their shed and they feared it would ruin the foundation. I never got a chance to explain the groundhogs were well known to the neighbors and had been for years. It was too late for me to point out that my shed's foundation was fine. There wasn't a chance to point out how humans have encroached upon their natural habitat and destroyed much of it with our construction.
Could we really begrudge them a shed or two?
Oh, I know all the arguments and, yes, I understand them. They could easily move from sheds to house foundations, etc. While I might wish these new people had simply deterred the groundhogs with fencing, I know my complaint is self-serving. I got a kick out of the critters. Who knew they'd prefer to climb over the fence instead of digging under it. One seemed to especially enjoy sitting on top of the fence. I imagine he felt mighty up there surveying his little kingdom.
They made me laugh when they stood on their back legs like prairie dogs (a close cousin) and sniffed the air. I never got tired of watching the way they'd stand to eat long carrots. They liked to sit in my flower tower and look in my back sliding glass door as if they were watching TV with me.
Now they are gone and I will miss them. And why? Because others only saw potential problems and never stopped to consider the gratification of having groundhog neighbors.