Columnist

Beth Dolinar has been writing her column about life, both hers and the rest of ours, for over 20 years. When not on the page, she produces Emmy-winning documentaries, teaches writing to university students, and enjoys her two growing children.

It is fact that groundhogs like watermelon, I looked it up.

They also like tomatoes, cabbage and other vegetables we grow in our home gardens.

Groundhogs also have a hankering for coleus plants, something I discovered when I walked onto the deck to find that most of the purple-and-green leaves of my potted plants had been munched down to the stem. I knew it couldn’t be deer because those can’t get over the fence. Smoothie the sheltie dog is far too intelligent to eat potted plants.

The culprit had to be something in the rodent family.

The next day, the proof showed up at the edge of the deck, a woodchuck perched on its hind legs, hands folded atop his belly in a pose of self-satisfaction, his stupid pin head tilted as he looked at me.

“I’m coming for you,” I yelled, before he bolted toward the deck and disappeared.

Sure enough, there’s a hole under there.

The deck is ground level, which explains how the hog was able to get to the potted plants. He had been climbing out of his den, squirming onto the deck and having at it.

This whistle pig may not have come with the property, and probably was not born here. No, this rodent was cast upon my land by a criminal in a dark-hour move witnessed by my neighbor.

He told me as he looked out his door one night, he saw an SUV stop at the top of my driveway. The woman driver got out of the car, pulled a cage or trap from the trunk, put the trap on the ground and released a groundhog onto my property. Jagoff.

And that relocated animal is now harming my peace of mind.

My dear father, who also lives on wooded property, has been battling vermin all his life, and he owns a humane trap. He demonstrated how to set the trap door, had me try it a few times to make sure I knew how to do it, and sent me on my way with the tool that would rid me of “Mister Munchy Munch.”

That night, I put a squishy tomato and a chunk of watermelon into the trap – a sacrifice for me as that melon was a particularly good one. I set the trap, placed it near enough to the hole underneath the deck to be noticed, and went to bed.

I woke next morning to find the trap had been knocked onto its side, with the door still engaged, the tomatoes gone. Something had tipped over the trap and then reached in to pull the tomato out in pieces.

Not the work of my bequeathed groundhog.

Could it have been a bird? It wouldn’t have knocked over the trap.

Smoothie? He doesn’t like tomatoes.

I’m guessing raccoon, which means I have even more of a rodent problem than I’d thought.

“Put a brick on the cage,” my dad said, although my mom took credit for that idea. I’ve done that three nights since, and nothing. I wake to find the trap and brick still there, and the vegetables untouched. Whatever is lurking under my deck is smarter than I am.

The reverse smuggler who foisted her trouble onto me must have had a real time with that groundhog, but that doesn’t make it right. My neighbor said he wrote down her license plate, in case I want to rat her out. Not sure I’d call the police, but if I find out where she lives, I might return the favor.

But first I’ll have to outwit him.

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