Gas Pains

Tom grew up in Milwaukee, bartended in Wauwatosa in the '70s and moved here in 1984.

Commentary, observations and musings about the outdoors, life in general and maybe Tosa politics and personalities will be the order of the day. He savors a lively debate as much as terrific cooking.

Never Grab a Groundhog

Critters, Strange But True, Groundhogs, Groundhog Aggression, Dangerous Groundhogs


Groundhog Day is a big event every year on this day over in Gobblers Knob, Pennsylvania. 

Someone provokes a hibernating woodchuck named Punxsutawney Phil to come out of his hole and predict the arrival of spring.

Even I can do that.  Provoked by the alarm clock I crawled out of a perfectly warm bed this morning at 5:30 AM, poured myself a steaming cuppa joe and fetched the papers from the porch.  It was snowing.  I therefore concluded more winter before the arrival of spring.

The man in the picture above is a fool.  You should never grab a groundhog - especially if you are going to wave it around in the air over your head.

From the Algonquian wuchak.  Also known as the whistle pig – Marmota monax belongs to the vast squirrel family. They are big rodents.

They are also sinister-looking with their small ears, beady black eyes and very sharp teeth to go with all of their claws.  I wouldn’t grab a groundhog any sooner than I'd make a grab for a beaver or a porcupine. They are all much too dangerous.

Trust me.  I know this.

I have had to deal with multiple critters infestations under my barn. This includes everything from bunnies, to raccoons to kittens.  One year I had a groundhog.  And that bugger was burrowing furiously.

Groundhogs are well adapted miners.  They have short but powerful legs and very sharp claws.  They are capable of excavating hundreds of pounds of dirt.   And this fella was chucking enough dirt that it wouldn’t be long before he seriously undermined the structural integrity of the barn foundation.

Shooting a woodchuck is against the law in Wisconsin. Yep. They’re protected – just like badgers and wolves.  Not wanting to draw the attention of the local game warden and pleading a landowner exception I opted for the old reliable method.


I poured a box of mothballs down the woodchuck’s hole.  Oh sure, your barn will smell like grandma for awhile but critters cannot stand mothballs.  And it worked almost immediately for me.

I was puttering in the machine shed when old Phil (smelling strangely of naphthalene) waddled his way into the shed and gave me the hairy eyeball.  He was not happy.  Actually, he was angry to the point of provocation because he reared-up on his hind legs and gave me a nasty bark.

Taking a machete from the peg board I waved it menacingly and told him to get the heck out of my shed.

He scurried away retreating behind a sheet of plywood leaning against the wall.

I grabbed a garden rake and thrust it in his face.

He snorted and whistled and parried back with his claws. 

Claw for claw - back and forth we went. Parry and thrust. I was gaining the upper hand and Phil was losing ground.

Finally forced from the shed he scurried a safe distance from the crazy guy with the rake, turned and gave me a dirty look and waddled-off in the direction of a neighboring farm.

Nasty attitude the groundhog has.

Dangerous too.

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