Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Bunker Busting Blows

Part of the daily routine is a walk down the hill to place the outgoing mail in the mailbox.  The trip back up the hill usually includes a detour to check on the four trailing arbutus plants that were transplanted here last year.  Yesterday all four plants looked good with their overwintered flower buds intact and ready to open.  Today found two of the plants completely eaten to the ground with the other two only partly eaten. I was more than a little annoyed.

Woodchucks are among the wild creatures that live here.  Their old burrows are used by other animals as dens to raise young.  Since we enjoy seeing the fox, tolerate seeing the skunk and would like to see more of the opossum we have never declared all out war on the woodchuck.  That changed today.  We cannot know with absolute certainty that a woodchuck ate the arbutus, but the deer have had all winter to eat the plant and did not. Having just awakened, there is a good chance the woodchuck is the culprit.  Action was necessary.

Woodchucks are wiley creatures.  They frequently lift their heads while feeding to check their surroundings.  Getting within shooting range is no easy task.  Once when the feeding chuck sensed my presence and safely returned to its den, I sat on the ground with my back up against a stone wall and waited for the animal to return to its meal.  I waited a long while.  Today my action was to fill in three known dens that are close to the arbutus.  Throwing stone into the den opening is usually unsuccessful.  Mr. Woodchuck simply digs a new entrance.  Today the stone in the hole trick was followed by a large flat rock carefully placed over the former entrance.  The den pictured had two entrances with a shallow connecting tunnel.  Here I was able to collapse the tunnel.  The war is not over but these former dens will receive daily attention.  Any attempt to restore them will be turned back.

A heavy wire cage was placed over some of the arbutus.  The two plants that were only partly destroyed may recover.  We are less confident about the return of the two that were cleanly eaten to the ground.  It appears that arbutus must be added to the list of plants that require a protective cage.  We have galvanized wire cages everywhere and they are not attractive.  We remove them when we want an unobstructed view of the plants.   Many of our favorite plants would have no chance of survival if left unprotected.

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