Re: Woodchuck deterrent
posted at 10/1/2012 8:22 AM EDT
- Hudson police investigate Cedar Park Cemetery, June 7, 2012, for a woodchuck that is believed to be behind a rash of stolen American flags. (Lance Wheeler/Special to the Times Union)
HUDSON Woodchucks can now just cast longing gazes at the small American flags they once swiped for cozy bedding but are now beyond their reach in a city cemetery.
The flags, a colorful cloth image of patriotism and respect for war dead for Americans, are considered a household luxury item by the large rodents that earlier this year snatched the flags to pad their nests, as volunteers at the Cedar Park Cemetery discovered.
It took some time and some camera work to unearth the truth.
"At first it really angered veterans when the flags disappeared, but it turned into quite a comic situation that ended up all over the Internet," said Vincent Wallace, a caretaker of the cemetery with the Albany branch of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War.
In July, nearly 40 flags were ripped from their wooden dowel posts. Cemetery volunteers and police thought hooligans were to blame. Police set up surveillance cameras similar to those used by hunters. They did not turn up any footage of humans taking the flags.
"In two of the frames, there was a large woodchuck sitting right there in front of the stone," Wallace said.
He was a stealthy rodent.
"In one frame, the flag was there ... in the next, the flag was gone," Wallace said.
This larcenous activity earned a round of chuckles from volunteers and police.
"We never in a million years thought it was woodchucks," Wallace said.
Authorities then searched for holes in the ground, entrances to the extensive underground burrows the animals dig, one for summer and one for winter. They found remnants of chewed flags.
"Then we got a camera that we could poke into the burrow, and sure enough the mothers were lining their nests with the flags for their young," Wallace said.
There was talk of eradicating the furry culprits, but officials discovered from experts there were likely scores of others in the vicinity.
Experts say that woodchucks are good at mimicry, so the discovery by a smart one may be copied by others.
Wallace said volunteers put their heads together to find a solution. One day he noticed long black metal tubing that was just the right size to fit the flags' wooden dowels.
Wallace and veteran volunteers on Sunday outfitted about 40 flags in the cemetery's Civil War veterans section with metal extensions that now keep the flags 40 inches from the ground, well out of the reach of the groundhogs.
The metal end is buried into the ground so the animals cannot chew it off.
But they said they'll have to wait until next mating season in the spring to see just how clever the woodchucks can get.
"Time will tell if we hit on it," Wallace said. "We can only hope."
Read more: http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/Banners-yet-wave-but-out-of-rodents-reach-3872673.php#ixzz283501ZSn