Hoggin’ profits from a Home Ground Treasure

Tell me someone else has noticed that the groundhogs are plotting a takeover. In fact, it may already be underway. 

Drive onto Interstate 240 West from Riverside Drive any day, anytime, and they're going hog-wild out there! We've all seen them rolling around on the side roads and in the valleys. I've always been pretty sympathetic to them, even though you'd think they'd learn that the roadside is a dangerous place to make a life. Maybe they finally have. Lately they've been traipsing through neighborhood streets, terrorizing the proud parents of spring vegetables, arugula, tomatoes, cucumbers. And they're getting bigger.

I mean a lot bigger.

My friend and co-worker has a small urban garden in her yard near downtown Asheville. Her neighborhood is street locked on all sides, mostly asphalt, and yet she has found herself in the midst of a produce war. The groundhogs are so brazen, so bold, that they stake out her garden for new sprouts and remove them with one snap of their overgrown chompers. They consume her family's food so greedily that they're practically dog-sized. She describes them as akin golden retrievers (but angrier) with tiny ears. These bullies stare her down; they don't even pretend are afraid.

These aren't just chipmunks on steroids anymore; we're talking a rhino-sized rodent. And what's to stop them? Everyone in this town is a gardener. We've created the perfect feeding ground for a full-blown hog tyranny. I mean all I hear in the streets lately is,  “You've got to see my kale!” and “How is your okra?”

“Well, it's slimy and sort of bland and has those weird big seeds but, oh, I just love it!” We're practically inviting them to build an empire.

What can we do about this threat before we start reading headlines like: LOCAL MAN CARRIED AWAY BY HERD OF GIANT GROUNDHOGS • TROWEL DID NOTHING TO STOP THEM. Asheville if you know of any ways to send these beasts the message that enough is enough, that they could at least scamper for a few feet before rearing up like grizzlies on their hind legs, please! – Spread the word.

Rumor has it that one effective anti-groundhog measure is a row of pinwheels in the yard (just not the ham and cheese deli platter kind). Apparently the fast whirring of rainbow colors dissuades them. Thankfully we live in a windy town or they might find out that someone found a way to make money off of cheap plastic blades on cheap plastic sticks (and probably eat those too). Some people hang old cd's from low hanging branches, hoping the flashing reflection of light and images will scare any creatures away. I am skeptical. I think hanging mirrors up in the gardens may just increase their vanity and pomposity.

Now as a good yogi and lover of nonviolence, I am the last person to want any harm to come to these creatures I would have once called, “furry friends.” But I just feel like they've overstepped their bounds. They're taking up prime bunny real estate, and scaring off the tourists. Or maybe …

Since our Beer City title is up for debate, we could just chuck it in favor of the wood chucks, I mean hogs. Well, whatever we want to call them. Ashevarmits. Brevard has its white squirrels — they even have a festival with a derby race for kids in honor of squirrels. Why not, this year, instead of Bele Chere, because haven't we all had enough of that, we were to pull in the crowds with “Hoes in the Ground HogFest.” Urban gardening would promote the local economy directly by drawing hogwatchers en masse.

I don't know about you, but I'm not going to stick my head in the ground while this mountain turns into a mole hill. I mean, life has given us groundhogs and we've gotta slap them up on a billboard before they turn back into just another roadside attraction.

— Katie Souris is a health advocate and a graduate of UNCA. She teaches yoga and works as the Care Counselor in the Diabetes Wellness and Prevention Program at the Asheville YWCA. She can be reached at katiejsouris@gmail.com.

About Katie Souris
artist, writer, and lover of all things out of doors. Enjoys dancing indoors or out.

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