anne_mikolay_120On a bright, sunny day (not that we have had many recently!), there’s nothing more relaxing than sitting in my sun room, sipping tea, watching the backyard wildlife do their “thing.” Goldfinches, woodpeckers, assorted sparrows, and nuthatches flock to my bird feeders while my husband and I enjoy the antics of the backyard bandits, aka the squirrels, as they twist and turn in their efforts to raid the feeders. There is one backyard critter, however, that my husband detests: Mr. Groundhog.

Mr. Groundhog and my husband have a long-standing battle. Last summer’s first round, when my hubby set a humane trap for the woodchuck, and inadvertently captured a baby skunk, dispelled any doubt about the identity of the victor. Until recently, the portly fellow (Mr. Groundhog, not my hubby) confined his foraging to the left side of the yard, where he expertly tunneled a “front door” and a “back door” to his burrow. A few weeks ago, however, my husband discovered an alarmingly huge mound of dirt beside a new groundhog “door” on the opposite side of the yard, and decided it was high time to do away with the garden rodent once and for all.

Since poison, shotguns, and cross-bows are definitely out of the question, my husband did what all do-it-yourself homeowners do: he consulted HGTV and DIY, and was quite encouraged with his findings. I was more than skeptical when he presented me with his new “weapons” of destruction: Juicy Fruit gum and Ex lax. According to television home and garden experts, dropping Juicy Fruit into the groundhog holes sends groundhogs running from the scent. Ditto for the Ex lax, though I wondered if it would send the creature running for an entirely different reason. Not to worry, my husband insisted. Groundhogs are vegetarians, and allegedly hate the smell of Juicy Fruit and Ex lax, and thus will not ingest it. Though my husband assured me that this was a harmless method of forced evacuation, it seemed like an old wives tale to me. Just how stupid did my husband believe the groundhog was? Surely Mr. Groundhog would instinctively clean house, and discard the Juicy Fruit and Ex lax just as easily as we humans take out the trash.


Nevertheless, my husband dispensed his arsenal of gum and laxatives into the groundhog’s burrow, and we waited. My husband was encouraged as weeks passed without a groundhog sighting. I, on the other hand, was convinced that Mr. Groundhog had ingested the Ex lax and was otherwise engaged, or was simply hiding from the rain, like the rest of us.

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Last week, when the sun came out for a few hours, I seized the opportunity to sit on the sun porch, drink tea, and watch the backyard wildlife. Goldfinches and sparrows flocked to the feeders; squirrels scampered down the tree trunks in search of the spoils; and Mr. Groundhog waddled triumphantly across the yard. He stopped to munch a leaf or two outside the sun room, then stood up, and looked directly at me. Call me crazy, but I swear his little furry mouth curled in a definite, triumphant smile.

I could almost hear him say: “Juicy Fruit and Ex lax? Come on! Is that the best he’s got?

Mr. Groundhog wins another round. The score to date: groundhog, two points; hubby, zero.

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Anne Mikolay

Anne M. Mikolay joined The Atlantic Highlands Herald as a columnist in 2008. Prior to penning “The Armchair Critic,” Anne wrote feature articles for The Monmouth Journal. Her work has appeared in national...