Being the director of a small museum and archaeology site has its challenges, none more amusing and frustrating than dealing with an invasion of wildlife on the grounds. Our grounds cover approximately six acres on the shore of Lake Mitchell. We have trees and bushes along the shoreline but the majority of our grounds are open. And, therein lies the problem.
Each year, we plant gardens of corn, squash, beans and sunflowers to show visitors the way the people who lived here 1,000 years ago farmed. Soon after the plants sprout from the spring sun-warmed soil, the deer come to graze on the tender plants. Most have just given birth and they leave their fawns nearby as they enjoy their herbal meal. Consequently, our gardens are not fruitful at all. This year we harvested only squash – apparently deer do not care for them.
Our wide open space attracts thirteen-lined ground squirrels, often mistakenly called gophers. Cute little creatures, they dig numerous holes and occasionally come up inside the Archeodome, much to the surprise of the archaeologists working on the site. They also contribute to what we refer to as “gopher archaeology”. Quite often we will find artifacts right outside their burrows. Then there is “reverse gopher archaeology”. That occurs when someone walking through the area drops an item and it falls into a burrow, ultimately ending up in a 1,000 year archaeological site. Frustrating indeed to the archaeologists.
This Thanksgiving weekend, another creature, not so warm and cuddly, took up residence on our grounds. I came to work Monday morning to find 26 badger holes on our grounds. That’s just two nights of work for one or two of these creatures. As carnivores, there is no doubt that they are after our abundant ground squirrel population. Unfortunately, they are doing quite a bit of damage. The bright side, however, is that they are handling our ground squirrel population quite nicely, I’m sure! I have resisted putting poison out to control the ground squirrels (“look, Mommy, those cute little animals look sick” is just not good for family tourism) and we really shouldn’t shoot them within City limits.
I do have to do something about the badgers. I am not afraid of them, even though our maintenance man asked that I not go near the burrows (“they’re dangerous and will chase you”). So, Monday morning, I began to make the calls. First to the County Extension Office (“we’ll call you back”), then to the state’s division of wildlife (“I have a trapper who may contact you”), back to the extension office (“call the police”), the police department (“our animal control person is not working right now”). In fairness to these agencies, I’m sure this is not an everyday problem. The state wildlife office looks like my best bet, they did call me back to let me know that they are working on my problem.
A state trapper finally called me, he’ll be here tomorrow. The good news: he doesn’t think we have too many badgers. The bad news: they are notoriously difficult to trap.
In the meantime, I wonder if Mr. Toad, Rat and Mole will be stopping by next? Or, perhaps someone from Hufflepuff?