Groundhog Update: Captivity Going Almost Famously for “Big Boy” and “Baby”

Lucky Garvin
Lucky Garvin

What if you were a rehabber of everything feathered and furred? What if you received two groundhogs who preferred inside to outside, and deplored getting dirty? What if G-hogs could talk?

This is how it has worked for hundreds of thousands of years – well, at least for the seven years Sabrina and I have been rehabbing – you take in the injured, ill or abandoned critters, you keep them in a special inside cage in a designated in-house room, feed them and watch for the time they can be released to an enclosure in the back yard.

In the case of g-hogs, this cage is even screened-in below ground so they can’t dig their way to freedom before they’re ready. This cage is spacious, has 18-24” of dirt with buried PVC pipe so they can learn to tunnel, and finally be released with all the skills they need to survive. We take them morning and evening to the cage, pulling them in at noon to avoid the mid-day heat.

Enter our two latest g-hogs. For ease of narrative, let’s call them ‘Big-Boy’ and ‘Baby.’ Here’s the case in a nutshell: They hate dirt; want nothing to do with it. This appears to be non-negotiable.

Obviously, I don’t speak ‘G-hog’ and they return the favor by refusing to learn English. But the expressions on their faces are such as to make speech superfluous and their message quite clear.

Example: Early this morning I went to collect them for their trip to the cage. I found them in their hidey-hole [inside the ‘animal room’], deep in REM-sleep, exhausted from a long night of sleeping. Now, at dawn they had managed to drag their sleep-deprived selves down to the food bowl and consume 4-5 pounds of vegetables. A piece.

Now they were on their backs, snoring in an attempt to stave off exhaustion. They were an easy catch. I put them in the transporter and stepped outside the door. They peered through the grid. ‘O’boy!, said Baby, ‘Fresh air! Sunshine! Vitamin D!’  He looked around. ‘Yo! Large clover patch at nine o’clock! Yum!  Hey, wait! You’re walking right passed it! Platoon, halt! About face!’

Then they realized where we were heading. Oh no! THE CAGE!

I try to set them in the cage, but like velcro on a knapsack, they cling to the sides. I said, “You guys will soon get tired and drop to the ground and play in the dirt.”

‘Will not.’

I responded firmly [I am the superior species after all] “You must learn to be G-hogs. Get down there and burrow.”

‘And chip a nail!? Tell you what, you like the cage so much, you get in here; we’ll trot on inside.’

“Well, I would get in the cage with you but it’s kinda short and with my back condition…”

‘The real reason is you’re afraid if you got in here, Sabrina wouldn’t let you out.’

He’s got a point.

Big Boy snapped, ‘I’m hanging two inches off the ground here! I nearly got my paw dirty!’

Reluctantly I left them and came back two hours later to find them in precisely the same position. They hadn’t moved – or dropped – an inch. Baby was hollering, ‘Oh look who’s finally back! Mr. High and Dry!”

Big Boy kept repeating, “Air conditioning! Air conditioning!’

“Oh my Heavens! This is a cool spot. Such a fuss! You could hang meat out here.”

“That’s just what you did about two hours ago.”

I picked them out and while trying to put them back in the transporter, they crawled hurriedly under my shirt for protection.


‘We heard a noise. It was scary! THERE IT IS AGAIN! WHAT IS THAT!?’

“A Bluebird.”

‘Are they big?! Do they have giant, meat-tearing teeth?!’

“I think you’re safe.” I headed back to the house. On the way Baby said, “How about you bring us a bunch of that clover in a little bit? We prefer room temperature.’

“Yes, sir.”

This is not going at all well.  But all is not lost. There is the spare bedroom. I’ll talk to Sabrina about it.

By Lucky Garvin
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