(R. De Pere)
Jimmy the Groundhog
The Eau Claire Leader Telegram reports that Rep. Andre Jacque (R. De Pere) wants to declare open season on Jimmy the Groundhog and his fellow woodchucks. Jacque is closing in on the introduction of a bill that will remove woodchucks from the Wisconsin Endangered Species List and allow virtually unlimited hunting of the little rodents.
Shahla Werner, director of the Sierra Club's Wisconsin chapter, said her group doesn't oppose hunting in general, but going after woodchucks doesn't seem responsible. Property owners already can kill nuisance groundhogs and she's never heard of anyone eating woodchuck.
"Why can't these trigger-happy folks shoot targets or cans like I did when I was little?" Warner wrote in an email to The Associated Press. "How are you going to explain to a second-grader in Sun Prairie why we shot Jimmy the Groundhog??"
Woodchucks are beaver-like rodents known for burrowing and devouring plants. "They're just like a lawn mower in the garden. They're ferocious herbivores," said Scott Craven, professor emeritus in the UW-Madison's Forest and Wildlife Ecology Department.
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Jimmy the Groundhog's owner, Gerald Hahn, blasted the bill. He said he hunts deer and pheasants but believes outdoorsmen already have enough targets.
"I think we've gone just kind of goofy," Hahn said. "I don't see any more groundhogs today than I did before. They do some damage, but then a lot of animals do. I know how lovable they can be. The little ones are just the cutest things in the world."Two questions occur to me:
1. Did Mr. Craven mean that woodchucks are plant-eaters that are inherently ferocious, or that they are voracious eaters of plants? I might view Jacque's proposal differently depending on the answer. When we first moved into our neighborhood twenty-three years ago, the first neighborhood newletter we received contained a column with recipes for wild rabbits. The rabbit problem for neighborhood gardeners may have abated a little with the introduction of coyotes in a forest preserve adjoining our neighborhood park.
2. Should the protection of animals from gun targeting depend on their cuteness as youngsters? Morally, it shouldn't seem so, but I could see an exception as to crows.