Groundhogs show way to turf war victory

December 1, 2005

We recently bought a new 1.5T MRI and ordered our first 64-slice CT scanner. Coincidentally, I find myself in a real turf war, and cardiologists are not involved. This turf battle is more literal: I have groundhogs on my farm.

We recently bought a new 1.5T MRI and ordered our first 64-slice CT scanner. Coincidentally, I find myself in a real turf war, and cardiologists are not involved. This turf battle is more literal: I have groundhogs on my farm.

Over the past year, the number of tunnels and the amount of destruction have increased dramatically. These little buggers are not content with a couple of holes and a mound or two. They are creating complex labyrinths under several of my sheds and our picnic area.

I started by filling their holes with dirt. They thought that was a game. Within 24 hours the holes were reopened, and a new one appeared nearby just for spite.

We had to pour a concrete slab elsewhere, so I filled several holes with leftover concrete. By the next morning there were new tunnels around the cement.

I went to my farm co-op for advice and perhaps a better method. They sold me some smoke bombs. For each cluster of tunnels you cover all the holes except one with dirt or something solid. Light the bomb, throw it down the last hole, and then cover that hole, too. In theory, the smoke suffocates the groundhogs. In real life, they just look a little sooty the next day but are as active as ever.

Suspecting that the smoke was not adequate, I decided to try carbon monoxide. I ran a hose from my truck's tailpipe into the tunnels, and then wasted several gallons of gas heating their homes, with no visible decline in the population.

One of my friends offered to hunt them with a rifle, but that seemed a little cruel-not that smoke bombs and exhaust are especially friendly.

I went back to the co-op for more advice and ended up with a live animal trap. This is basically a cage with a spring door. You place bait inside that attracts the animal. When one steps far enough inside, it trips the spring, which shuts the door, and you have one trapped.

The trap came with a list of baits for various animals. Sliced apples are recommended for groundhogs; crispy bacon is the food of choice for skunks. Don't you wonder how someone figured that out?

I placed my trap and faithfully checked it several times a day. Then I caught one. Now what? Do I send it to that great groundhog hole in the sky? Nope. The little beast is now vacationing on the Blue Ridge Parkway, in the woods many miles from my home.

I have relocated three of the little pests so far, and I'm still working on it. I may be slow, but I can learn.

Since this is the first time I have even come close to winning a turf war, I thought I would consider how this approach applies to radiology. As much as we might like to try, I don't think we can smoke out the opposition or gas them with exhaust fumes. Besides, I have already proved that this doesn't work.

At this year's RSNA meeting I will be spending more time at the mobile imaging displays. I'm looking for an 18-wheeler with a 64-slice scanner onboard and large signs advertising cardiac CT on the sides. It also needs space for a large safe filled with hundred dollar bills. I figure it shouldn't cost too much to add a spring-loaded door, and I'm in business.

I'll park that baby at your hospital for a couple of days, and your problems with cardiac turf issues become the problems of Nome, Alaska, overnight. And if a little truck exhaust leaks into the picture, no big deal.

Dr. Tipler is a private-practice radiologist in Staunton, VA. He can be reached by fax at 540/332-44491 or by e-mail at btipler@medicaltees.com.