As everyone knows, Crystal Bridges is set among more than 100 acres of beautiful Ozark woodland that happens to be right in the heart of Bentonville, AR. This setting provides our staff and guests with many opportunities to enjoy the flora and fauna that typically you would have to travel quite a bit further out of town to see. Plants and trees follow the patterns of the seasons, insects progress through life cycles, and wildlife roams freely right before our eyes on a daily basis. However, once in a while our civilized world—no matter how conscientious we may want to be—develops “issues” with nature that require “compromise.”
This was the case with some of our cutest furry forest friends: Marmota monax, more commonly known as the Groundhog or Woodchuck. You see, Groundhogs are plant eaters…and quite voracious at that. It turns out they have a penchant for blooming wildflowers. I guess wildflower blooms are as tasty to a groundhog as they are beautiful to look at for us. You might assume that this would upset our garden staff who work so hard to cultivate these beautiful flower beds. Luckily, however, we have a tremendous wildflower display along our entry drive with plenty to share with our cuddly-looking little buddies. Often you will see a groundhog sitting up, perched on his rear end near the edge of the flower bed watching cars go by on the entry drive while reaching out with one paw, pulling flower after flower into his chomping mouth. Frankly it is pretty cute and presents no problems for us.
Unfortunately, groundhogs are also prolific burrowers…and that’s actually where our “issues” started with these marmots. Once they decided to move into our landscaped areas—and specifically on our Green Roof over the Museum Store—we knew a compromise would soon be at hand. You see, groundhog dens and tunnels aren’t tremendously deep and, as we discovered, cave in easily when inadvertently walked over by our gardeners. We quickly realized that stumbling in a groundhog hole on a green roof close to the edge of a 20-foot drop to a concrete floor was not an ideal situation. Thus began our “GRP” or Groundhog Relocation Plan.
Armed with a wire box trap and a review of the great “Man vs. Marmot” saga known as Caddyshack, we baited our first attempt with a lovely bouquet of wildflowers. The next morning we were quite disappointed to find an empty trap and a wilted bouquet.
Next we tried some fruit, such as apples and strawberries, reasoning that this was stuff they had surely come across in the forest before and enjoyed. Next morning…BINGO, got something…darn, only our mild-mannered friend the opossum. This did raise concerns over what we might do in case our least favorite forest mammal wondered into the trap: the skunk! We decided to back down the operation until we could find a bait that would be very groundhog specific. After some research and a lot of asking around, a story gleaned from some staff grandparents began to reoccur regarding the use of lettuce for the specific catching of groundhogs. Well, we went ahead and tried a handful of large romaine and iceberg leaves and Bingo!
Say hello to my little friend!!
Later that evening, we relocated our groundhog to a more rural location out west and bid him farewell as he scurried off into the forest, thus ending the threat of the Great Underground Groundhog Highway traversing our Green Roof…..NOT!
Boy those little guys are opportunistic. It turns out as soon as one moves out, another isn’t far behind. To date our GRP has had six participants. Don’t worry, we relocated in different directions to avoid any future collaboration on a reinvasion plan.