News From Terre Haute, Indiana

June 8, 2013

RONN MOTT: The ‘wilds’ of Collett Park

Ronn Mott
Special to the Tribune-Star

---- — I suppose if I lived somewhere on the Serengeti in Tanzania, Africa, I would be used to the idea of seeing wild animals on or near my abode. I don’t live anywhere near Africa and I’m in one of the oldest parts of Terre Haute (across from Collett Park), so you can understand my surprise about the wild animals I have seen in my back yard. 

Because the house was empty of humans, we were not terribly surprised that our chimney was a refuge for raccoons. After some expense and capping the top of the chimney, the raccoon “apartment” has been closed for some time now … at least for awhile anyway. Then, there was the most recent escapade when two young males, thought to be related, managed to get into our basement through an old coal chute. They were eventually caught and carted off. 

My wife and I have adopted three cats … one female and two males. All are neutered or spayed and seem to be happy in their circumstance. That is, enjoying the outdoors but also enjoying being indoors. They have brought much joy and charm to the two of us and we try to keep an eye on them.

Last week, sitting at the kitchen table, my wife saw one of our young male cats trailing after an animal she knew was not domestic. So she calls me to come and take a look, but the animal had run into our garage and our cat appeared to be satisfied he had chased the intruder away.

Well, we gave it about a minute and the intruder came out of the garage and stood up on his hind legs. It was a whistling pig … so named by the early pioneers because the animal stands and “whistles” to communicate to its own kind. You and I call it a groundhog.

I have to wonder what a groundhog is doing on North Seventh Street in Terre Haute. Why isn’t he out in the country where he belongs? I do not know.

My wife asked me to leave the side door of the garage open so he would come out. We got the cats inside and away from where they would see this yard intruder. A groundhog! What are you doing here?

Well, the whistling pig, i.e. groundhog, did exactly what we wanted him to do and that was to get out of the garage. He stopped every few minutes sticking his nose in the air and then ambled down the driveway onto the alley where he headed south. Groundhogs are not really vicious animals, but when trapped, like most wild animals, they will give those attacking it a good fight. Many a farm dog has learned this lesson the hard way. I surely didn’t want my little city-bred cats to find out how hard it would be to tangle with a groundhog.

I have now had in my backyard opossums (I’ve seen all of these), raccoons, and now a groundhog. I can put up with barking dogs, sirens of emergency vehicles, and activity noise from the park. But I’m really getting sick of all of these wandering, wild animals thinking my property is their property. 

Please go away and stay away, or the next course of action might be fertilizing the flower beds with these critters that nobody wants or will miss.

Ronn Mott, a longtime radio personality in Terre Haute, writes commentaries for the Tribune-Star. His pieces are published online Tuesday and Thursday on Tribstar.com, and in the print and online editions on Saturday.