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Groundhog daze 

The City of Rochester is marshalling resources to tackle a persistent and vexing problem. Open-air drug markets? Truancy? Yes, but this time they're also talking about groundhogs.

"We're not getting taken over, but we have a groundhog issue," says City Council President Lovely Warren.

The hungry herbivores are helping themselves to residents' gardens, she says, and their burrowing is undermining the stability of homes, garages, and other structures.

The problem seems to have started last year, Warren says, and she's gotten a handful of complaints so far this season.

What's behind the invasion? Habitat destruction, she says.

Walt Nelson, agriculture and horticulture program leader with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Monroe County, says it's simply nature at work.

"If there's ample food and the weather's good, the breeding goes on and the numbers start to increase," he says. "So it goes up and down, sort of like a roller coaster."

Warren has instructed Rochester Animal Services to come up with a plan to deal with the critters. But Nelson says that will be tricky because as well as being excellent diggers, groundhogs can climb.

"If he wants to get into your back yard, he's going to get there," Nelson says. "You just have to make life uncomfortable so that they decide they want to move on."

If you set a fence deeply into the ground, for example, that might discourage a less determined groundhog, he says.

Warren says some residents trap the groundhog, and then Rochester Animal Services will take the creature to the end of the driveway and release it. But that's not a solution because the animals can come back, and they're usually part of a family. And Animal Control Services staff have warned against taking the animals to wooded areas, Warren says, because that would upset the balance in individual ecosystems.

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