Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Ark. art museum faces new challenge: groundhogs

Associated Press Updated: January 5, 2014 at 4:30 pm

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Art museums often toil to capture master works to hang on their walls.

But recently, a museum in northwest Arkansas has been trying to capture something else: groundhogs.

The pesky critters presented a problem for groundskeepers at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art when they started digging tunnels on the gift shop's eco-friendly "green roof." Workers had to figure out how to lure the animals into cages and haul them off to the woods.

"We tried to foresee a lot of things," said Clay Bakker, the museum's trails and grounds manager. "But what we just really didn't anticipate was groundhogs."

Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton founded Crystal Bridges in Bentonville, a city about 215 miles northwest of Little Rock that's also home to Wal-Mart's headquarters.

The "Caddyshack"-esque tale began after groundskeepers spotted the rodents nibbling on wildflowers near the museum. Crews held off, keeping a watchful eye, until last year, when a groundhog made its way onto the eco-friendly "green roof" atop the museum store.

The roof happens to be chockfull of soil that's considerably more porous than some of the rocky dirt in northwest Arkansas.

"As it turns out, this, for an Arkansas groundhog, must be like heaven," Bakker said.

At first, the groundhog became something of an attraction, but things changed when a gardener stepped into one of the groundhog's tunnels not far from the roof's edge. He wasn't hurt, but he was a bit rattled.

The groundskeepers talked about what to do and decided on relocating the animal. Their new challenge: How do you catch a groundhog? They started with a trap.

"Then the idea was: How do you get them to go in the trap?" Bakker asked.

They tried flowers, since that's what the groundhog was nibbling on. No luck.

"They just wilted immediately," Bakker said. "I can't blame him. They looked terrible. I wouldn't want to eat them either."

Next came fruit, which only caught a possum that the crew feared was a skunk.

Finally, Bakker searched for some sort of groundhog-specific bait. A couple of people suggested lettuce, so into the trap went iceberg, romaine and red leaf.

"We left, and the next morning, lo and behold, there was a groundhog," Bakker said.

Workers carted the critter off and released it in the woods.

"And I'm telling you, not five days later, there was a different groundhog up on that green roof," Bakker said.

The grounds crew caught about six groundhogs, Bakker said. It's been quiet for the past few months, but he doesn't think it'll last through spring.

"I have a feeling that it's going to be an every year type of a thing," he said.

___

Follow Jeannie Nuss on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jeannienuss

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