On Oct. 31, the Wisconsin Senate approved a measure to remove woodchucks from the state's protected species list. The bill also establishes a year-round woodchuck hunting and trapping season with no bag limits.
Rep. Andre Jacque (R) of DePere and Sen. Tom Tiffany (R) of Hazelhurst sponsored the bill and argued that groundhogs are plentiful and are not endangered. They also declared that the herbivore's habit of burrowing can wreak havoc on farms, gardens, building foundations, sidewalks, roads and even a city's wastewater treatment ponds.
"These ferocious herbivores...have the ability to ruin yards in a relatively short amount of time," Tiffany said during a Natural Resources Committee hearing in May. "The combination of its prevalence and its nuisance...merit the removal of the woodchuck from the protected species list."
A similar bill was introduced in 2013, but was thwarted by animal rights groups.
The Humane Society opposed the measure this time around as well, suggesting there are better ways to deal with the constantly burrowing critters. Some alternatives included harassing them out of an area, plugging their burrows or placing urine-soaked kitty litter at the entrances, installing garden fences or tying silver balloons in the area to scare them away.
Any kid living on a farm could tell you none of these methods would ever work.
Jacque said Wisconsin would be joining other states that allow woodchuck hunting, including Minnesota, Michigan, Illinois and Pennsylvania. He also said the animal's status in Wisconsin as a protected species is "out of step with the rest of the states in the woodchuck's natural range."
"The fact remains, there is no question of the woodchuck's abundance or their destructive capability, and it lessens the credibility of Wisconsin's protected species list to list animals that don't need to be specially protected," Jacques declared.
Under the bill, anyone with a small game or trapping license may take a woodchuck.
George Meyer, executive director of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, said he used to shoot woodchucks when he was a youngster and give them to his mother to cook.
"They are tasty," he said. "My mother used to bake them with rice. I can tell you from living on a farm they are not endangered at all."
The measure now goes to Gov. Scott Walker's desk for his final approval and signature.
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