The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Tom Lavis

March 18, 2012

Tom Lavis | Take cover when groundhog emerges from burrow

When I was walking to my truck the other morning to come to work, I spied a dark shadow scurrying through my yard and heading toward my shed.

Instinctively, I walked toward the shed to see where the varmint was going.

As I walked around the side, the critter was gone. Or so I thought.

Arriving home that afternoon, I took a walkabout (that’s Australian for a stroll) around the shed and discovered a large hole in the gravel where something had tunneled.

My first instinct was to forget about it and plant a rhododendron in front of the hole.

Out of sight, out of mind, I figured.

But my wife didn’t see it that way.

“Well, what went into the hole,” she asked.

It was dark and I wasn’t carrying a flashlight.

“It was probably a rabbit,” I said.

I was trying to deflect the danger over the situation. To me, not the critter.

I have taken my wife’s advice in the past about dispatching pesky wildlife around our house.

Most memorable have been my battles with birds in the basement.

Each winter, it seems as if the birds that have perched on the chimney decide to get closer to the heat and take a trip down the flue liner into the basement.

The birds apparently came out through a barometric damper pipe.

That’s a pipe with a big metal flap that regulates air and wayward birds when the furnace is running.

As it turns out, the flap also resembles a revolving door, which prompted a half-frozen bird to take the plunge 40 feet down the chimney to either commit suicide or find comfort behind my oil tanks.

Armed with a tennis racket and a catcher’s mask, I tried to shoo these birds outside.

They did not have the same consideration.

I have had birds bounce off my head, fly between my legs and ruffle my feathers.

I even bought .22 caliber birdshot shells to rid myself of these birds.

But after some soul searching and coming to the realization I may shoot a water pipe, I ditched the firepower notion.

I’m proud to say no bird was ever harmed while evicting them.

My home was once infested with yellow jackets. The bees found a hole in the soffit and proceeded to build a nest the size of Connecticut in the crawl space leading to my attic.

Again, my wife implored me to take action.

I did research and discovered battling bees was best done in darkness.

I waited until midnight and launched my attack with two cans of wasp, bee and hornet spray. I wanted to make sure all my bases were covered no matter what lived in the paper nest.

Sad to say, the bees weren’t as fortunate as the birds.

Two cans of bug spray later, the buzzing stopped and I shoveled the remains of hundreds of bee carcasses into a garbage bag.

I also have had encounters with chipmunks, squirrels and feral cats.

I even had a skunk problem.

That’s when my wife drew a line in the sand and told me to hire a professional to handle the skunk.

My first thought was to hire a lawyer, but that’s not the kind of professional she was talking about.

Things could be worse, we could be part of the bedbug problem that is sweeping through hotels in some southern states.

They can’t kill them with regular pesticides, freezing and even tossing out furniture. Nothing seems to work.

I discovered the identity of the critter in the shed. It’s a groundhog.

“How are you going to catch it,” my wife asked.

Catch it?

There’s not a water pipe in sight. Where did I put that bird shot?

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Tom Lavis

What is the biggest key to reducing gun violence in Johnstown?

Tackling the area's drug problem.
Controlling folks moving into city housing.
Monitoring folks in treatment centers and halfway houses.
Tougher sentencing by the court system.
More police on the streets.

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