This is New Hampshire country, far from the ordered world of suburban subdivision living I know. Secure in the (somewhat) familiar and predictable existence contained within the walls of our home, I never know what awaits me outside. One thing is for sure — nature comes to you. Last week it was a large snapping turtle, lured by our vernal pool and sandy backyard soil. After several test excavations, she found the perfect spot for her eggs and left us to watch her underground incubator for the next 12 weeks or so.
Some of our tenants are less welcome. A large groundhog moved in under our attached shed and proceeded to dig cavernous holes in our yard. We decided to relocate it and set a large crate trap with the lure of enticing melon. The melon disappeared, but the groundhog was large enough to defeat the trap door, no doubt amused at our feeble and transparent efforts.
Yesterday, though, I saw the door had been tripped again. This time, a soft set of eyes quietly regarded me from behind the metal bars. This creature was not a groundhog, but somehow looked familiar — the small size, the gamine face with a touch of white; the spiked and rounded appearance of its coat. Could it be? Of course — it must be a hedgehog! A woman of action, I sprang into motion, emailing my husband and calling a friend to share the surprising news. Oh, and I looked up “hedgehog” online. Undaunted by the inconvenient datum that hedgehogs aren’t native to North America, I also found a NH hedgehog breeder and rescue organization. Convinced I had an escaped pet, I called them and left a message. Always thorough, I also called our local university’s extension service. My mind was racing. What did it eat? When would I have the time to drive it to the hedgehog breeder?
I received a prompt email from the hedgehog people, who gently told me the odds this was an errant hedgehog were unlikely, but possible. If so, they were standing at the ready to assist. I decided to take a picture of my little charge and took the time to take a good look. On closer inspection, the features I had been so sure pointed to a quintessential Wind in the Willows character now looked markedly different. The nose wasn’t so pointed, the fur not so spiked. Still cute and endearing, I now realized this was no hedgehog but a groundhog of the child variety. More than a little embarrassed, I emailed the hedgehog people apologizing for my hasty taxonomic classification. Afterwards, picturing a distressed groundhog mother nearby, I relented and let the little one go so he could reunite with his doting parent. He scampered off, no doubt eager to set up permanent digs chez nous.
The next day, I received a return message from the extension service. Jay couldn’t suppress the chuckles as he replied to my message but duly gave me information for the right people to call in the case of errant (as in the wrong continent) wildlife. I called him back, and we shared a good laugh. I may live in the country, but it is clear to everyone I am no country girl.