Cemetery Plans Hunt for Woodchucks That Toppled Headstones

An unusual hunt is underway at a cemetery in western Connecticut after woodchucks damaged  ancestral headstones.

A volunteer bow hunter is trying to shoot them at Center Cemetery in New Milford, which has headstones dating back to 1719, in effort to take care of the problem.

Cemetery Superintendent Mike Sennello said woodchucks have dug under the foundations of some headstones, leaving holes in the ground and toppling older stones that don't have a cement base under them.

“They dig out the concrete foundations that are underneath here,” Sennello said.

Sennello has tried traps, but they have not worked.  

"I’ve reset this one about three or four times now and that was about when I decided it was time to try and actually control these things," Sennello said.

The cemetery closed on Tuesday and will close after 4 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday to allow the hunter to try to eliminate about 15 woodchucks from the cemetery.

The hunter is using a bow and arrow because rifles cannot be used within 500 feet of the road or homes, but the process does not allow much room for error.

“If you can sneak up on them, then you get one shot off and then they spend the rest of the evening in their hole and that’s it," Sennello said. 

So far, the hunter has tried once, but missed.

"It was a little bit disappointing to miss 'cause that means you don’t get another shot at them until the next day." Sennello said.

The decision to hunt is not without controversy.

"They can do damage, but there's got to be a humane way of either moving them or whatever," Nick Bates, of New Milford, said.

"If they can trap them or something like that's something different there," Al Smith, of New Milford, said.

The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection said the cemetery is private property so the hunt is allowed.

"It was a little disappointing to miss because that means you don't get another shot at them until the next day," Sennello said.

The hunter will try again after 4 p.m. every day this week. If the hunter catches any woodchucks, he plans on eating them, Sennello said.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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