The Groundhog Incident (your opinions sought)

I was driving my son to karate on a warm, balmy night, taking the winding roads past the farm and belting “Chicken Fried” while he harmonized in the backseat.


I saw something in the road and slowed. It was a groundhog. It was crossing the road and, actually, was already in the other lane and close to the shoulder. I chuckled for a moment at its waddling gait and had the fleeting thought that I was impressed such a slow creature had made it across.


No sooner had that thought flitted through my mind then I caught a flash in my rearview mirror.


The teenaged boy driving behind me whipped across the solid yellow line into the other lane. For a split second, I thought he was going to pass me.


He did not. He whipped across the road to aim for that groundhog. And I saw him throw back his head and laugh.


On the way home, I passed that stretch of road. And I saw it, the groundhog. Dead. On the very side of the road.


After the chaos of tooth brushing, jammies, stories, and kisses, I saw quietly on the sofa next to my husband. And I told him what had happened.


“I just don’t understand it,” I told him. “I mean– who does that? I’m not even a particular fan of groundhogs, but, seriously… where’s the sport in that?”


He replied, ” ‘Cause some people are jerks.”


And that was that.


A couple days later, I was still fretting a bit about the whole thing. (It really, really bugged me. And, honestly, I don’t think most people would categorize me as an “animal lover”. I like them well enough, but I’m not any great champion or advocate.)


And my husband sighed a bit, “You know, I’ve been thinking about this. Maybe he was a farmer. You know, groundhogs can really tear up fields.”


So, now I’m thinking about all this. Maybe he IS a farmer. Maybe groundhogs are the bane of his existence. But the whole incident still stuck in my craw.


The thing is, and this is what I told my guy, if, say, this groundhog were on a farmer’s property and he shot it… I don’t honestly think I’d be too bothered. Do I, personally, LIKE shooting animals? No. But I can totally see the point in that. I wouldn’t be reflecting on the cruelty of it… I would just view it as a hardworking man protecting his crops in a relatively humane way.


But purposefully setting out to hit a little groundhog who’s just crossing the road?


I’m still bugged.


What do you think? Do you think he was a farm kid? Would that make a difference? Do you understand the difference I see in those scenarios?


Help me sort this out, friends… it’s been bugging me for over a week, now.

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18 comments to The Groundhog Incident (your opinions sought)

  • Becky

    I think the kid was just a cruel punk. The glee he got from that incident is probably the same he gets when he bullies young children. But what do I know?

    However, I will say that groudhogs can destroy gardens in an instant and they are hard to get rid of. So at my parents’ farm, it is open season on groundhogs…we’re practically required to shoot at least one on every visit. That said, even if driving on their road, I couldn’t imagine anyone doing what that teen did.

    • Your comment perfectly illustrates the dichotomy I’m feeling, Becky… there is just SUCH a difference (in my mind) between protecting your property and senselessly destroying.

  • Courtney

    I have horses, so groundhogs are NOT welcome on our farm- too many dangerous holes, so my husband will shoot them if he sees them. However, I think what that driver did was just a cruel thing that shows his character. It may have been *just* a groundhog, but that shows NO respect for life at all. I can see why you’re still bugged about it.

    • Oh, I can totally understand how groundhogs would be a real hazard if you have horses– the groundhog in the post’s pic was actually in our backyard back in Indiana. He never got close to the house, but if I wandered further out on the property with my little ones, those holes were treacherous for little toddler feet, too!

  • Celine

    That driver was beyond cruel… He was reckless. That was Dangerous… Not only did he feel it justifiable to kill an innocent animal he did it in a reckless manner with a motor vehicle. He could have easily caused a serious accident by driving in the wrong lane and even by hitting the animal. What disregard for others.

    I am fine with the selective killing of animals to prevent destruction to property or crop and for safety reasons. Though it does bother me when people think that animals should just be killed because they are an inconvenience and ruin peoples enjoyment of a place or area in which the animals where there first. Example: people making a park in a field around a pond in which water fowl live. Then getting mad because of the large quantity of feces. It is kind of one of those what did you expect and why should the fowl be killed/harassed.

    • You bring up another important point too, Celine– it WAS reckless. The roads around here are insanely hilly and curvy (the newspaper recently referred to our road as the “roller coaster”)– it is not ever safe to cross into the other lane. So, not only was it a lousy thing to do to the groundhog, it had the potential to be devastating to other human beings, too.

  • Elizabeth

    I agree with you. I hate to see dead animals on the road, both because it hurts my heart a little and because it is unsightly and makes a mess for the public who use that road. Like you, I’m not a bleeding heart over animals. I do have a pet dog and I love him to bits, but I’m not obsessed over the whole animal kingdom. However, I believe that treating animals well is a precursor to treating humans well. If you can show compassion to a small, helpless, living creature, then you are better able to show compassion to another human being.

    Maybe others don’t agree with me, but to me this makes sense. So it bothers me when people like that teenage guy are willing to go out of their way to kill a small animal. I had a college roommate who said she and her sister had contests over who could hit the most rabbits as they drove down their country road. What kind of fun is that? If you’re not killing the rabbits to eat, if they’re not harming you, why kill a creature just for sport?

    Even when we do need to kill animals – because we want to eat their meat, or because they are wreaking havoc on our farms – I believe we should do that killing with a bit of…well, if not sorrow, then definitely respect. I don’t think we should ever find it FUN to kill anything. I think showing respect for death is a way of honoring creation. Even though I think as stewards of creation it is well within our rights to kill animals, I don’t think we should do it just to get a good laugh out of it.

    • Elizabeth

      BTW, I should clarify that I have friends who love hunting for sport, and I see nothing wrong with that. But they are responsible about the animals they kill. They eat the meat or they give it away to others who will eat it. They do not just go out into the woods, shoot animals, and leave the rotting carcasses. So I think it’s fine to enjoy the sport and the hunt even though it involves killing. I don’t think you have to be somber just because you’re going to shoot an animal. That’s not what I meant about respecting death. But I don’t think hitting animals in the road is the same thing as going hunting.

      • I, too, see a huge distinction between this event and hunting. I have my own issues with hunting (from personal history), but they have nothing to questioning the ethics thereof.

    • “I think showing respect for death is a way of honoring creation.” <– YES. I agree with this. Even when it’s necessary to kill “pests” because of their destructive ways, I don’t believe there should be glee or torture involved. It should be as quick and merciful as possible, in my opinion.

  • I think that boy is not a farmer he’s just a teenaged turd. I think you are a woman and mother of a future teenaged boy and your husband is a man and you both reacted along “stereotypical” expectations. I’m with you…that would upset me a lot. Killing something (even a rodent)should not be a throw your head back and laugh type of event. But honestly if it was a rat I wouldn’t care so much about the animal, but I’d still worry the boy was criminal in the making.,

    • I think that’s a big part of it, Heather– the laughing. What in the world??? It does make me worry a bit about that whole connection between children/teens who torture animals for fun and what that can lead to… :(

  • Laraba

    I agree that it was reckless and cruel. I’m not a big “animal lover” either and we live out in the country with chickens who are vulnerable to predators. So my husband has shot more than one wild animal that has threatened our livestock. Having said that, he does his best to kill the animals instantly and we don’t laugh gleefully about it. Not only did this young man endanger other people, I think there was a high risk he would just injure it instead of killing it (though he DID kill it) and that is cruel. But if he had just grazed it it would have been hurt. I think the attitude is the worst part, though, the glee. Having said that, I hope you can set it aside and not have it bother you too much. It was almost certainly killed instantly so didn’t suffer.

  • Sarah

    I personally have a strong dislike for groundhogs. Every year, we have one or two get into our garden just as it is starting to take off, and eat entire rows of things. I really depend on that garden to provide certain foods for our family. My husband usually finds where they are getting in, sets live traps, and kills them (protecting our property). This year, we have killed three so far. That’s pretty average. However, neither one of us particularly enjoys killing them. We are not violent people who enjoy watching them die. We just really cannot afford to buy bell peppers for 6 people all year long at the grocery store, but we can grow a year’s worth for $3. So do we feel bad about killing them? No. Do we enjoy it? No.

    • I think that really is the distinction, Sarah– I don’t expect people to feel remorse for eliminating pests/threats to their property. I’m just super bothered by the idea that it would be FUN to kill something like that… :(

  • Amanda

    I can see protecting your property and profits and well-being from such a pest. Especially if it’s in your space. But I think the act of laughing just proves that the kid was a punk who needs to learn a lesson.
    It reminds me of the way I kill bugs and spiders that end up in my house, but once I go outside I leave them be…that’s their house, and they’re not doing anything to bug me. A groundhog on your farm? Ya, annoying, and not good. A groundhog on the road? Not doing anyone any harm. There’s no point to killing it. A spider inside my home is different from a spider in a tree. A groundhog on your property is different from the groundhog on the road. That kid’s got no respect!

    • I am the EXACT same way, Amanda. I mercilessly kill spiders in my house– none of this “gather them and put them outside” jazz for me. ;) But, when I’m outdoors, I don’t squish or hurt bugs or spiders because I feel like they’re where they belong and they haven’t invaded “my” space. I do still think that kid is a punk…

  • I love reading you Rebekah, because you give me ideas on what I need to address in my own blog, I don’t know anything about farmers, but a lot of teenage boys. And I’d say that a whole lot of them would do something like this. Seems there’s a point somewhere between the onset of puberty and the early 20′s where the raging hormones cause them to do a lot of things that go against how they were raised and how they behave when they finally finish maturing. Besides the rash decisions and hot headedness that people expect from the, they often find a mean streak that I think even they don’t understand. (I know I sure don’t). Hopefully he outgrows it. I’ll poll my boys on it though, and write a future article.

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