With bow hunting season starting just last week, hunters were out at a cemetery in New Milford on Tuesday taking care of a pest problem.
Woodchucks, which are also known as groundhogs, have been spotted running wild at the Center Cemetery. Visitors said they have seen the animals were burrowing underground and knocking over some of the stones.
It’s become a nuisance and management said they want them out.
A hunter armed with a bow and a quiver of arrows was looking for the faces of groundhogs to pop out of their burrowing holes on Tuesday.
“You definitely don't want to spook them back into their hole,” the hunter told Eyewitness News.
With 84 acres and 10,000 gravestones to tend to, officials at Center Cemetery said these hunters have a lot of ground to cover and they're up against an army of at least 12 groundhogs. The animals are carving out elaborate underground burrows
“You'd see their holes. You'd see the mounds they create digging the holes,” Mike Sennello, who is the superintendent at Center Cemetery, said. “Typically, they like to be near something hard.”
With several toppled and displaced, caretakers said they know the groundhogs moved to the headstones.
“Aside from the fact that it looks awful and presents a safety hazard to have ankle breakers throughout the cemetery, they dig underneath the concrete foundations underneath the stones,” Sennello said.
Sennello told Eyewitness News he has tried trapping, baiting and refilling the holes, but nothing seemed to work.
“As a last resort, we've brought somebody on who is licensed, trained to do this sort of thing,” Sennello said.
The hunters were equipped with a rifle, but it can't be used within 500 feet of the road or homes. That is why they were using the bow and arrow.
Signs were posted at the entrance to Center Cemetery to inform visitors.
“We've taken every safety precaution that we can and that we're legally obliged to and then some,” Sennello said.
When Eyewitness News caught up with the hunters at noon, not a single groundhog was bagged. The reason for the shortage of catches is possibly because a few days ago, a bobcat was on the prowl.
“If they're not here and we don't catch anything, we've met our goal,” Sennello said. “If we catch a lot and eradicate them, then our goal is met too.”
Families, who have relatives buried at the Center Cemetery, told Eyewitness News they want their loved ones to rest in peace.
“This is a final resting place and should, out of respect, be taken care of,” said Tracy Escribano, of New Milford.
Tuesday was the only day the cemetery will shut down. For the rest of the week, officials said hours at the Center Cemetery will be shortened, so the hunters can do their work.
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