I have woodchucks living under my shed. There are rabbits and chipmunks under there, too. On any given afternoon, you can see all sorts of wild, furry creatures prancing around my backyard, snacking on the grass. I wish I had more of them — then I wouldn’t have to pay my boys to mow the lawn.

These creatures can wreak havoc on a garden. I know this. I’ve gone to war with them before, always finding natural, non-harmful ways to try to keep them away from my tomatoes. But sometimes, the critters would win.

Even when I was most annoyed, deep down I understood that this was a good thing. I’ve created a yard where wildlife thrives because there are no chemicals in my yard that cause harm. Early in the morning when I’m sitting outside drinking my coffee, it’s lovely. Late in the afternoon when I go outside to pick a tomato and find that the one I decided yesterday to let ripen for one more day has been bitten into by a squirrel, it’s not so lovely.

This year, I’m not planting a garden. I have my first book due to the publisher in early fall, and I know I’m not going to have time to get out there and do it right. So, I’ll be spending a little extra money at the farmers markets this year, helping out my local producers.

Now, here’s my conundrum. The woodchucks are a new addition to the critter motel under my shed, and they are already proving to be extremely destructive to my neighbor’s vegetable garden. My neighbor says the adult woodchuck has climbed her 3 1/2 foot fence and her broccoli is all gone. She hasn’t planted most of the vegetable garden yet, but she’s hoping to this weekend.

As I was out hanging clothes on the line this afternoon, she came out and asked what we are going to do about the woodchucks. Now, this is a neighbor I really like. I want her garden to thrive. But, since I’m not having a garden this year, I also want the woodchucks living under my shed. They’re fun to watch. From what I understand, they aren’t harmful to people.

There are really two options for getting rid of the woodchucks. They can be trapped and relocated or they can be killed. I’m not too thrilled with the killing option. I’m okay with the trapping and relocating option, but whose responsibility is it?

Should it be my responsibility because they’re living in my shed? Should it be my neighbor’s since she wants them gone? 

I’m conflicted. As a backyard vegetable gardener and advocate, I understand the need to keep furry creatures from turning your hard work into a buffet. If I were doing a garden this year, I’d probably already have traps out there. I’d feel bad about it, but I’d trap and relocate. I’ll probably end up cooperating with my neighbor in the humane trapping of the woodchucks, but I’m not going to buy the traps.

I’m really just thinking out loud and here and wondering what you all would do in this situation. Is there a right answer or a wrong answer to this problem? 

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Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

If the wild animals living in your yard harm your neighbor's garden, are you responsible?
If wild, furry creatures set up home in your pesticide-free yard, should you be responsible if they ruin your neighbor’s garden?