Trapper corrals albino groundhog
YORK (AP) – The man catches about 300 groundhogs a year.
That means thousands of them over the past three decades, mostly in York County.
It’s his job, of all things. But only part of it. Running Ellis Wildlife Pest Control means you deal with all of the outdoors, including raccoons, squirrels, snakes, coyotes, bats, birds – anything that causes problems in homes and yards.
So Mike Ellis, 47, has lots of stories.
But there was nothing quite like what the life-long trapper ended up catching on a nuisance call last week in West Manchester Township: a white groundhog.
It was white as if it had walked out of a snow drift. It was as white as if it were dipped in a can of paint.
Ellis said he walked up to the trap and didn’t know what the heck was inside at first. He had come across white foxes from time to time. He had heard of a few white groundhogs over the years, but not around here.
So it was as if a myth had come to life in front of his eyes.
It had pink feet, pink ears and blue eyes. His Facebook friends figured it was a rat, a possum or a guinea pig.
“White groundhogs are extremely rare,” said Tom Hardisky, a furbearer biologist with the state Game Commission. He’s heard of only a couple of albino sightings in the past 25 years.
The thing is, groundhogs usually are the most routine in Ellis’ job. He gets more calls to catch them than anything else because so many dig huge holes along house foundations, patios and pool decks. They even have a tendency to seek out the warmth of car engines – which I know from personal experience.
But then there are days when “it’s just amazing what you find out there,” Ellis said.
Like how he recently pulled a 4-foot ball python out of a West York woman’s dryer vent.
And how he catches probably 200 skunks a year because, during their search for grub worms, they tend to make manicured lawns look like a day of pitching wedge practice.
Raccoons, though, can be the most challenging. They are compact balls of muscle, as strong “as little bears,” to go with sharp teeth and claws.
They are too curious – like the raccoon that walked in through a dog door in East Berlin and holed up overnight in a kitchen. Ellis eventually caught it with a snare pole.
They are vulnerable to rabies, which makes them even bolder and more dangerous. One recently attacked a woman in the middle of the day near the Honey Run Golf Club, latching onto her thigh and drawing blood.
And they can be vicious when protecting their young. Once, a raccoon jumped onto Ellis’ back in a dark attic and shredded his jacket before he could toss it off.
The thing is, the busy pest control season only is just beginning.
Baby groundhog, skunk and bat populations soon will cause enough havoc to keep Ellis’ phone ringing most hours of the day and night, deep into October.
So that white groundhog was a treasure in the midst of it all. Ellis took photos and showed it off to some folks before relocating and releasing it.
It was about the beauty and fascination of seeing something most never will.
And there was an energy charge after all those miles driven and all those midnight calls.
“It really did” he said, “make my day.”