The City of Fennimore has taken back its home-field advantage.
Volunteer Field, Derek Lendosky Community Field and the Grid-Iron Field reopened to the public on Sunday, less than a week after badgers and skunks snatched the home-field advantage away.
Fennimore Mayor Ryan Boebel was informed on Thursday afternoon, June 2 of a badger that had made its home in the area of LaFollete Street in the City’s Business Park.
“I went out there to see if the badger was active and she was halfway outside the hole,” Boebel said.
In an exchange of voicemails with a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources game warden the following day, Boebel was told “badgers are solitary, nocturnal animals. Leave them be. They will eventually move on.”
Fennimore Fun Fest was held June 3-4 without any confirmed reports of the badger making a guest appearance.
Local trapper Marcus Bresee informed Boebel shortly before 5 p.m. on June 6 that a mother badger and five kits were living in the LaFollete Street area.
“That is the most dangerous animal that we have in Wisconsin,” Bresee said last Friday morning. “As I told the mayor and I have told other people, I would have rather seen a pack of wolves in center field than one female badger.”
Armed with that knowledge, Boebel made the decision to cancel June 6 games that were to be hosted at Volunteer Field and Derek Lendosky Community Field.
“Being involved with youth coaching for many years this was somewhat of a difficult decision but I feel it is the right one as it would be much more difficult to deal with an attack on a citizen,” Boebel wrote in an e-mail to members of the Fennimore Common Council on June 7.
The City sought a permit to remove the badgers from the area, but learned that would not be feasible.
“According to everybody I talked to with the DNR, trapping a badger is difficult enough, but with babies it is very hard I guess,” Boebel said Monday night.
Bresee proposed placing small bottles containing bleach in the holes left by the badgers.
“It has always been a standing that bleach is the most effective method,” he said. “It does not hurt the groundwater or anything.
“We put it in small plastic bottles, take the cap off and roll it into the hole. The bleach, in this heat, creates fumes that the badgers can’t control.”
Bresee placed the bottles of bleach in all known badger holes on Thursday, June 9. On June 10, badger tracks were no longer present and on Sunday the area was opened to the public.
What made the friendly confines of Volunteer Field and Derek Lendosky Community field friendly to a family of badgers?
“That is a very simple thing to answer. Their favorite food is right there in that ball diamond,” Bresee said. “They love ground squirrels and gophers, and that field is loaded with gophers. When I was placing the bleach I don’t know how many gophers came running out of holes. I would say in the dozens.”
Bresee estimates the badgers have been active in the Business Park area for more than a year.
“I found abandoned dens, abandoned diggings,” he said. “If a badger finds a gopher they are going to dig the hole. They can dig very quickly and very deep in a short amount of time.”
No one knows where the badgers will turn up next, but Bresee used bleach to evict badgers from the Boscobel Municipal Airport a year ago and they have not returned since.
“It is a long-term solution,” Bresee said. “Usually, they go far away. They will find the next food source.”
While Bresee surveyed the area in response to the badgers, he learned a mother skunk and several young also called the area home.
“They are going after a little different food source. They want mice and grubs,” he said. “Grubs are a big part of their diet. That is what they are seeking. That is what they want. That is the easiest food for her to dig up.”
Bresee trapped the mother skunk and two young Thursday morning and removed them from the area.
Fennimore is no stranger to skunks. Bresee estimates he has removed 11 or 12 skunks from “The City on the Move” since March 1.
“These animals are opportunists,” he said. “As long as people are feeding cats on porches, feeding cats on decks, leaving garage doors open, they are feeding the problem. A skunk will eat cat food as easy as anything.”
Fennimore is not alone in facing opposition from such animals.
“There isn’t a municipality in Wisconsin that isn’t having a problem with some sort of wildlife,” Bresee said. “All municipalities are having a problem with some sort of wild animal of one sort or another.”