Cemeteries are hallowed ground where we lay our loved ones to rest, but one Mount Sterling cemetery is dealing with a major disruption due to rodents.
The critters in question are called Thirteen-Lined Ground Squirrels, which look very similar to chipmunks. They may look cute, but they can wreak serious havoc.
They spend most of their lives underground, digging numerous holes in which to live and hide. Because they are cautious animals, they prefer grassy areas that they can see over on their hind legs. That makes golf courses, parks and cemeteries perfect places for them to live.
Especially the Pleasant-Darby-Union Cemetery near Mount Sterling, which is shared between Pleasant Township in Madison County and Darby Township in Pickaway County.
However, the situation is not new, according to cemetery Superintendent Glenn Liff.
“It’s a 50-year-old problem,” he said. “When I was working here as a teenager we were trying to get rid of ground squirrels then.”
Liff noted how the nearby farmland gives them plenty of food, making them all the more attracted to the cemetery.
Solutions are hard to come by. Filling up the holes makes the issue worse, according to Liff.
“I once saw this woman filling in holes near a family grave,” he said. “The next day I was driving by, I saw her removing three or four gallon buckets of dirt, because the squirrels had dug more holes.”
Placing poison is illegal, due to an Ohio law against poisoning domestic animals, which states that no one may place any poisoned food where it may be easily found and eaten by any domestic animals.
“We’re trying to figure out a way to do this humanely as possible,” said Liff.
The best solution he and the cemetery board have figured so far is to call up a professional to set traps for them.
But, it’s not cheap. Costs of setting up traps range from $156 to $199 while removing the animals from the traps costs $59 to $78, per squirrel caught.
The cemetery board also wants a long-term solution. Re-doing the foundation for the graves is costs $2,500 to $3,000 a year. On average, Liff said they do about 30 each year.
The cemetery board meets every second Monday of the month. Their next public meeting is at noon on Feb. 13, at 14220 Era Road, Mount Sterling, in the building across from the cemetery.
Maximilian Kwiatkowski can be reached at 740-852-1616, ext. 1617 or on Twitter @MSFKwiat.