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Wednesday, May 23rd, 2007

Celina Police make furry capture at store

By Margie Wuebker
Wal-Mart attracts shoppers from all walks of life but a Tuesday morning visitor certainly drew interest not to mention local police and wildlife officers.
The furtive visitor, who apparently had no designs of pre-Memorial Day specials, sauntered from vehicle to another in the parking lot apparently looking for a new place to call home.
"Badgers are uncommon in this area," said Ryan Garrison, wildlife officer with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife. "We think this guy had been staying next door at the site of the new Menard's store before all the excavation equipment arrived."
Celina Police responded to the 1950 Havemann Road location at 6:53 a.m. after receiving reports of a wild badger running back and forth near one of the front entrances.
"A badger is not something you see every day," said Sgt. James Stelzer. "I saw the first one at the age of 7 after my uncle shot it dead."
Police kept curious people - adults and children alike - at bay while the silvery gray, black and buff colored animal peered from beneath a parked vehicle. Its webbed feet and menacing claws, designed for digging and burrowing, were of no use on the asphalt surface. Spectators, including some store personnel with cameras in hand, recorded the unusual occurrence for posterity.
Garrison, who was accompanied by several off-duty wildlife personnel, had a plan in mind when he arrived on the scene. Officers quickly formed a line and began walking toward the stocky creature's temporary refuge. The critter reacted as Garrison intended, moving toward the building and a row of parked shopping carts near the grocery department doors.
With a snare instead of a lasso, the wildlife officer walked atop carts and successfully nabbed the unwanted visitor. It was none too happy about being moved to an animal control cage.
Jarrod Duquette, a master's student at The Ohio State University who has been studying badgers in conjunction with the wildlife division, took the critter back to Columbus but plans to release it here today. Tracking equipment contained in a parachute-like device will record its meandering through the Mercer County countryside.
In 1990, the ODNR Division of Wildlife listed the American badger as a species of concern because of difficulty getting an accurate population count. The favored habitat is one with short grass such as fields and pastures.
Duquette has learned much during the past two years of the study. Badgers tend to settle in the western and central parts of the state above the glacial till where the soil is more conducive to grasslands and farm fields. True carnivores, they prey on rodents, other small animals and even birds if the opportunity arises. The critter captured Tuesday weighed between 18 and 20 pounds, although some reach 30 pounds or more.
The most obvious signs of badgers are their dens with the burrow entrance resembling a very large groundhog hole. The tunnels can extend up to 30 feet and reach depths of nearly 15 feet. Remote cameras Duquette has installed on some burrows indicate badgers often share the space with woodchucks and raccoons.
He asks that anyone who has captured a badger or spotted one call him at 989-798-6619 so the information can be included in the study, which concludes in approximately eight months.
"Seeing a badger here is definitely unusual but not unheard of," Duquette says. "Last year one showed up at a Wal-Mart store in Darke County and sure enough there was development taking place next door."
Garrison thanked police and store employees for their assistance, adding capture might have been impossible without their help.
Stelzer summed up the event in Big 10 sports fashion, saying "Oh heck, it was just another case of the Buckeyes nabbing the Badgers."
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