Ground hogs don’t dig the Big Gig

    A few months ago, a blog about rats in Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward generated quite a bit of chatter and feedback.

    Consider this to be the Wildlife in the Ward Blog: Part II.

    I see ground hogs.

    Soon after Small Business Times moved into our new offices in the Warehouse #1 building at 126 N. Jefferson St. last December, we discovered some creatures scurrying about in the vacant gravel lot near the corner of Polk Street and Harbor Drive.

    Viewing them from a distance of a couple hundred yards, we initially thought they were cats. But they were bigger than cats. And they didn’t move like cats.

    Eventually, some of our staffers were approached by the sociable critters south of the parking lot of the Italian Community Center. It was then that we learned that they are, in fact, ground hogs (see photo).
    Over the past several months, whenever I happened to gaze out my office window, I often saw this Third Ward ground hog colony frolicking about, chomping at the grass and the dandelions. There are at least four of them. And they are well-fed.

    We have adopted the ground hogs as our unofficial mascots here at SBT.

    I’m sure Summerfest executive director Don Smiley and his crew have more important things to worry about, but Vanessa Serkowski, SBT production director and self-acknowledged animal lover, is very concerned about our little friends.

    As Summerfest approaches, the commotion along Harbor Drive has been intense. Skid loaders, semi-trucks, cars, golf carts, commercial vans and construction crews are omnipresent as Milwaukee gears up for its Big Gig.

    We have not seen our furry mascots this week, and Vanessa did not like my joke about Summerfest’s newest culinary delight being ground hog on a stick.

    I took the initiative to ask a Summerfest parking lot security attendant near the lot about the ground hogs Tuesday. She was surprised to learn that the ground hogs lived there.

    "Really? Well, I did see some big hairy thing over there yesterday, but I didn’t know what it was," she said. "That was a ground hog?"

    I have no idea if all of the Summerfest commotion has driven the ground hogs away to a more peaceful setting, like maybe The Shops of Grand Avenue or the Milwaukee Theatre. But if you see one of the Summerfest ground hogs this week, have some sympathy. They thought they had settled into a much quieter neighborhood.

    And if you’re so inclined, I am told that ground hogs are herbivores. So, don’t bother offering them the mozzarella marinara.


    Steve Jagler is executive editor of Small Business Times.

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