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Kopac's Corner

Trailrunners, Beware the Woodchuck Holes!

by Bob Kopac

Oh yes, about 175 miles (a week of running) a couple of times. It is easy once you are fit and healthy… We were running all these trails and just having a great time.” Patti Catalano DillonPatti Catalano Dillon and Danny Dillon

The above quote was from my July 2006 interview with National Distance Running Hall of Fame inductee Patti Dillon that appeared in Runners World Online in November. After reading that quote, it should be obvious to trailrunners what inevitably would happen. After the article appeared, Patti sent me an e-mail that read, “Of course, what people don't know, is that I fractured my ankle in August. I fell in an animal hole on the trails. Just starting to run again...”

Patti’s broken ankle illustrates the perils of trailrunning. I once wrote an article called “Trailrunners, Beware the Beak!” about the dangers trailrunners face from turkeys hanging upside down. (Link to this article on this web site) I should have written a second article called “Trailrunners, Beware the Woodchuck Holes!” If I had, perhaps I might have saved Patti, for I bet she fell in a woodchuck hole. Woodchucks are evil. I base that on experience.

Once, while I was looking out my second-floor window, I observed a woodchuck standing on its hind legs so it could more easily look through the first-floor picture windows and scan the inside of my house -- a Stephen King scenario. This past year I discovered woodchuck holes under my front porch, at the left rear corner of the house, and at the right rear corner, even though there are critter-friendly woods behind my house. I suspect the evil varmints were trying to undermine the foundation to cause my house to collapse.

Anyway, back to Patti. With an entire forest in which to dig holes, why would a woodchuck decide to dig a hole in a trail where Patti runs? I have my theories:

What Patti needs to do to protect herself:

However, the best way to stop woodchuck holes is to pass a town ordinance that woodchucks must acquire a building permit to dig holes. Anyone who has tried to get a building permit knows it would take forever for a woodchuck to obtain one.