Almost every day, the caretaker at Calvary Cemetery in St. Peter is filling in holes left by some overnight marauders.
The suspects are badgers, digging for a striped gopher dinner.
It’s kind of disconcerting,” said Dave Vetter, secretary of the cemetery. “People don’t like seeing holes around monuments.”
A couple of badgers were spotted by a visitor one evening and for the past few weeks have been digging for food. “We have a lot of gophers this year,” Vetter said.
While badgers feed on most small animals or eggs they come across, gophers are a primary food and they need to eat at least two each day to maintain their weight.
Dale VanThuyne, who digs graves and does other maintenance at area cemeteries, said a badger invasion is rare.
“Voles, gophers and woodchucks are a common problem in cemeteries, but it’s unusual for badgers to take up residence nearby and go into cemeteries,” he said.
“I’ve only seen it once, at a rural cemetery.”
Badgers, which can grow to near 20 pounds, are aggressive animals who dig voraciously.
“They make a mess,” Vetter said. “They dig and the dirt must just fly out — you can see it spread all over. The caretaker dumps a 5-gallon bucket of dirt down the holes and it disappears.”
Joe Stangel, area wildlife supervisor for the Department of Natural Resources in Nicollet, said badgers are rarely seen but can cause digging problems.
“You hardly ever see them. They’re not as many around like racoons and they operate at night and underground,” he said.
“They go after mice, voles and gophers mainly, and they dig multiple holes daily.”
He said they are grassland predators, so a cemetery would feel like a natural setting for them.
He said the best way to deal with them would be to hire an animal nuisance control company that specializes in trapping a variety of animals in towns without putting pets or people at risk. “They have various methods they use,” Stangel said.
A DNR permit would be needed.
So far, Vetter said, they’re taking a wait-and-see approach.
“We’re hoping they just move on.”