Groundhogs digging up bones at Alton cemetery

Published: Jul. 22, 2022 at 7:11 PM CDT
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ALTON (KMOV) - There are signs of digging in at least five locations at the Alton City Cemetery. At one of those locations, there’s a collection of bones, including a human femur bone, that have been dug up and left beside a grave.

Greg Wilkey and his wife visited the historic cemetery, which has graves dating back to the Civil War. They’re from Utah and were in Alton on a trip down the Mississippi River and saw the bones on Friday. 

“Very good diggers,” he said.

It turns out the diggers, are groundhogs. Cemetery Sexton Don Huber said it’s not the first time that groundhogs have dug tunnels in the cemetery but it’s the first time they’ve unearthed bones. Wildlife removal expert Michael Beran said the groundhogs are probably burrowing down to where old pine caskets have disintegrated and the animals were clearing out the space.

”I could completely see the groundhogs being able to detect that there’s a void there. And so let’s dig down there and see if that’s a good place to live or not,” he said.

Beran is owner of Wildlife Command Center and is “Bare Hands Beran,” host of the Discovery+ program Bare Hands Rescue. He said groundhogs, also known as woodchucks and ground beavers, are often found digging in cemeteries.

”We like to trap humanely with live traps, cage traps. And then we have written permission from a lot of folks, mostly people that have deer leases, where we can translocate the offending groundhogs,” said Beran.

Huber said a wildlife removal company is expected to start working to trap and remove the groundhogs in a few days. He said later the bones will be reinterred in the appropriate graves.