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PETA not Amused by Gouldboro Man's Groundhog Dinner
08/13/2010   Reported By: A.J. Higgins

Dave Seward is mostly known for running the only hardware store in the Downeast village of Gouldsboro. But a decision he recently made in order to salvage his garden has thrust him into the spotlight in a way he could never have imagined. It wasn't so much that he shot some hungry groundhogs that were decimating his parsnips -- it's that he ate them, and then...well...put them on display as a warning to other garden invaders. The publicity arising from the incident has made the businessman a local hero, but the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals say he's anything but.

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Not much happens at Anderson Marine and Hardware on Route 1 in Gouldsboro. There is some local fascination with the way that owner Dave Seward can locate just about any of the store's items in a matter of seconds. But these days, Seward is a bit of a media celebrity.

The story was picked up by Boston radio talk show host Howie Carr. "This is from the Ellsworth American up in Maine," Carr said on a recent program. "Groundhogs devour man's garden, man devours groundhogs. And then above there's a quote: 'It was war.'"

First a few chunks of lettace disappeared, Seward recalls, then an entire row of carrots. "There were no serious footprints, so I didn't have a clue -- I kind of wanted to blame it on crows, but it wasn't pulled out, the roots were still there, but whole tops were gone. I knew it was a varmint, but I didn't know what it was."

Much like Bill Murray's demented groundskeeper in the 1980 film Caddyshack, Seward set out to trap the invaders -- and then dispatched them. "So I just got my gun, and just shot 'em quick. They didn't have time to think about it, and neither did I. But I had promised the day before that if I got them, that I was going to eat 'em, because they had eaten so much of my favorite parts of my garden."

The next day, Seward made plans for a barbeque at his camp on nearby Jones Pond. "I was at camp, so I skinned out two of them and I took them down and soaked them overnight in garlic water and the next morning we fried them up over the campfire, myself and my wife and Dick Fisher, the bell-shop guy, ate 'em up."

At U.S. Bells in Gouldsboro, Dick Fisher makes bronze wind chimes. Fisher recalls how he only learned of the mystery meat after taking a few bites. "In comes Dave with a plate, and a couple of -- I took them to be chicken drumsticks. And he says, 'Here, have some.' And I said, 'What is it?' And he said, 'Well, just have some.' Tasted good. Tasted a little gamey. As I was eating one of them, enjoying his sort of mixed smokey barbecue, gamey, chickeny flavor, I was sort of guessing rabbit. And then he started telling me about his groundhog episode."

The story so far may offend those who would find groundhog to be a questionable source. But it doesn't end there. Seward decided not only to grill the groundhogs -- he also wanted to send a message to the others.

"I did take the third one, and I stuck him in the trail -- some people might not like that -- as a warning to the rest of them, cause if they're like mice, if you see one, there's many more," he says. "That kept them away for about two and a half weeks. Something ate him, I guess, took it. Probably a coyote or a fox."

"I mean, he didn't just kill these poor groundhogs -- he obviously was getting kind of a sick kick out of abusing the body of this third groundhog, and that really just wasn't necessary," says Ashley Byrne, who represents the New York chapter of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

She says Seward could easily have found a more humane way of keeping the varmints away from his garden. And Byrne says what's most disturbing is that Seward appears tohave enjoyed the attention he got for his actions. "In the interviews that this guy did, it was obvious that he did get a kick out of, not just killing and eating these animals, but out of hanging the body of the third animal up to frighten other groundhogs."

Seward defends his actions. And while he enjoys wildlife as much as anyone, he draws the line at where his garden begins.
"I had some interesting discussions in regards to, you know, people who love animals and don't want them hurt, and I think most of us have reached some middle ground that says that there's room there for both of us on most occasions. But occasionally, you've got to do something about it."

Seward says that aside from his critics, the publicity from the groundhogs has been good for business. So don't be surprised to find that he's added a line of groundhog traps to his already crowded inventory at Anderson Marine and Hardware.


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