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Woodchuck hoodwinks City Hall

Employees need 2 hours to extricate it from a car

WEST VALLEY CITY — George Liti wanted to get rid of the chirping sound that was coming from his engine. But rather than go to a mechanic, he called on animal-control officers.

For the past day and a half, a woodchuck had been living in Liti's engine. The only time it came out was to eat his flowers.

He first heard the furry animal Wednesday morning, opened up the hood and thought it was a beaver that had come from somewhere along the Jordan River.

He hoped the animal would eventually go away. But the woodchuck ended up making a home under the hood of Liti's car on a ledge between the engine block and the firewall.

Liti drove the car around with the animal still under the hood, thinking it would eventually leave. He even drove to Salt Lake City International Airport and parked for several hours.

But the animal stayed on the safety of his ledge under the hood. When Liti got home, the woodchuck was still in the vehicle.

"I didn't want him to make a home in my car, but I couldn't do anything about it," Liti said.

Liti finally drove to West Valley City Hall on Thursday afternoon to ask police and animal-control officers for help.

Trying to get the woodchuck out proved to be tougher challenge than expected.

The pesky animal chirped loudly when anyone got near it. At one point it jumped out of the engine and ran circles underneath the car as animal control officers tried to catch it with a net. The woodchuck eventually ran back to its home near the engine block.

Woodchuck 1, police 0.

The spectacle created a large crowd in front of City Hall.

Officers were forced to call a veterinarian to try to tranquilize the animal. The problem was he couldn't reach the woodchuck. On one attempt to tranquilize the animal, the syringe was swatted by the animal and broken.

Woodchuck 2, police 0.

Finally, after two hours of trying to coax the animal out, the vet was able to tranquilize the animal. Within minutes the woodchuck was out.

"That was really something," said Liti who was happy to have the animal removed.

The woodchuck was taken to the Division of Wildlife Resources where it will be released back into the wilderness.


E-MAIL: preavy@desnews.com