LOCKPORT, N.Y. (WIVB) – Investigators at the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office say they know who is damaging flags near graves at the Cold Springs Cemetery, and they have the photos to prove it.
On Memorial Day, the parents of Army Specialist Albert Jex contacted News 4 after discovering the damage in the veterans’ section of the cemetery. Jex is buried there.
At the time, Jex’s mother, Cathy Marie MacFarlane, she told News 4, “The flags are gone, the sticks are broken, and it’s very disrespectful.”
Rodney Burdick, a groundskeeper at the cemetery told News4, “We came in Tuesday morning and like 31 flags were gone off the veterans graves there.”
Sheriff James Voutour heard about the damage on the news. He says no report was ever filed with his office.
He sent a deputy out Tuesday afternoon to investigate. That deputy caught the groundhog in action.
“If we hadn’t seen it for ourselves, we probably wouldn’t have believed it, but the deputy sat there and watched this animal go up and take the flags and break them and take them to its den,” the sheriff explained.
Groundskeepers believe the animal is using the sticks to build its den and the flags as bedding.
Burdick explained, “After we cut down a couple of trees down right by where his hole was that’s when he started doing it.”
Although the animal may have been angry that his quiet, shaded home was disrupted, Sheriff Voutour said the behavior is unacceptable.
“You go down there with a heavy heart to begin with and you go down to honor the fallen and you find the flags are broken,” said Voutour.
He joked saying, “I guess he’s unpatriotic.”
However, patriotism won in this case. Veterans weren’t going to let the rodent get in the way of honoring the fallen.
“Our veterans who fight for us jumped right into action once again and replaced all the flags,” Voutour told News4.
The cemetery is near the Erie Canal and there are several of these rodents in the area and there are no plans to try and get rid of the animal.
Sheriff Voutour said he’s hoping to find some kind of solution, possibly replacing the wooden sticks with plastic ones to make them less appealing.