One of the most common and important wildlife questions I’ve ever been asked: How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?
Not too long ago I spent a day at the beach walking the boardwalk. The wind was whipping the sand across the path and the water was pounding against the rocks on the beach. I wondered if the groundhog (Marmota monax) would be correct about us getting an early spring this year.
Many of us look forward to our quaint – but, you have to admit, strange – February 2nd tradition: the one where the groundhog looks out of its burrow to see if it has a shadow that foretells the changing seasons.
I don’t know about their prophetic powers, but I do know that groundhogs are famous for their extensive burrowed tunnels. These burrows, much like many of our own homes, are used for safety, hibernating, sleeping, nursery, and as a retreat in case of bad weather.
While I try to love and appreciate all of my wild neighbours, when it comes to groundhogs I have a tenuous love-hate relationship. Many years ago we had a vegetable garden in our backyard. It was meant to teach the kids about growing their own food, about responsibility, etc, etc.
What it really taught them, and me, was how annoying a 3kg ball of fur could be. I felt like every day I would look out and see the groundhog just sitting in the garden eating the potatoes, carrots, and other foods we had been growing that season. I tried sending the beagle out to scare him away, but once Tippy was back inside the groundhog would poke its head out and, I swear, start laughing at me.
There have been some good sightings, too. Sometimes he’d be eating my neighbour’s vegetables. Another time I saw a groundhog sitting on the top of a post sunning his fat little belly.
Once I even spied an albino groundhog. Not just one, actually, but two on the side of the road. I did my usual U-turn at the next street and came back to take a few shots.
Do any of you readers have a good groundhog story you’d be willing to share? Please share your comments online at beachmetro.com.
Here are a couple of cool facts about groundhogs: They have many different names like woodchucks, whistle-pigs, and land-beavers. Don’t call them gophers though, that’s an entirely different marmot.
Also, the word woodchuck is derived from the Algonquian name for the varmint: wuchak.
Did you know that groundhogs can climb trees? Yes they can, though I admit I haven’t caught that moment on camera yet. Furthermore, groundhogs adorably greet each other by rubbing their noses together. Finally, a baby groundhog is called a chuckling.
Final question: How many of you remember the answer to the Mother Goose poem at the start of this story?