Tuesday, 28 July 2015

A "Wuchack" by Any Other Name

Over the last few years I was enjoying the occasional glimpses of a ground hog in my yard. We knew it was living under our shed and we were okay with that as it was not destroying anything we noticed.  And it was adorable.  I used to have a vegetable garden but now choose to support the local growers instead, so it was not harming us or our property in any way.

Last year a young man rang our door bell and introduced himself as the manager of the community garden.  He asked if we had a ground hog living on our property.  I surprised myself by lying in a protective den mother way.  I ventured to ask him what the problem was and he said that this animal was tunneling under the chain link fence from my backyard into the community garden on the other side. It was not only helping itself to a few vegetables but the entire row of broccoli!  I chucked to myself imagining the looks on their faces when they noticed their depleted harvest.

This young and earnest man then asked permission to set up a live trap on our side of the fence, which I quickly denied.  I wanted to give my yard pet a fair chance of changing its dining location.

A trap was dug in and wired to the tunnel on the other side of my fence.  And in one day it was trapped and carried away with the promise it would be released elsewhere.  I was sad. I missed its little furry self.

This week I was sitting outside by the pond eating my breakfast and what should appear along the path but another groundhog! Equally adorable and delightful.

I think just a change in wind direction or a better view of me and my cell phone made it hurry away with only a few quick stops to look over its shoulder and seek refuge under our shed once more.

And as with most other nature sitings I go to my Peterson's First Guides to identify what I'm looking at then off to the internet for more answers to questions, even answers to questions I didn't know I had:

Groundhog vs Woodchuck
Groundhogs and woodchucks are the same animal. “Woodchuck” is just another name for “groundhog.” Other names that are used for this particular animal include “whistle pig” and “land beaver.”
The groundhog is 1 of the 14 species of marmots. Its species name is Marmota monax and it belongs to the genus Marmota, family (Scuiridae), and order Rodentia. Its higher classification includes kingdom Animalia, Phylum Chordata, and Class Mammalia. The groundhog or woodchuck is the largest member of the squirrel family. It characterized as a ground squirrel that can climb trees and can swim in the water.
They are considered as garden pests since their diet is primarily plants like grass, fruits, agricultural crops, berries, and tree bark. However, they are also known to eat insects, grubs, caterpillars, snails, and grasshoppers.
Groundhogs or woodchucks are common in the North American areas such as the United States, Canada, and Alaska. Unlike their fellow marmots, they are lowland creatures with short but powerful limbs and curved, thick claws for digging. Their spine is curved with two coats of fur. They also have two, large incisors.
Groundhogs are famous because they are one of the few animals who undergo complete hibernation during the winter season. During the summer, the groundhogs eat all the season to accumulate a lot of body fat. When winter comes (usually in October to April), they escape to their burrows, curl into a ball, lower their heartbeats and their body temperature. During hibernation, the stored fat gives it all the necessary nutrients that the groundhog needs. The hibernation ends at the start of spring. Spring during the months of March to April also signifies new life for the groundhog since a litter of six newborns are usually born at this time of the year.
Aside from a place for a hibernation spot, a groundhog’s burrows are also the ideal place for sleeping, raising young groundhogs, and escaping predators like wolves, coyotes, foxes, bobcats, bears, large hawks, owls, and dogs. A groundhog’s burrow has a number of entrances and exits which makes it perfect as an escape route from predators.
Burrows are often found in forest edges near open fields like meadows, roads, and streams. A groundhog would usually serve as a guard to the burrow. A high-pitched whistle from the outside is an indication of an incoming predator and danger. The groundhog can also produce other sounds like low barks and sound from grinding their teeth.
The word “woodchuck” is associated with the groundhog since the Algonquian name for the groundhog is “wuchack.” From there it evolved into “woodchuck.” It has been the subject of a famous tongue twister and a day dedicated to the animal. ( www.differencebetween.net )

So I might have a family there. And as long as I don't plant a garden for our food they will not disrupt our lives.  It is eating the apples that continue to fall down from our ancient apple tree.  It is a good relationship.  I am glad.