𝘕𝘰𝘷𝘦𝘮𝘣𝘦𝘳 13, 2021
One of my ulterior motives for driving to see the leaves this week was because it is near the outlet tube I like to fish. The level of water coming out of the tube varies with the amount of rain and downstream needs, so I never know what to expect when I arrive. When we pulled into the reservoir the lake was up but not high. We took the winding two-mile road leading down to the tube. When I got out and checked the water was still down and there was only a small flow from the tube despite the rain we have received. I went back to the car, and Melissa and I were talking when I looked up and noticed a small brown animal crouched near the fence guarding the tube. I did not know what it was but as I studied the critter, I realized this was a groundhog.
When I looked online, I found the groundhog (Marmota monax), is a rodent of the family Sciuridae belonging to the group of large ground squirrels known as marmots. The groundhog is a lowland creature of North America that is found through much of the eastern US, across Canada and into Alaska. The name “thickwood badger” was given to the animal in the Northwest to distinguish it from the prairie badger. Young groundhogs may be called chucklings. Being a lowland animal, the groundhog is different than other marmots who live in rocky and mountainous areas. Groundhogs play an important role maintaining healthy soil in woodland and plain areas. The groundhog is considered a crucial habitat engineer when distanced from humans. Both their diet and their habit of burrowing make groundhogs serious nuisance animals around farms and gardens, as they eat many commonly grown vegetables, and their burrows can undermine building foundations.
The groundhog is considered the most solitary of the marmot species. Although they live in groups, their social organization varies across populations. Groundhogs do not form stable, long-term pair-bonds, and during mating season male-female interactions are limited to mating. Groundhogs in Ohio are different, as adult males and females instead associate with each other throughout the year and often from year to year. The groundhog is an extremely intelligent animal forming complex social networks, able to understand social behavior, form kinship with their young, understand and communicate threats by whistling, and work cooperatively to solve tasks like burrowing. The groundhog we saw was a solitary individual away from any grouping. I watched him for several minutes as he slowly worked his way up the side of the mountain. He was also watching me to make sure I did not venture too close. After the groundhog left, I ended up catching six bluegills. Another good day.
𝗧𝗵𝗼𝘂𝗴𝗵𝘁𝘀: In the US and Canada, the yearly February 2 Groundhog Day celebration has given the groundhog recognition and popularity. The most popular of these groundhogs is Punxsutawney Phil, kept as part of Groundhog Day festivities in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. The 1993 comedy film Groundhog Day references several events related to Groundhog Day and portrays both Punxsutawney Phil and the annual Groundhog Day ceremony. The repetition or reliving the same day finally came to an end when Bill Murray’s character learned from the experience and changed his life for the better. During the height of the pandemic, it seemed we were caught in the repetitive cycle of the film. Each day was like the last as we quarantined at home. As life reopens, I hope we learned something to help make life better. Do the work. Follow the science. Change is coming and it starts with you.