Tuesday, February 2, 2010
1. What the heck is a groundhog anyway?
2. Are groundhogs yummy to eat?
3. If so, how can I get some to come live in our yard?
Okay, so after I figured out what the important questions were, I did some research to try to answer them. And here are the answers I came up with.
A groundhog is the same thing as a woodchuck, and sometimes it's called a whistle-pig or a land-beaver. The fancy name for a groundhog is Marmota monax. So this means that a groundhog is a marmot, which is a really big ground squirrel, and squirrels all belong to a huge family of rodents that are called sciurids. But really, it's just easier to say "groundhog" or "woodchuck." And if you were wondering where the name "woodchuck" comes from, it's from the Algonquian word wuchak.
Oh, and did you know that there are sciurids on every continent except Australia and Antarctica?
So anyway, groundhogs are just a type of really big squirrel. They usually weigh about 9 pounds, but if they get lots of alfalfa to eat, they can grow as big as 30 pounds, which is even bigger than me!
Groundhogs like to dig burrows in the ground to live in, and during the winter, they hibernate in their burrows. They are very good diggers because they have thick, curved claws. And their burrows are really long, with several escape routes and exits they can use. So a groundhog who is making a burrow has to dig a ton of dirt out of the ground. Well, okay, not a whole ton, but maybe as much as 700 pounds, which is still a lot of dirt!
Answer to Question #2:
Mom says that no way do we want groundhogs living in our yard because they would dig burrows there, and then we would step in the holes and break our ankles. Also the 700 pounds of dirt piled up in the yard would be ugly, and if the groundhogs dug their burrows under our house, the walls might fall down and kill us like happened to people during the earthquake in Haiti.
So it sounds like Mom is pretty much against our getting any groundhogs to have around as pets or snacks. Which means I will just have to try harder to catch one of the sciurids we already have living in our oak tree. Either that or maybe a possum.