Tuesday, February 2, 2010

GROUNDHOGS

Today is a really dumb holiday called Groundhog Day, and what happens on this holiday is that a groundhog named Phil comes out of his burrow in Pennsylvania, and he looks around.  Then if he doesn't see his shadow, it means that spring is coming early.  But if he does see his shadow, he goes back to hibernating in his burrow for six more weeks because that's how long it will be until spring really comes.



This is a stupid reason to have a holiday, if you ask me, because spring always comes about the same time every year, and it doesn't have anything to do with groundhogs and their shadows.  But there ARE some very important questions that should be asked on Groundhog Day, and here's what they are:

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.



Answer to Question #1:
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:
Yes, groundhogs are good to eat!  Here are some of the animals that like to eat groundhogs:  wolves, coyotes, foxes, bobcats, bears, hawks, owls, and dogs.  Also snakes can go down into a groundhog burrow and eat the baby groundhogs.





Answer to Question #3:
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.

3 comments:

  1. hmmm...this will be my 2nd try in posting a comment. I enjoyed the blog today! It reminded me of my father; because he loved eating groundhog. I usually hate to admit that..but it's true. My father and mother were both from West Virginia, and I've found over the years that several of my WV relatives eat things I consider to be "odd." My father (and mother) told me many times in my youth, that if one is hungry enough - you'd be surprised what you might eat. I'm sure that's true and I'm most grateful I have not had to ever face "TRUE HUNGER." In full disclosure: I have never even tasted a tiny bit of groundhog, and hopefully it will stay that way. :) Once again, I did learn something in reading your blog Piper. Hey, since your mom is such a good research asst., I think you might want to consider giving her a treat. DON'T tell her it was my idea...then she might give you and your siblings a treat in turn!!
    Love, AP
    P.S. oops forgot about the "diet"...hey, give your mom something healthy i.e. apple, banana, etc.,

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  2. Dear Aunt Patty,
    I think your father was very smart to eat groundhogs. They look very plump and juicy to me, and I wish I could eat one. Maybe I can talk Mom into moving to WV, so we can have groundhogs in our back yard there. I don't think your comments are too long. I like to read them, so just keep on writing them.
    Love, Piper

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