Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Hole in the Ground

I have always been curious about what is living in the holes we come across in our hiking.  For years, I fantasized about getting a used colonoscope (I am a retired gastroenterologist) and looking into these tunnels.  The thought of viewing a startled critter head on in its home still excites me.

Is it Groundhog Day yet?
I assumed that identifying a critter at the hole provided proof of ownership.  Now I am not so sure.  I bought a better game camera and set it up right where I photographed the weasel with my old game camera.  It turns out that the hole is a very busy place.

On October first I got multiple pictures of a groundhog hanging out at the hole from noon to 6:00 PM.  He (sexually explicit pictures suppressed by editor) was seen emerging from the hole, looking around for predators, and at times posing to show his best side.

Checking out the camera
In one picture he came up close to look at the camera, or possibly he was just wanting a passport photo.


The groundhog, a.k.a. whistle pig, woodchuck, land beaver, is famous for its burrows, usually complex with several entrances.  They are vegetarians and typically live along the edge of fields where they can find a large variety of vegetation.  Our field is perfect as it has lots of weeds and native plants on 2 acres cleared for warm season grass restoration and now fallow.

Like their prairie dog cousins, they are always alert to the danger of predators and typically stand on their hind legs to look around frequently.  You can readily see their dental resemblance to a beaver (or Bugs Bunny) in the picture above.  They eat a wide variety of plants, probably including our gourds which are frequently mowed down by rodents.  They get their water through the plants they eat.

Groundhogs are one of the few mammals which are true hibernators, spending up to six uninterrupted months in their burrows.  They eat voraciously in the summer, reaching their maximum weight just before hibernation and emerge skinny and very hungry in the spring.

I owe these pictures to last week's weasel which gave me the excuse to upgrade my game camera.  You can find more on groundhogs on Wikipedia.

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