The Suitcase Lady


April 29, 2014, 9:11 pm

His official name is Marmota monax monax, but we just call him Woody. A woodchuck, or more likely a succession of woodchucks, has graced our yard all the seventeen years we have lived here.

Woodchucks, a.k.a. groundhogs, are the largest and heaviest members of the squirrel family. Distinguishing features include a broad, pudgy body, short, strong legs, little rounded ears and a well-furred tail.

“Homebody” is a good word to describe Woody. A woodchuck rarely ventures much farther than two or three hundred feet from its burrow. Being diurnal, these short excursions all occur in daylight hours. And it is a solitary creature. We have never seen two together.

Woody is a daily presence from April through October. By early fall, he waddles about thick  with fat from gorging on summer greens.  Woody is a confirmed herbivore.

When cold weather arrives, groundhog retires to his underground hole, curls up in a ball and drapes his tail over his head. Woody is a true hibernator. His heartbeat drops down to 4 beats a minute, down from 75+ when he is active. Body temperature plunges to 38 degrees as compared to 90 degrees. We know spring has returned when a skinny Woody appears under our feeders, guzzling up the fallen sunflower seeds.

Last week I came up from the beach and down the mowed grass path that leads to our front deck. But I soon stopped in my tracks. Our woodchuck had excavated an enormous hole and pile of dirt right in the middle of the path. I laughingly informed my husband as I entered the house that he would be mowing a detour to our path thanks to Woody’s building activities.

We are happy to reroute our path. In the past, Woody has dug burrows under both our neighbor’s and our decks. Since these construction sites came dangerously close to our foundations, we are all in favor of a giant hole in the middle of our front yard.

Our groundhog is a welcome and whimsical part of our yard’s wildlife. We smile every time we look out and see him in the Tooley Cafe.

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