Some people have helpful neighbors who pick up your mail, watch your place while you’re gone, and on occasion, act as an emergency store with a lent cup of sugar and a smile. I, on the other hand, have a different kind of neighbor.
The common groundhog, or woodchuck as it’s often called, is a pest to some, a cute furry animal to others. Since these neighbors reside in the field next to where I live, they are fortunately the latter and not the former to me. Groundhogs were a new experience for me when I came up to Ohio from Texas. While we might have groundhogs in parts of Texas, I never saw one before, except every February when I, like the rest of the nation, would wait patiently for Punxsutawney Phil to predict the remainder of winter. But they are plentiful up here. On a recent drive through Southern Ohio, I saw them frequently as they nibbled on tender grasses by the roadside. Too close, sadly, in some cases.
Nevertheless, I still break a small smile whenever I see one of these lumbering, overgrown guinea-pig-like critters. On walks around the neighborhood I’ve seen them foraging in the nearby field around and behind a large bush entangled with raspberry vines. Their den is behind this natural barrier and on the border between the mowed field and the thick, high grasses and weeds of a unkempt lot. Best I can tell there is one adult and two nearly grown juveniles. But since I only get infrequent peeks at partial animals, I can’t tell for sure.
Sometime over the next few days I plan to take an offering in the form of a sack of tasty carrots and see if I can coax them out of their Groundhog Condo long enough to snap some better pictures. After all, somebody has to act as the local Welcome Wagon, even for shy neighbors sporting large front teeth and funny, waddly sort of walks.