Woodchuck

moon phase Week of 09/30/2007 Best planting days for fall potatoes, turnips, onions, carrots, beets and other root crops.

Over the years, my only artificial form of home entertainment has been a radio. It's been a constant companion, giving me the soothing pleasure of music. Sometimes I need the sound of voices so I may listen to a not-so-soothing talk show. The most interesting of these is when the host has a guest wildlife expert to answer questions from callers.

Woodchuck

I enjoy hearing stories from callers all around the state, describing their encounters with all kinds of wildlife from insects, to plants, to white-tailed deer, to eagles, fishes, snakes and turtles. Those are the stories I enjoy listening to—but unfortunately most of the airtime is spent answering questions from callers who want to know how to get rid of a wild species. Granted, there are many reasons to have to evict an intruding thistle, deer mouse, hornet, or woodchuck, but sadly the expert's recommendation is often to use chemical poisons. The call-in "Nature Program" turns into a plug for the chemical companies. The callers are rarely encouraged to take the opportunity to learn about their intruder. From knowledge comes understanding; from understanding comes respect; from respect grows compassion, which in turn instills preservation. It's a simple lesson that all children should be given the opportunity to learn.

Today I saw a fat woodchuck at the edge of the yard. There had been a family of them living here all spring and most of the summer, but I haven't seen one around for over a month. I enjoy watching the woodchuck (also known as a Groundhog) with his nose in the grass, probably munching on small dandelion leaves. I've always thought that these nutritious leaves are the most tasty in the fall; he probably does too. Occasionally, he would stand up on his hind feet and look around for any signs of danger. When he felt there was nothing to worry about, he'd go back to grazing. It's pretty obvious that he's putting on fat for winter; he looks like a fat little bear. When the ground freezes in early December, he will already be hibernating underground for the winter.

Woodchucks are mostly vegetarians, but no doubt, will not pass up an easy snack of June bug or cricket. They are members of the Squirrel family, yet they rarely will climb a tree, around here at least. I've noticed that woodchucks on the East coast are slightly smaller and they don't hesitate to climb into trees. The 13-lined ground squirrel and the chipmunks also are squirrels who hibernate for the long cold winter. The other members of the Kickapoo area squirrel family are the Gray and Fox squirrels, the little red squirrel, and the even smaller, flying squirrels.

The seasonal changes are more apparent with each passing day and the amount of light in a day becomes less and less. At 7pm it's already twilight now, whereas in July I might still be sitting at the drawing table, taking advantage of the sunlight. It's always a big adjustment for me when the days get shorter. It's sometimes hard to believe that Mother Nature just takes these changes in stride.

Naturally yours,

Dan

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