Carleton College's student newspaper since 1877

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

    Arb Notes

    <ast Tuesday, Carleton College observed Groundhog’s Day, Feb. 2, with little fanfare. There were no panel discussions on the role that groundhogs play in the globalizing biosphere, no chapel services for groundhogs and their families, and no Sayles dances hosted by the rodent community.

    We didn’t even have a groundhog-themed meal in the dining halls. As a big supporter of groundhogs and all that they do, I was disappointed. The groundhogs on campus are disgruntled, and you should be concerned about that. It is in our best interest to ensure that the groundhogs are gruntled. We need to understand the groundhog perspective on contemporary issues, and I hope this article will be a first step in that direction.

    Groundhogs (also known as woodchucks, land beavers, or whistle-pigs) are members of the squirrel family. They dwell in open woodlands throughout the eastern United States and Canada. A groundhog named “Willie the Whistle-Pig” lives underneath the gardening shed at Farm House. Some people refer to groundhogs as whistle-pigs because they whistle to warn their buddies when predators are on the prowl. Coyotes, foxes, dogs, and hawks all enjoy the taste of woodchuck flesh. Marmots—close relatives of the woodchuck clan—are still eaten by humans in certain parts of Mongolia. Luckily, the woodchucks are rather good at escaping their tormentors. They are excellent swimmers and tree-climbers, and they will use their large incisors to deter predators if they are in a pickle.

    Woodchucks have developed some crafty techniques to survive during the winter months. They must remain slim until late summer in order to avoid predators, but they gain massive amounts of weight during the fall to prepare for hibernation.

    They also may dig a special winter burrow to get below the frost line—the depth at which groundwater in the soil becomes frozen. Groundhogs typically will hibernate between October and March, but some years they claim that spring starts on February 2nd. Usually they are just playing a practical joke on gullible people from Pennsylvania.

    Some people might believe that these amusing creatures would make a good pet. They are sorely mistaken. Mr. Doug Schwartz, a zookeeper and groundhog trainer, believes that groundhogs can never be truly tamed.

    “They’re known for their aggression…Their natural impulse is to kill ’em all and let God sort ’em out.”

    Groundhog attacks are rare, but I suggest that we take heed of Schwartz’s advice. We should not attempt to domesticate the groundhogs; they are simply too free-spirited. We cannot pacify the groundhogs, so we need to live in harmony with them. One way to encourage good relations between Carleton and its groundhog neighbors is to host a grand celebration of Groundhog’s Day. I hope we will do better next year.

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