Many years ago, the late George Hagood, who lived out on the Tallapoosa River, called me.
“Bud,” he said, “Can you come out here? I’ve got a strange animal down here on the riverbank and I don’t know what it is.”
Luckily I was able to go right then, and about 15 minutes later I pulled into his yard. George was an old country boy, and being raised on a farm he was fairly well acquainted with its animal life. Therefore, I was eager to see this “strange animal” he was talking about.
He took me down a steep bank leading to the river, then suddenly stopped and pointed.
“He’s got a hole right yonder,” he said, “and I saw him go into it a few minutes ago.”
We stood there about five minutes, then suddenly a head bobbed up out of the hole, then the whole animal emerged.
“George, that is a groundhog. It’s the first one I have ever seen around here.”
And that was true. I had seen groundhogs, also known as woodchucks, up in the mountains of north Georgia but never in our area. Later, I surmised that they gradually spread out from north Georgia and made it to our area. Now, they are plentiful.
The woodchuck is a rodent. Normally it weighs around from 5 to 12 or 13 pounds. It is gray grizzled color with a rusty brown belly. It has a fairly well-developed set of ears and a squirrel-like face. When walking they do so with a jerky, humped-up fashion. They can readily climb trees.
The woodchuck is a ground dweller and often digs a burrow that can be over 20 feet long. In cold weather they will hibernate and usually emerge from their burrow in early February. It is at that time that the male seeks a female for breeding, followed by about two to five young ones in April or May.
Groundhogs eat mostly green vegetation, including twigs, fruit, bark, and they often get in trouble with humans when they invade their gardens. Depending on latitude they can hibernate from three to six months.
Bud Jones is a Tallapoosa resident and the author of more than 10 books. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.