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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Woodchuck V: Groundhogs in the Mist

(Seneca Falls, NY 3/11)
Today I deployed nine camera traps with my students at our East Hill Campus. We plan to pull them in two weeks. Until then, I will continue with my series of woodchuck posts. I have two cameras out on two different but very close woodchuck holes. I believe I am only capturing images of a single animal on both cameras, but that is the subject of another post. Today, let me share a few images form the Cuddeback Capture. Unfortunately, the camera picked up some moisture inside and the photos all have a little foggy tint to them (Camera is currently in a plastic bag with some rice to soak up the water).  This first photo is just to set the scene so you can tell where the hole is.

Vigilant woodchuck
(Seneca Falls, NY 3/12)
I really enjoy the photos with the woodchuck standing tall on sentry duty. According to Elbroch and Rinehart (2011), up to 15% of a woodchuck's time above ground is spent in "vigilance behaviors" searching for predators or trespassers. I learned years ago that a sharp whistle can often get a woodchuck to pop up like this. Hunters often use this technique to get a 'chuck to reveal itself. The whistle is so effective because woodchucks whistle as a form of communication (one folk name for groundhog is "whistle pig").
I have no quarrel with my woodchucks. I do not farm. I have no livestock that could step into their holes.

Climbing woodchuck
(Seneca Falls, NY 3/12)
Woodchucks are rodents in the squirrel family. People are usually suprised by that. All squirrels have a pointed post orbital process on the skull, but that is hard to relate to and I don't always have a woodchuck skull handy. So I direct people to look for the bushy tail. In addition, I tell them that woodchucks climb trees like other squirrels. I have only personally witnessed this twice in my life, but the ever watchful camera captured this behavior in a mere few days time. Granted, this 'chuck is not scaling the heights or reaching the nosebleed section, but she appears to be completely off the ground.

Tomorrow, I hope the camera is dried out and ready to be put back out. In the meantime, I hope this woodchuck is enjoying her two days of privacy...

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