You probably would have never guessed that I photographed a groundhog in Alaska! It was sheer happenstance. This particular fellow isn’t the famous Punxsutawney Phil, but he apparently is a resident pest at Creamer's Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge in Fairbanks. We went to the refuge to photograph birds. But we ended up being entertained for quite a while by the antics of this groundhog, skillfully hiding, scampering, and devouring the crops in the garden planted by local rangers. I was able to capture this up-close mug shot while he was playing hide and seek under a concrete ramp to the refuge’s farmhouse visitor center.
These animals thrive in an extensive geographic range from Alaska to Alabama. Also known as woodchucks, the groundhog is a member of the rodent family and belongs to the group of large ground squirrels called marmots. They have been referred to as “whistle pigs” because they will use a high-pitch whistle to warn the groundhog colony of danger.
Gardeners universally hate these animals that notoriously raid vegetable gardens. Groundhogs gorge themselves in the summer to build up reserves for winter hibernation. They also love to create deep burrows for sleeping, rearing young, and hibernating. As you can expect, they are not popular creatures with horse owners either. We have personally had several tussles with them over the years!
Here’s an interesting fact: they can climb trees! You wouldn’t guess they would have that skill with those pudgy bodies.