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This Week’s Creature Feature ... Mystery Critter, Solved?

The saga continues, but the jury is still out

You never know.    
    We never know, either, what’s going to catch your eye, invade your thoughts and, best of all, goad you to action.
    This week it’s the mystery critter.
    Which, you told us, may not be so mysterious after all.
    We have been chuckling at your responses all week.

    They came short and with certainty:
    The critter is a groundhog, wrote Linda of Windshome Farm by email.
    My husband Richard says to tell you the picture on page 3 of your Nov. 3 issue is a groundhog. We have one in our backyard, too, wrote Judy McWilliams of North Beach.
    So easy this one! We had one too, but my photo of our big boy was clear. You gotta love your big, old GROUNDHOG! The ultimate suburban sprawl survivor. You rarely see one hit or run over, wrote Randy Martin of Annapolis
    I just want to tell you it’s a groundhog. I’m an expert. One coming to my house had four babies this year. They look like little baby teddy bears. I feed them on my deck all the time, wrote Helen from Huntingtown.

    They came short and speculative:
    Sure looks like a woodchuck, aka groundhog, wrote Sandy Bell and Chuck Erskine of Port Republic …
    I believe the animal in the Sykoras’ yard is a groundhog, wrote Marcia Poland.

    Sometimes they came with hard-luck stories:
    I have tons of those critters. They destroyed my garden, They love heirloom tomatoes! They were cute — until then. They’re groundhogs, aren’t they? wrote Jessie Vachon by email

    They came long, and with hope for certainty:
    I have never been so happy to see a picture of this creature. I too have one living in my back yard under my shed. I have lived in my house over 23 years in the area of Annapolis Neck. I first noticed my friend in the beginning of the summer. He would make appearances throughout the day and feed on certain bushes in my back yard. I had tried on several occasions to get a picture, but he has a very keen sense of hearing and would bolt if I opened a door or window.
    The animal is almost like a cross between a raccoon and a groundhog. It does not have a pointy nose or a pointy long tail. It almost has a pig-like nose and face. The area around its head and neck is a lighter gray than the lower half of its body. Its tail is very dark gray and bushy, almost like a squirrel’s tail.
    It is definitely NOT a groundhog, raccoon, possum, hedgehog or any other creature I am familiar with!
    If you find out what it is, please let me know! People think I’m nuts talking about this imaginary creature that most have not seen.
    I just thank God that my daughter and a close friend have been at the house and have also seen him, wrote Barbara Swartz.
    I saw critters such as you mentioned in your mystery critter column (neither nutria nor porcupine) in the cliffs along the boardwalk accessible from Bayfront Park in the southern end of Chesapeake Beach. There seemed to be dozens of them living in burrows in the cliff face. These cliffs had been graded, are covered with vegetation, like kudzu, and protected by a rock seawall, all apparently grandfathered in before the Puritan Tiger Beetle took legal possession of these types of cliffs.
    I thought they were something like groundhogs or nutria, but couldn’t decide and never really followed up.
    This was around spring break of 2011. I have been back at other times, but did not see them like I did there in the spring. I too would like to know what they are, wrote Bob McLean of Chesapeake Beach.

    They gave us new information:
    The mystery critter sure looks like the common groundhog, also known as a whistle pig or woodchuck. When startled, they usually stand up on back legs and emit a shrill whistle. Perfectly harmless to humans, explained Ron Cully by email.
    It appears that Bill and Martha Sykora have a resident groundhog! They’ll only see the little critter for a short while longer as it fattens up for the winter. A heavy frost will send it into hibernation. Thanks for the cute article! wrote Sharon Hensley of Churchton
    That is a common woodchuck! Being from Connecticut, we saw them all the time. Lives more in ground, so doesn’t like lowlands, wrote Fred Ames of Shady Side

    They came with authority.
    The mystery critter is a groundhog (Marmota monax), also known as woodchuck. Generally herbivores, eating grasses and other vegetation, but may also eat insects and grubs. They live in burrows. They can swim and also climb trees, wrote Debbie Hoffbeck, outreach coordinator at Chesapeake Biological Laboratory.

    They came with stories .
    I have three of them in my back yard, said Reginald Faust. They like to eat carrots. I have a picture of three of them standing on their hind legs eating carrots, and it looks like they’re playing saxophones.
    They go underground in the fall, and their tunnels have living quarters, bathroom areas and all sorts of different places. Then in the spring, the male goes to visit the female tunnels, and if she lets him, they mate. If not, the male goes to the next tunnel, kind of like us human men.
    There’s so much building going on everywhere, they’ve got no place to go ...

    With so many responses, we’ll be looing for our next mystery critter.