17

There Goes the Neighborhood: The Groundhogs’ Bad Season: Part 2

Groundhog Day: Munching Marmots Emerge From the Scientific Shadows - The  New York Times

Where we are: Harold and Madge Groundhog were concerned that their yard was being beautified in preparation of being sold. They were rather fond of their human; they and the other animals pretty much had the run of the place. You can read Part 1 here.

Harold: It’s getting worse. Now the other human, the younger one, is starting to clean up the yard too.

Madge: I know. The sticks are all gone, and the grass is shorter than it’s been in ages.

Harold: And the sidewalks are all clean.

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Madge: Our human is out every weekend, clearing away the weeds. I guess it’s more the way humans like it, but I miss the overgrowth. She got rid of all the grape vines. She said they were “invasive.”

Harold: Just because they were trying to root in the vinyl siding.

Sara Squirrel: Isn’t that like ivy-league? I thought that was high-class for humans.

Madge: Beats me. All I know is that the sun is getting into our home a lot more than it used to. And I don’t really feel safe anymore.

Roger Raccoon: Me and my friends have been trying to keep it from getting too clean. We’ve dumped the catnip and tomato plants a couple of times.

Ricky Raccoon: Not that you can tell. It gets cleaned up first thing in the morning.

Harold: And they moved some of the stuff inside.

Madge: They keep putting the catnip back down for that new cat to lie in.

Sara Squirrel: Yeah. Those two cats act like they own the place. I thought for sure the inside cats would try to drive them off, but they don’t seem to care.

Pierre Rabbit: I saw the human planting some stuff in front of the house.

Just then a bat flew over. The bats didn’t really like the rest of the animals, but he was curious about what was going on.

Benson: Hey, guys. What’s up?

Madge: We’re worried that the humans are getting the place ready to sell.

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Benson: You should see what’s going on inside. Major cleaning. Whole rooms are being cleared out.

Madge: Are they talking about moving?

Benson: I wish. My whole family has been living peacefully in the attic. They stirred everything up; we’re all moving out to the bat house. It’s ridiculous inside.

 Madge: But that’s your home!

Benson: It’s not worth it. The human is afraid of us. Every time she sees a bat, she gets the younger one and he puts us out. We’d rather leave on our own terms.

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Pierre: It’s not so bad out here. We have a lot of room, and no one bothers us.

Priscilla Rabbit: Did you hear the humans say anything about selling the house?

Benson: No. That’s not what’s going on. I guess that the other main human died a couple of years ago. They’re just finally getting around to really cleaning everything up. It’s a big house and a big yard.

Harold: Yeah. I guess it would take a lot of energy to get things straightened out.

Benson: The humans who are left said something about the one who’s gone being a pack rat. I don’t really know what that means. I saw pictures. He looks like all the other humans.

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Harold: Weird. I don’t think we have rats around here. I think they look like big mice.

Mortimer Mouse: Yeah. Kinda. But not so cute.

Harold: Do you know what a pack rat is?

Mortimer: I think it has something to do with the way that some rats hoard things.

Benson: Yeah. That sounds right. They are throwing away a LOT of stuff in the house.

Harold: And a lot of stuff out here.

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Priscilla: But they attracted those two cats. I don’t really like cats.

Pierre: But as long as they feed the cats, the cats don’t bother us.

Priscilla: Good point.

Roger: If they’re not cleaning to sell, we can probably stop trashing the plants on the porch.

Ricky: Sounds good to me. They’re not growing anything good anyway.

Madge (sighing): I guess that means I have to live with less privacy.

Woodchuck Food Habits - Woodchuck Wonderland

Benson: I overheard them say something about moving some of the peonies into the space they cleared.

Madge: Ooh! I love peonies. I hope that’s soon.

Benson: I did hear one other thing. There is no plan to clear the back area anytime soon.

Ricky: All right! Block party this weekend!!

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Pictures courtesy of Google Images

20

There Goes the Neighborhood: The Groundhogs’ Bad Season

Groundhog Photos and Facts

The groundhog family had been living under the porch of the old farmhouse for generations. It was a pretty nice location: the humans didn’t spend too much time outside, and they never bothered the groundhogs. There was plenty of clover to eat and even an ornamental peach tree to climb.

Life had been particularly good in the past couple of years. Something had happened to the male human, and the female human stopped working in the yard almost entirely. The garden in front of the porch got overgrown, and it was hard to even see under the porch. The groundhogs were thrilled. Nothing bothered them, and they came and went as they pleased.

File:Groundhog on rock.jpg - Wikipedia

But this past spring something changed.

Harold: Hey Madge, you notice that the human seems more active than usual?

Madge: Yeah. She’s been over at the side of the house digging around. She’s talking about putting in a rock garden.

Harold: That would be nice. It would give us someplace to sun.

Madge: That’s true. We wouldn’t have to walk around to the back of the house anymore.

Harold: I hope she doesn’t dig up all the clover.

Madge: I wouldn’t worry about it. It hasn’t happened in the 20 years our family’s lived here.

Harold: Excellent point.

Woodchuck Food Habits - Woodchuck Wonderland

Indeed, soon enough the human stopped digging up the side of the house. She came back one day with a bunch of plants that she put on the porch.

Madge: Did you see all that gorgeous greenery. It looks pretty yummy.

Harold: It’s awfully close to the house. I’m not going up there to explore.

Madge: I think she’s going to plant some of it in our yard.

Harold: Oooh. That will be nice. The more green, the better.

Nature Notes: Winter is Coming | The Michigan Nature Guy's Blog

However, the human didn’t put the new plants in the yard. She moved them into larger pots and left them on the porch. One morning, the groundhogs heard digging.

Harold: Look, Madge. She’s clearing the part of the yard by the other front porch. Maybe that’s where she’s going to grow our new plants.

Madge: That would be convenient. I wonder if we should figure out a way to tell her where to put the stuff we like best.

Harold: Let’s go explore what’s up there.

Woodchuck Food Habits - Woodchuck Wonderland

The groundhogs discovered that most of the plants were too high to reach. There were a couple of bushes and some catnip. They also found tomatoes and peppers in pots.

Harold: This is very disappointing. I hope the good stuff is in the pots up top.

Madge: Let’s ask the rabbits to check it out for us. They can jump up there and see.

Safe Wood and Other Plants For Rabbits

The next night, Pierre jumped up on the railing and had a look around. All he could see were herbs. Except, there was one particularly appetizing smell.

Pierre: Bad news, guys. There’s nothing really good up there. Oregano, sage, rosemary. Nothing that’s really going to appeal to anyone.

Harold: Well, rats.

Madge: I hope she finishes putting it in soon. At least we won’t have to worry about having a human out all the time.

Groundhog Trapping & Removal Near Willow Grove, Pennsylvania

The human continued cleaning out the yard. The groundhogs weren’t really paying much attention. One Saturday, they woke up to loud noises a few feet from their nest. They looked out in horror.

Madge: Do something, Harold! She’s digging up right next to our porch! We’re going to lose all our privacy.

Harold: What do you want me to do about it?

Madge: I don’t know. We have to stop this.

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Later that day, they heard the humans discussing the work. They were very excited about how much “nicer” it looked and how much better it would be once all of the weeds were gone. The groundhogs decided it was time for a neighborhood meeting.

Harold: We wanted to get everyone together to discuss what’s going on in the neighborhood.

Sara Squirrel: You mean the humans’ “Beautification” project? It’s awful. They’re picking up all the sticks, digging out all the weeds, and cleaning up the sidewalks.

Roger Raccoon: Before we know it, the whole place is going to look like it belongs on the front of one of those sales brochures. Like it was when the humans first moved in.

Pierre: We can’t let that happen. What if this human decides to sell it? No one is ever going to be as easy to manipulate as she is.

Texas family wakes up to raccoon on bathroom sink - ABC7 New York

Roger: That’s true. She lets us pretty much run the place.

Harold: Maybe. But she’s destroying my peace of mind right now. She’s ruining the entrance to our home.

Priscilla Rabbit: She’s bringing in nasty plants too. I thought she had planted some fennel. Super yummy. But when I dug up the bulbs, it was only the plant, not the edible kind. Talk about rude.

Madge: A couple of cats have started hanging around too. You know the neighborhood won’t be safe anymore if they stick around.

Roger: We have to do something before we get beautified out of our happy homes.

Next Week: The animals’ plan and how it works out.

18

Groundhog Day: What Happened on Hog Hill?

Groundhog Day 2022: Forecast, Facts, and Folklore - Farmers' Almanac

Things had been a little tense on Hog Hill on February 2 (Groundhog Day). When Gus Groundhog made his annual prediction, he only appeared for a couple of minutes and made the actual announcement on his Twitter account. Not at all the festivities we were expecting. We decided to do do a little investigating.

The first thing we discovered was that Gus hadn’t been on any type of social media since Groundhog Day. Had he gone back into hibernation? We spoke to some of the neighbors.

Interspecies Friendship: Deer and Rabbit – Animal Intelligence

Peter Rabbit: It’s been very quiet over there. Usually, Gus has a big party after the announcement. But this year, there was nothing.

Penelope Rabbit: Maybe he’s sick.

Bethany Deer: Maybe. He didn’t look very well on the 2nd.

Joe Squirrel: Maybe he just got tired of all the fuss. You know folks blame him for the weather when it’s still snowing in April.

Josie Squirrel: Maybe someone turned off all his accounts. Maybe it’s a conspiracy against groundhogs. Someone should look into that.

17 Repeatable Quotes From 'Groundhog Day'

Obviously, we are going to have to talk to Gus.

We went to the burrow. But no one answered the door. Maybe there was something wrong. Was he even still in town?

What next? We staked it out, watching both entrances. No movement for over a week. The other animals in the neighborhood were getting curious.

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Josie: No luck? I hope everything’s OK. Maybe we should just go in.

Penelope: Do you think so?

Josie: What if he’s really sick? Maybe we should call the animal welfare hotline.

Joe: Hold up, ladies. Groundhogs hibernate. Not seeing one in February is no reason to go bursting into his house. For all we know, he saw that there was going to be a lot more winter, rolled over, and went back to sleep. We’d scare him half to death breaking into his house. He’d have every right to attack us. Have you seen those claws and teeth?

Great groundhogs: Getting to know Illinois' burrowing hibernator:  University of Illinois Extension

We realized Joe might be right. Maybe there was no story. Just then, Peter hopped up.

Peter: Hey, guys. What’s up?

Joe: Everyone’s worried about Gus. Apparently the media has got everyone wondering about him. Personally, I think we should just let him be.

We felt badly. We had thought it was a quick human interest story. It was never intended to be an investigation. We didn’t want to upset anyone, so we started to pack up our stuff.

Josie: Don’t blame them. They haven’t bothered him. And it’s weird that we haven’t seen Gus during his big time of the year. Usually he’s active after he gets up for the announcement.

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A car drove up and stopped in front of Gus’s burrow. A matronly groundhog got out and looked around. She seemed surprised by the group of animals.

Groundhog: Hello. I’m Emma. Is everything okay?

Peter: Hello. We’re well. And yourself?

Emma: Yes, I’m wonderful. I’m here to visit my grandbabies.

Josie squealed.

Josie: Grandbabies? Gus had babies?

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Emma (laughing): Technically, Georgette had the babies. But yes – Gus is a daddy. Didn’t he tell you?

Penelope: No, we haven’t heard a thing since he came outside for a couple of minutes on Groundhog Day.

Josie: We’ve been worried about him. He even disappeared off social media. And he’s a local celebrity, so he’s always on Twitter.

Emma: There’s no need to worry. He’s just running around in circles with his five little chucklings.

Emma went up to the door, and Gus let her into the burrow. He lifted a paw and waved at his neighbors.

Gus: Hey, guys! Sorry to have been off the radar. Tons of snaps coming soon. Watch for me!

That was the Gus we knew and loved. It wouldn’t be long before he was back.

We KNEW there had been a story.

10 facts about groundhogs

Pictures courtesy of Google Images.

16

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Snoops and Kommando here – Next Thursday is Remember Me Thursday – it’s a reminder that every kitty deserves a forever home. Please do your part and adopt several cats. Kittens are acceptable.

11

Road Trip! The Gators’ Summer Vacation – Part 2

Image result for tennessee mountains

Al and Abby Gator have left their swamp in southern Florida for a visit to more temperate Tennessee. You can read Part 1 here.

Soon enough Abby and Al had a good idea of what the human’s desire to “go viral” was going to mean for them. It seemed like every time they started making progress on the drive, they would pull over. It was usually at a gas station or restaurant. The guy would get out and invite people over to see “his” alligators. Invariably he would draw a crowd of people to look at his “tame” alligators. It was totally humiliating, and the Gators hoped no one they knew would see it.

Abby and Al tried to endure it with dignity. It was terrible having a bunch of humans trying to put dirty hands on their bodies. It wasn’t even the children who wanted to pet them; it was the adults. Finally Al had enough. When one particularly obnoxious man said he wanted to “pet the suitcase-to-be”, Al snapped at him.

Image result for snapping alligator

The driver loved it. At the next stop, he showed the video of the “vicious” alligator he was courageously transporting. Luckily they arrived at Orlando before Al tried to discover how courageous he really was. They were dropped at the station for the Raccoon Brothers Regional Rail Lines.

Abby: Thank goodness! I thought we’d never get here.

Al (growling): It’s a good thing. The world was almost minus a couple of humans. Not that anyone would have noticed those two were gone.

Abby: Forget about them. I’m so excited! We’re finally on our way!

Image result for orlando train station

Conductor: Welcome aboard. We don’t see many alligators.  May I see your tickets, please?

(Abby hands them to him.)

Conductor (looking at the tickets): Don’t think I’ve ever seen a gator go that far north. You sure this is really where you want to go?

Abby: Oh yes! I’ve done a lot of research. We can’t wait!

Conductor: Well then, have a wonderful time.

Abby: See how nice he was? He wasn’t even afraid of us.

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Al: I guess you’re right. This will be a good trip. I’m worn out from that horrible truck ride. Wake me when we get there.

(Al fell asleep almost immediately. Abby cuddled up next to him and was soon asleep too. A while later, the conductor noticed that their breathing had slowed considerably. Afraid of what would happen if they got too cold, he found a large blanket and covered them.)

Abby: Al! Wake up! Look out the window!

Al (mumbling): mmm…why?

Abby: We’re almost there. It’s very pretty.

Al (looking out): Where are we?

Abby: Tennessee, silly. Don’t you remember?

Al: What happened to the ground? It’s not flat.

Abby: I know! The conductor says that the little ones are called hills and the big ones are mountains.

Image result for pine tree forest

Al: And the trees look funny. Where are the palms and the cypress trees?

Abby: They don’t have those here.

Al: We better take pictures of it. The other gators will never believe this.

(The train stops and they get off. The sun is hot, and Al relaxes a little. )

Al: So where’s the swamp? I want to bask and warm up a little.

Abby: This is Tennessee. They don’t have swamps. They have rivers.

Al: You didn’t tell me they don’t have swamps.

Image result for swamp

Abby (nervously): I didn’t know they didn’t have swamps. I thought there were swamps everywhere, so I didn’t ask.

Al: What’s wrong, Abby?

Abby: Everyone’s staring at us. And I don’t see a single reptile anywhere.

Al: I’m sure they’re staring because you’re so beautiful. Where are we staying?

Abby (pointing): Over there. The Critter Comfort Inn.

(They enter the lobby. The lobby empties and the little opossum behind the desk faints. The gators look around, confused. The manager, a rather large raccoon, comes out. He is accompanied by two large bears.)

Image result for two bears

Manager: May I help you?

Abby: Yes, please. We have a reservation. It’s under Al and Abby Gator.

Manager (looking at his computer): Did you register online?

Abby: Yes.

Manager: What did you put down as species?

Abby: Alligator, of course.

Manager (embarrassed): There seems to be a problem with your reservation. It shows the species as “unknown”. The system doesn’t recognize “alligator.” We’ve never had one stay here.

Al (irritated): Is that a problem?

Manager: Unfortunately, it is. We cater to small mammals.

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Al: And you can’t make an exception?

Manager: I’d like to. You seem like nice folks. But like I said, we cater to small mammals. If word got out that we had alligators here, it would ruin our business.

Abby: Why?

Al (sarcastically): Because they think we’re going to eat them.

Manager: I’m sorry. But alligators do have that reputation.

Al: Fine. We’ll take our business elsewhere.

(The gators stalked out without eating anyone. As a gesture of goodwill they left a bag of their favorite treats, Boa Bites. They thought the mammals probably didn’t like snakes either.)

Abby (sobbing): I’m so sorry Al. I had no idea they’d be so specie-ist. They looked so nice in the pictures.

Al: Don’t worry, honey. We’ll hydrate ourselves in one of their rivers and take the next train home.

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Abby: OK. But let’s go out of town. I don’t like it here.

(They found a nice spot with a soft sandy bottom. Neither of them realized that the night air would get as chilly as it did. They were unable to move when they heard a noise.)

Cub: Daddy, what are those?

(The gators looked up to see one of the large bears they had seen earlier at the Comfort Inn.)

Image result for mother black bear and cubs

 

Next time: Dinner Guest or Dinner? The Conclusion

 

All pictures courtesy of Google Images.

 

6

There’s No Place Like Home

 

Image result for groundhog images

Mr. Groundhog was getting ready to build his den for the winter. It had been a warm autumn but cold weather was predicted.

Mr. G: Dear, would you prefer moss or dry leaves to sleep on this winter?

Mrs. G: Sorry, I wasn’t listening. What did you ask?

Mr. G: What type of bedding do you want in the winter den?

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Mrs. G: We don’t need a winter den.

Mr. G: Of course we need a den. If we don’t have one, we’ll freeze to death.

Mrs. G: Don’t you remember? We’re traveling this winter.

Mr. G: We’re groundhogs. We sleep all winter.

Mrs. G: Of course we’ll sleep. We just won’t do it at home.

Mr. G: Have you been eating those old berries? You’re not making sense.

Mrs. G: Didn’t I tell you about den2den? You travel to another state and spend the winter in someone else’s den.

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Mr. G: That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard of. Why would I want to sleep in someone else’s den?

Mrs. G: In the spring you get to see a different part of the country.

Mr. G: Great. Foreign grass. Where did you get this wonderful idea?

Mrs. G: From Margaret. Someone told her about it.

Mr. G: Margaret’s crazy, you know. Do I have to listen to her the entire trip?

Mrs. G: As a matter of fact, you don’t.

Mr. G: Are they going somewhere different?

Mrs. G: Actually, they’re not going. Bob said it was a stupid idea and refused to sign up.

Mr. G: I knew I liked Bob. I’m not going either.

Mrs. G: It’s too late. I’ve paid in full. In fact, the shuttle will be here shortly.

(Mr. G grumbles and paces. Before too long he hears wheels.)

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Mrs. G: C’mon dear, it’s time to go. Are you packed?

Mr. G (sarcastically): My spare fur is at the cleaner.

(They sleep for the entire trip.)

Driver: Well, here we are.

Mr. G: Where is here? I’m freezing.

Driver: Not really sure. I just follow the GPS.

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Mr. G: So where is this den?

Driver: Right over there.

(He points to a small opening at the bottom of a hill.)

Mr. G:That doesn’t look like a groundhog den.

(The driver looks at his printout.)

Driver: Says here it belongs to a mole.

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Mr. G: I thought it was den2den. Moles live underground. They don’t have dens.

Driver: Hmmm. Guess there was some kind of mix-up.

Mr. G: So fix it.

Driver: I’m just the driver. You need to talk to your agent.

(Mr. G looks at Mrs. G.)

Mr. G: Who’s our agent?

Mrs. G: I don’t know. I bought the booking from Margaret.

Driver: That’s against the rules. You couldn’t stay here even if you wanted to.

Mr. G (gritting his teeth): So what do we do now?

Driver: Well, let me think.

(He makes a couple of phone calls.)

Driver: The Mouse House and Rodent Inn are both full. You probably don’t want the Fox Den or Eagles’ Nest. How’s the park sound?

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Mr. G: Fine. We’ll make arrangements to get home in the morning.

Mrs: Margaret told me about a great ride service. You call a number and an animal will drive you in his personal vehicle. I think I have the number on my phone.

(Mr. G glares at her.)