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The Wood-chuck


This animal also called the marmot, is so well-known to most of

our readers, that a detailed description will not be necessary,

suffice it to say that the general color is brownish grey above,

changing to reddish brown on the under parts. The head, tail and

feet partaking of a darker color. The length of the animal is about

a foot and a-half, exclusive of the tail, which is four inches


he woodchuck is a clumsy looking animal, and anything but active

in its movements. It is very unintelligent, and is always too ready

to use its powerful teeth on the hand of any one who may attempt

to handle it. It is naturally a timid animal, but when cornered

or brought to bay, it fights most desperately.

The woodchuck is an expert excavator, and where the animals exist

in large numbers great damage is done by their united burrowing. They

generally remain in their burrows during the day, only venturing out

casually to see what is going on, and keeping near their entrance.

Towards evening they start out to feed, devouring certain grasses

and weeds, and also pumpkins and green corn with avidity, ever

and anon sitting upright on their haunches, to see if the coast

is clear. In case they are surprised in their meal, they hurry

home in a pell-mell sort of a way, giving as much the appearance

of rolling as running, but, nevertheless, getting over the ground

with fair speed for such an unwieldy animal. The skin is loose and

very tough, and possesses no commercial value, being principally

used for whiplashes. Their burrows are generally on the slope of

a hill, and often at the foot of a rock or tree. These tunnels

vary from ten to thirty feet in length, sloping downward from the

opening, afterward taking an upward turn and terminating in a roomy

chamber, in which the animal sleeps in

winter and where the young from three to eight in number are brought

forth. The woodchuck is found throughout nearly the whole of the

United States, and is especially abundant in New England, where

it is a decided nuisance. It is found as far south as Tennessee,

and westward to the Rocky Mountains. The flesh of the woodchuck

is by many much esteemed as food, particularly in the Fall. When

used for this purpose, the animal should be skinned and carefully

cleaned immediately after death, taking especial care to remove the

masses of fat which lie inside of the legs, as these, if allowed

to remain, are sure to taint the flesh in cooking.

The animals are easily caught by setting the traps at the entrance

of their burrows, and carefully covering them with loose earth,

no bait being required. They may also be captured by the aid of

a spring-pole, with noose attached, the pole being bent down and

caught under a notched stick, and the noose being arranged at the

opening of the burrow, see page 43, the Woodchuck in passing in

or out will become entangled in the noose, and in his efforts to

escape the pole will be loosened from the peg, thus lifting the

animal in mid-air. Woodchucks are also sometimes drowned out of

their holes, and the turtle is often put to good use for the purpose

of smoking the animals from their subterranean dwellings. A ball of

wicking saturated with kerosene is attached by a wire to the tail

of the reptile. When the ball is ignited the creature is introduced

into the entrance of the hole, and of course in fleeing from its

fiery pursuer it traverses the full length of the burrow, and as

another matter of course drives out its other occupants, which

are shot or captured as they emerge.

The woodchunk's skin is generally taken off as described for the

muskrat, and stretched accordingly.