Photography courtesy of Lowell Washburn, all rights reserved.
Later this summer, the tabulated results of the DNR’s August Roadside Surveys will be used to monitor the population trends of several important Iowa wildlife species. The noble ground hog [a.k.a. woodchuck] will not be one of those species.
But if the DNR were to conduct an official Annual Chuck Count, I’m guessin’ this year’s tally would have to be termed as “up the limit”. In my lifetime, I have never seen so many baby woodchucks in so many places as I have this summer. Don’t have a clue why; it’s just what I’m seein’. I’m not alone in these observations. Others are reporting the same.
Woodchuck Trivia: Best known for its aggressive tunneling and summer garden raids, the woodchuck is one of Iowa’s largest rodents — Only the beaver grows larger. ” Booner” woodchucks may reach three feet in length and exceed thirty pounds in weight. Most don’t, but are still impressive at less than half the size. Although woodchucks spend most of their time on or under the ground, they are more than capable of climbing trees where they often pause for mid-afternoon naps.
In spite of the fact that virtually no one hunts or otherwise utilizes them, ground hogs are reputed to be good eating. I’d never sampled one until my friend, Al Hancock brought one of his famous ‘Mystery Meat’ dishes in to work one morning.
“Here, try this,” Al grinned as he pushed the crock in my direction. I took a sample; the meat was exceedingly tender and exceedingly full of flavor.
“Is this beef?,” I asked. “Nope, woodchuck,” Hancock replied.
Couldn’t believe it. I doubt that many people [maybe no one] would have been able to tell the difference between Al’s savory mystery dish and the finest cut of slow cooked roast beef money could buy. The only down side to the dish, Al noted, was in the difficulty of skinning the woodchuck. When it comes to parting with their hides, ground hogs are worse than the world’s toughest squirrel. That’s a tall statement, as anyone who has ever skinned a mess of squirrels will attest.