I knew for some time that there is a critter that lives underneath my porch. Sometimes I hear stomping in my front door. Sometimes it leaves its footprints on the snow. And sometimes I would have a glimpse of its fleeting shadow. I know it’s not an ‘dwende’, nor a ‘nuno sa punso’, nor a ‘kutong lupa’. I thought it might be a rabbit, or a possum, or a raccoon.
For so long my land co-inhabitant evades me, and I have not seen him face to face. Until now……
What is that creature? Is it an overgrown rat? Or a squirrel on steroids? No, it’s a groundhog!
Groundhog (scientific name: Marmota monax), also known as a woodchuck, belongs to the rodent family. So technically it is really a very big rat! It is a herbivore, or in other words, a vegetarian. Now we know who is eating our flowers and leaves, as he is probably turning my wife’s garden into a salad meal.
Groundhogs are excellent burrowers and can create an intricate tunnel system with two to five entrances, as a means to escape their predators. So I will not be surprised that underneath my house is an underground complex more labyrinthine than New York’s subway system. I just hope this critter would not undermine my house’ foundations, or else I’ll evict him. Or he’ll evict me first, by making my house crumble.
This creature is better known for the winter holiday that bears its name – Groundhog Day. This festival is celebrated on February 2 in the United States. According to folklore, when the groundhog emerges from its burrow and sees its shadow and retreats back to its hole, then that means the winter will last six more weeks. But if it sees no shadow and leaves its burrow, then the winter-like weather will soon end.
The largest Groundhog Day celebration is held in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, where the most celebrated groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, resides.
But come this winter, I don’t have to ask the Pennsylvanian groundhog for its prediction of the winter season, I have my own woodchuck to query.
He better not see his shadow, or I’ll have him pay rent.