Monday, August 27, 2012

Groundhog at Birch Hill Cemetery

Contrary to a popular misconception, there are groundhogs (Marmota monax) in Alaska, and they are not recent immigrants. I read one misinformed blog post that said they hitchhiked to Alaska after the Alaska Highway was opened, but according to an article in the February 03, 2010 issue of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, groundhogs have been here at least 100 years. The earliest specimen in the University of Alaska Museum of the North from the Fairbanks area was collected  in 1937.

I’ve occasionally glimpsed the one that lives at Creamer’s Dairy, but a great place to observe them is at Birch Hill Cemetery. Several years ago at least, a thriving colony of groundhogs resided there. When I worked at the cemetery as a groundskeeper they were one of the banes of my existence because they burrowed under headstones and grave covers. Groundhogs are cautious creatures and if they see you will disappear into a culvert or hole. You can spot them up there though, if you are patient.

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