Chucks Gone Wild!

The handsome fellows at top are Yellow-bellied Marmots from the Rockies. They should not be confused with the Golden Marmots of Pakistan, that Herodotus described as "ants bigger than foxes but smaller than dogs that mine for gold". People laughed at the old man for 2,500 years until someone checked it out and found that the ancient Persian word for marmot was translated as "mountain ant", and for centuries the locals sifted for nuggets in the tailings of marmot burrows.

Casual visitors know of my fondness for animals, but close friends and family know of my special interest in the Rodentia. Any holiday named after a rodent is bound to be taken seriously hereabouts, and this entry was late because the weekend was taken up up with solemn Imbolc solemnities solemnly practiced with great solemnity: fasting the night before, greeting the woodchuck with the dawn on February 2nd, making corn dollies in honor of St. Brigit the midwife, putting out bread and butter, and contemplating the pregnant belly of the Great Goddess through the night.

The central pictures show our more familiar woodchuck (Algonquin word) in an unfamiliar pose. I can testify that chucks are sometimes climbers; in fields between South Haven and Kalamazoo I saw one twenty feet up in a tree, looking like he was on salary, and most bizarrely saw a chuck shimmied up top of a wooden fence post, surveying his domain. It's not common, but if you watch any animal long enough and they'll exhibit individual behaviors that show Descartes a mechanistic fool.

These pretty fellows at the bottom are the rarest, the Vancouver Island Marmot. Clear cut logging had a paradoxical effect on them; they expanded into the open areas but then predation thinned out the breeding population that had been concentrated in the mountains. On a smaller scale, they have the same problem the Blue Whale faces-- they're still out there, but it's harder and harder to find one another.

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