Well, consensus seems to be that our dead varmint from last night was a woodchuck, aka groundhog.
Here are some interesting facts about them:
Woodchucks are stocky in appearance and often stand up on their hind legs, making them look tall. Their pelage varies greatly in color but ranges from gray to cinnamon to dark brown. Their body is covered with white-tipped guard hairs giving them a grizzled appearance. Their paws vary in color from a typical black to dark brown in most subspecies. However, one subspecies has paws that appear pink. Their short bushy tail is often black to dark brown and is 20 to 25% their total body length. They weigh from 2 to 6 kg, range from 415 to 675 mm in total length, and have tails that range from 100 to 160 mm in length. Although males and females are the same color, males are larger than females. Woodchucks have white teeth, which is uncharacteristic of rodents, and a dental formula of 1/1, 0/0, 2/1, 3/3, for a total of 22 teeth. They have rounded ears that can cover the external auditory canal which prevents dirt from entering the ear canal while burrowing. (Encyclopaedia Britannica and Inc., 2007; Forsyth, 1985; Grzimek, 2003; Kays and Wilson, 2002; Kwiencinski, 1998; Whitaker et al., 1998)
They live in burrows that can reach 30 feet in length. They are supposed to be hibernating during cold weather, and can slow their breathing down to do so. Their burrows are characterized by a MOUND OF DIRT near the opening...
Preferred forage includes alfalfa (Medicago sativa), clover (Genus: Trifolium), and dandelion (Taraxacum officinale). Other foods include bark, leaves, insects, and bird eggs. All woodchucks store fat for winter hibernation. (Encyclopaedia Britannica and Inc., 2007; Forsyth, 1985; Grzimek, 2003; Kurta, 1995; Kwiencinski, 1998; Whitaker et al., 1998)
We saw many groundhogs in Leavenworth, they lived up and down our street, and drove Oscar nuts when they grazed in our front yard. We just didn't see them quite so close up as this one.
We have not seen any out here in 7 years, so are still mystified by this one found yesterday. He is, by the way, thrown over the fenceline into a pasture to be carried away by the coyotes. We are still puzzled as to why Lilly did not show any interest in it.
They're kind of cute. For a rodent.
(photo courtesy of National Geographic)
Woodchucks are active during the day, especially in early morning and late afternoon.