Dot's urban wild has new resident

“How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?” That perplexing question came to mind this week with the discovery that there’s a new critter living in the neighborhood.

On the way out of the house on Monday morning, I noticed the movement of a little brown four-legged-something glomming across the side yard. At first glimpse, it seemed it might be a squirrel – but no, it was bigger, and slower, and seemed to notice me just as I saw it.

It came to a stop just next to my neighbor’s tool shed, and stood up, pointing one eye in my direction. The little rodent was possibly a groundhog, and so far as I could tell, this was the first such appearance in our little urban enclave of such a creature.

My initial apperception was confirmed by a quick visit to Wikipedia, and an online photo was confirmation. “The groundhog (marmota monax), also known as woodchuck, land beaver or whistlepig, is a rodent of the family Sciuridae, belonging to the group of large ground squirrels known as marmots.… Mostly herbivorous, groundhogs primarily eat wild grasses and other vegetation, and berries and agricultural crops when available. Groundhogs also eat grubs, grasshoppers, insects, snails and other small animals, but are not as omnivorous as many other sciurids.”

As I approached, I whipped out my trusty digicam and zoomed in. The creature watched me with his beady little left eye, and when I made one extra movement in its direction, it vanished out of sight, exiting into a hole in the dirt under the shed.

This first-time view of Lower Mills’s own version of Punxsutawney Phil is just the latest from a growing list of wild creatures that can make our city landscape seem a little like country. Every day, there are red-tailed hawks who circle the neighborhood, sometimes reducing the local population of rooftop pigeons. Then there were those wild turkeys that emerged not long ago at the Adams Street ballpark at Dot Park. At the nearby Cedar Grove Cemetery, groundskeepers say it’s not uncommon to see a deer or two romping across the fields, and coyotes are said to sometimes follow the river banks down from the Blue Hills and into our residential enclaves – household pets beware!

Of course, there are frequent sightings of city raccoons, especially on barrel night, and at night an opossum can be seen crawling into the underbrush. A whole nest of skunks has made its unwelcome presence known over the years, all too often in the middle of summer nights when bedroom windows are left open to catch an otherwise refreshing breeze. We even had a turtle waddle this way from the Neponset. A helpful neighbor returned the hard-shelled visitor to his estuary home before he met his fate trying to cross Adams Street.

So there you have it, the latest in a series of wild creatures and critters taking up residence in our  ”urban wild.” With the onset of warmer temps and later daylight, there are likely to be many more such sightings. Our readers are invited to let us know about their experiences with visitors from nature’s habitat.