AUDUBON, John James (1785-1851) Vol. I, Plate 2, Ground Hog

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Painted by John James Audubon (1785-1851) with background likely by Victor Gifford Audubon (1809-1860)
Lithographed by J. T. Bowen &. Co.
Lithograph with hand color, paper dimensions: approximately 22 x 28 inches
From Vol. I, Part 1 of John James Audubon and John Bachman’s (1790-1875) The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America.
New York: V.G. Audubon, 1845-1848.

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The following passage is included in the accompanying description of Arctomys Monax, Gmel. Maryland Marmot, Woodchuck, Groundhog:

“The body of the Wood-Chuck is extremely flabby after being killed its flesh is, however, tolerably good, although a little strong, and is frequently purchased by the humbler classes of people, who cook it like a roasting pig. Occasionally, and especially in autumn, it is exceedingly fat.

This species becomes torpid about the time the leaves have fallen from the trees in the autumn and the frosty air gives notice of the approach of winter, and remains burrowed in the earth until the grass has sprung up and the genial warmth of spring invites it to come forth.

We once observed one sunning itself at the mouth of its burrow, on the 23d of October, in the State of New-York; and in the same State, saw one killed by a dog on the first of March, when the winter's snow was yet lying in patches on the ground.

Where the nature of the country will admit of it, the Wood-Chucks select a projecting rock, in some fissure under which, they can dig their burrows. In other localities they dig them on the sides of hills, or in places where the surface of the ground is nearly level. These burrows or excavations are sometimes extended to the length of twenty or thirty feet from the opening; for the first three or four feet inclining obliquely downward, and the gallery being continued farther on, about on a level, or with a slight inclination upward to its termination, where there is a large round chamber, to which the occupants retire for rest and security, in which the female gives birth to her young, and where the family spend the winter in torpidity.

Concerning this latter most singular state of existence, we are gratified in being able to communicate the following facts, related to us by the Hon. Daniel Wadsworth, of Hartford, Connecticut. " I kept," said he to us, " a fine Wood-Chuck in captivity, in this house, for upwards of two years. It was brought to me by a country lad, and was then large, rather wild, and somewhat cross and mischievous; being placed in the kitchen, it soon found a retreat, in which it remained concealed the greater part of its time every day. During several nights it attempted to escape by gnawing the door and window sills; gradually it became more quiet, and suffered itself to be approached by the inmates of the kitchen, these being the cook, a fine dog, and a cat; so that ere many months had elapsed, it would lie on the floor near the fire, in company with the dog, and would take food from the hand of the cook. I now began to take a particular interest in its welfare, and had a large box made for its use, and filled with hay, to which it became habituated, and always retired when inclined to repose. Winter coming on, the box was placed in a warm corner, and the Wood-Chuck went into it, arranged its bed with care, and became torpid. Some six weeks having passed without its appearing, or having received any food, I had it taken out of the box, and brought into the parlour;—it was inanimate, and as round as a ball, its nose being buried as it were in the lower part of its abdomen, and covered by its tail; it was rolled over the carpet many times, but without effecting any apparent change in its lethargic condition; and being desirous to push the experiment as far as in my power, I laid it close to the fire, and having ordered my dog to lie down by it, placed the Wood-Chuck in the dog's lap. In about half an hour, my pet slowly unrolled itself, raised its nose from the carpet, looked around for a few minutes, and then slowly crawled away from the dog, moving about the room as if in search of its own bed! I took it up, and had it carried down stairs and placed again in its box, where it went to sleep, as soundly as ever, until spring made its appearance. That season advancing, and the trees showing their leaves, the Wood-Chuck became as brisk and gentle as could be desired, and was frequently brought into the parlour. The succeeding winter this animal evinced the same dispositions, and never appeared to suffer by its long sleep. An accident deprived me of my pet, for having been trodden on, it gradually became poor, refused food, and finally died extremely emaciated."