Q: Dear Ask Us Guy, do beavers live in ponds? In the mornings, when I hit the trail around Hiniker Pond, this beaver (I think he’s a beaver) crosses the trail to, I think, dine on dog doo (there’s quite a buffet in that field and Beaver is always eating something over there). When he sees me coming, he hauls tail back into the woods toward the pond. But do beavers live in such small bodies of water? Isn’t he sad without the purpose of dam-building? (See photos, attached.) Thanks!
A: Ask Us Guy always likes a good wildlife question, especially if it involves oversized rodents with or without their heads attached. But when this reader wrote to inquire about the habits of beavers, there was a problem … The animal in the photos didn’t appear to be a beaver.
“I think that’s a woodchuck,” Ask Us Guy thought, “also known in the Rocky Mountain states as a whistle pig.”
That knowledge came from a late-spring hiking trip to Colorado decades ago when Ask Us Boy saw animals sliding down the snow-covered slopes, seemingly just for the fun of it. Information at the national park interpretive center identified the animal as a whistle pig or marmot.
Along with whistle pig and woodchuck, the rodents are also known as groundhogs. Because Ask Us Guy is not a wildlife biologist, he forwarded the photos to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources for verification.
“Appears to be a ground hog or woodchuck,” stated Joe Stangel, an area wildlife supervisor for the DNR. “… Another slang term for them is whistle pig, derived from the behavior of communicating with whistles.”
Wisconsin’s Legislature, by the way, is considering removing the animal from its protected species list and creating a yearlong open hunting season on woodchucks. A brief story appeared recently in the Star Tribune about a legislative committee voting in…