Animal BOOK LOOK – Chapter 25 – Mink + Otter


Chapter 25

Mink and Otter


The bank of the Smiling Pool was a lovely place to hold a learning session at just after sun-up. Everybody who could get there was on hand, and there were several who had not been before. One of these was Grandfather Frog, who was sitting on his big, green, lily pad. Another was Jerry Muskrat, whose house was out in the Smiling Pool. Spotty the Turtle was also there and Longlegs the Heron too. You see, they hadn’t come to the learning sessions the learning session came to them, for that is where they live or spend most of their time.

“Good morning, Jerry Muskrat,” said Mother Nature pleasantly, as Jerry’s brown head appeared in the Smiling Pool. “Have you seen anything of Billy Mink or Little Joe Otter?”

“Little Joe went down to the Big River last night,” replied Jerry Muskrat. “I don’t know when he is coming back, although I wouldn’t be surprised to see him any minute. Billy Mink was here last evening and said he was going up the Laughing Brook fishing. He is likely to be back any time. One never can tell when that fellow will appear. He comes and goes continually. I don’t believe he can keep still five minutes.”

“Who can’t keep still for five minutes?” a new voice jumped in and there was Billy Mink himself just climbing out on the Big Rock.

“Jerry was speaking of you,” replied Mother Nature. “This will be a good chance for you to show him that he is mistaken. I want you to stay here for a while and to stay right on the Big Rock. I may want to ask you a few questions.”

Just then Billy Mink dove into the Smiling Pool, and a second later his brown head popped out of the water and in his mouth was a fat fish. He scrambled back on the Big Rock and looked at Mother Nature as he laid the fish down.

“I couldn’t help myself,” he mumbled. “I saw that fish and dove for him. I hope you will forgive me, Mother Nature. I just can’t sit still for long.”

As Billy Mink sat there on the Big Rock for a moment eating his fish everyone had a good look at him. One glance would tell anyone that he was a cousin of Shadow the Weasel. He was much larger than Shadow and of the same general shape being long and slender. His coat was a beautiful dark brown, darkest on the back. His chin was white. His tail was round, covered with fairly long hair which was so dark as to be almost black. His face was like that of Shadow the Weasel. His legs were rather short. As he sat eating that fish, his back was arched.

Mink – Illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

Mother Nature waited until he had finished his feast. “Now then, Billy,” she said, “Which do you like best, night or day?”

“It doesn’t make any particular difference to me,” replied Billy. “I just sleep when I feel like it, whether it be night or day, and then when I wake up I can hunt. It all depends on how I feel.”

“When you go hunting, what do you hunt?” asked Mother Nature.

Billy grinned. “Anything that promises a good meal,” he said. “I’m not very particular. A fat Mouse, a tender young Rabbit, a Chipmunk, a Frog, Tadpoles, Chickens, eggs, birds, fish; whatever happens to be easiest to get suits me. I am rather fond of fish, and that’s one reason that I live along the Laughing Brook and around the Smiling Pool. I do like a change, and so often I go hunting in the Green Forest. Sometimes I go up to Farmer Brown’s for a Chicken. In the spring I hunt for nests of birds on the ground. In winter, if Peter Rabbit should happen along here when I was hungry, I might be tempted to sample Peter.” Billy blinked his bright eyes as Peter shivered.

“And if Jerry Muskrat were not my friend, I am afraid I might be tempted to sample him too,” continued Billy Mink.

“Oh Pooh!” exclaimed Peter Rabbit. “You wouldn’t dare tackle Jerry Muskrat.”

“Wouldn’t I?” replied Billy. “Just ask Jerry how he feels about it.”

One look at Jerry’s face showed everybody that Jerry, big as he was, was afraid of Billy Mink. “And how do you hunt when you are on land?” asked Mother Nature.

“I hunt with my eyes, nose and ears,” replied Billy. “There may be folks with better ears than I’ve got, although I don’t know who they are. I wouldn’t swap noses with anybody. As for my eyes, well, they are plenty good enough for me.”

“In other words, you hunt very much as does your cousin, Shadow the Weasel,” said Mother Nature.

Billy nodded. “I suppose we are similar at that,” he said.

“You all saw how Billy catches fish,” said Mother Nature. “Now, Billy, if you would swim over to the farther bank and show us how you run.”

Billy slipped into the water and swam for a distance and then popped just his head out. When he reached the edge of the pond he climbed up on the bank and started along it. He went by a series of bounds, his back arched sharply between each leap. Then he disappeared before their very eyes, only to reappear as suddenly as he had gone. So quick were his movements that it was impossible for them to keep their eyes on him. It seemed sometimes as though he must have vanished into the air. Of course he didn’t. He was simply showing them his wonderful ability to take advantage of every little stick, stone and bush.

“Billy is a great traveler,” said Mother Nature. “He really loves to travel up and down the Laughing Brook, even for long distances. Being so slender he can slip under all kinds of places and into all sorts of holes. Quick as he is on land, he is not so quick as his Cousin Shadow the Weasel; and good swimmer as he is, he isn’t so good as his bigger cousin, Little Joe Otter. However, being equally at home on land and in water, he has an advantage over his cousins. Mrs. Mink makes her home nest in a hole in the bank or under an old stump or under a pile of driftwood, and you may be sure it is well hidden. There the babies are born, and they stay with their mother all summer. Incidentally, Billy can climb too.”

“Now, I wish Little Joe Otter were here. I had hoped he would be,” said Mother Nature looking all around.

“Here he comes now,” cried Jerry Muskrat. “I rather expected he would be back.” Jerry pointed towards where the Laughing Brook left the Smiling Pool on its way to the Big River. A brown head was moving rapidly towards them. There was no mistaking that head. It could belong to no one other than Little Joe Otter. Straight on to the Big Rock he came, and climbed up. He was big, being one of the largest members of his family. He was more than three feet long. No one looking at him could mistake him for anyone other than a member of the Weasel family. His legs were short, very short for the length of his body. His tail was fairly long and broad. His coat was a rich brown all over, and a little lighter underneath than on the back.”

“What’s going on over here?” asked Little Joe Otter, his eyes bright with interest.

“We are holding a learning session here today,” explained Mother Nature. “And we were just hoping that you would appear. Would you hold up one of your feet and spread the toes, Little Joe for all to see?”

Otter – Illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

Little Joe Otter did with a puzzled look on his face. “Well I’ll be!” exclaimed Peter Rabbit. “His toes are webbed like those of Paddy the Beaver!”

“Ah yes,” said Little Joe, “I never could swim the way I do if they weren’t webbed.”

“Can you swim better than Paddy the Beaver?” asked Peter.

“I should say I can. If I didn’t, I guess I would go hungry most of the time,” replied Little Joe.

“Why should you go hungry? Paddy doesn’t,” replied Peter.

“Paddy doesn’t live on fish,” replied Little Joe. “I do and that’s the difference.”

“Might you show us how you can swim?” suggested Mother Nature.

Little Joe slipped into the water. The Smiling Pool was very still and the four-legged folks sitting on the bank could look right down and see nearly to the bottom. They saw Little Joe as he entered the water and then saw little more than a brown streak. A second later his head popped out on the other side of the Smiling Pool.

“Phew, I’m glad I’m not a fish!” exclaimed Peter and everybody laughed.

“ Like Billy Mink, Little Joe is a great traveler,” Mother Nature continued, “especially up and down the Laughing Brook and the Big River. Sometimes he travels over land, although he is so heavy and his legs are so short that traveling on land is slow work. When he does cross from one stream or pond to another, he always picks out the smoothest going. Sometimes in winter he travels quite a bit. Then when he comes to a smooth hill, he slides down it on his stomach. By the way, Little Joe, haven’t you a slippery slide somewhere around here?”

Little Joe nodded. “I’ve got one down the Laughing Brook where the bank is steep,” said he. “Mrs. Otter and I and our children slide every day!”

“What do you mean by a slippery slide?” asked Happy Jack Squirrel, who was sitting in the Big Hickory-tree which grew on the bank of the Smiling Pool.

Mother Nature smiled. “Little Joe Otter and his family are quite fond of play,” she said. “One of their ways of playing is to make a slippery slide where the bank is steep and the water deep. In winter it is made of snow and in summer it is made of mud. There they slide down, splash into the water, then climb up the bank and do it all over again. In winter they make their slippery slide where the water doesn’t freeze.”

“I suppose that means that Little Joe doesn’t sleep in winter as Johnny Chuck does,” said Peter.

“Oh no, I should say not,” exclaimed Little Joe. “I like the winter, too. I have such a warm coat that I never get cold. There are always places where the water doesn’t freeze. I can swim for long distances under ice and so I can always get plenty of food.”

“Do you eat anything other than fish?” asked Peter Rabbit.

“Oh, sometimes,” replied Little Joe. “Once in a while I like a little fresh meat for a change, and sometimes when fish are scarce I eat Frogs, but I prefer fish, especially Salmon and Trout.”

“How many babies do you have at a time?” asked Happy Jack Squirrel.

“Usually one to three,” replied Little Joe, “and only one family a year. They are born in my comfortable house, which is a burrow in the bank. There Mrs. Otter makes a large, soft nest of leaves and grass. And now I think I will go on up the Laughing Brook as Mrs. Otter is waiting for me there.”

Using these prompts inspired from today’s chapter draw, write, color, paint, cut & paste, or creatively capture your ideas and story adventures in your P.L.A.Y. nature journal!

  1. Perhaps you live in a climate where there is snow to make a winter slippery slide just like Little Joe Otter. Have you ever thought to make a mud slide in the summer like him too? Try a little research with your family to see what otter slippery slides look like and then see if you can recreate your own version for some summer P.L.A.Y.!
  2. Have you seen a mink walk on land? Can you arch your back “between leaps” like Billy Mink? Or how about leap AND hide as he does? Where are you best suited for travel – on land or in the water?

If you find the work and vision of P.L.A.Y. supports you and your family on the life learning path, please pass it forward to friends and neighbors as a Simple Gift that keeps on giving.


P.L.A.Y. has created more updated animal, bird, beaver, deer, and toad story adventures from the Thornton Burgess archives for you and your family.

ENJOY!!!

These tales are woven with fun facts and fiction featuring local four-legged and feathered friends in the fields and forests of New England.


Nature Poop Post #13

A magical moment in any outdoor adventure is to find . . .

SCATBEDOODOO!!!

Who left this behind?


SCATBEDOODOO is a new special combination of two fun things:

SCAT = animal poop.

SCAT = the improvised singing of nonsense syllables in jazz music like bop-doo-wop.


❤ 🙂 ❤

What to do on this special occasion:

1-Watch Your Step!

2-Look with your eyes not your hands (no touch!)

3-Draw or take a snapshot of the poop to later decipher which field or forest animal

left behind this special clue.

4- Then sing your own verse of SCATBEDOODOO to celebrate discovering which

animal has passed this way before you!

❤  🙂 ❤


What other natural treasures did you find in your P.L.A.Y. today? 🙂


Draw, write, color, and creatively capture your discoveries

on the pages of your Nature Adventure book!

Nature Poop Post #15

A magical moment in any outdoor adventure is to find . . .

SCATBEDOODOO!!!

Who left these behind?


SCATBEDOODOO is a new special combination of two fun things:

SCAT = animal poop.

SCAT = the improvised singing of nonsense syllables in jazz music like bop-doo-wop.


❤ 🙂 ❤

What to do on this special occasion:

1-Watch Your Step!

2-Look with your eyes not your hands (no touch!)

3-Draw or take a snapshot of the poop to later decipher which field or forest animal

left behind this special clue.

4- Then sing your own verse of SCATBEDOODOO to celebrate discovering which

animal has passed this way before you!

❤  🙂 ❤


What other natural treasures did you find in your P.L.A.Y. today? 🙂


Draw, write, color, and creatively capture your discoveries

on the pages of your Nature Adventure book!

Nature Poop Post #14

A magical moment in any outdoor adventure is to find . . .

SCATBEDOODOO!!!

Who left this behind?


SCATBEDOODOO is a new special combination of two fun things:

SCAT = animal poop.

SCAT = the improvised singing of nonsense syllables in jazz music like bop-doo-wop.


❤ 🙂 ❤

What to do on this special occasion:

1-Watch Your Step!

2-Look with your eyes not your hands (no touch!)

3-Draw or take a snapshot of the poop to later decipher which field or forest animal

left behind this special clue.

4- Then sing your own verse of SCATBEDOODOO to celebrate discovering which

animal has passed this way before you!

❤  🙂 ❤


What other natural treasures did you find in your P.L.A.Y. today? 🙂


Draw, write, color, and creatively capture your discoveries

on the pages of your Nature Adventure book!

Nature Poop Post #12

A magical moment in any outdoor adventure is to find . . .

SCATBEDOODOO!!!

Who left this behind?


SCATBEDOODOO is a new special combination of two fun things:

SCAT = animal poop

SCAT = the improvised singing of nonsense syllables in jazz music like bop-doo-wop


❤ 🙂 ❤

What to do on this special occasion:

1-Watch Your Step!

2-Look with your eyes not your hands (no touch!)

3-Draw or take a snapshot of the poop to later decipher which field or forest animal

left behind this special clue.

4- Then sing your own verse of SCATBEDOODOO to celebrate discovering which

animal has passed this way before you!

❤  🙂 ❤


What other natural treasures did you find in your P.L.A.Y. today? 🙂


Draw, write, color, and creatively capture your discoveries

on the pages of your Nature Adventure book!

Animal BOOK LOOK – Chapter 15 – Wood Mouse + Meadow Mouse


Chapter 15

Wood Mouse + Meadow Mouse


Whitefoot the Wood Mouse is one of the smallest of the little four-legged folks who live in the Green Forest. Being so small he is one of the most timid. You see, by day and by night sharp eyes are watching for Whitefoot and he knows it. Never for one single instant, while he is outside where sharp eyes of hungry predators may see him, does he forget that they are watching for him. To forget even for one little minute might mean–well, it might mean the end of little Whitefoot, and a dinner for some one with a liking for Mouse.

So Whitefoot the Wood Mouse rarely ventures more than a few feet from a hiding place and safety. At the tiniest sound he startles nervously and often darts back into hiding without waiting to find out if there really is any danger. If he waited to make sure he might actually wait too long, and it is better to be safe than sorry.

This being the way Whitefoot looked at matters, you can guess how he felt when Chatterer the Red Squirrel caught sight of him and gave him Mother Nature’s message.

“Hey there,” shouted Chatterer, as he caught sight of Whitefoot darting under a log. “Hey! I’ve got a message for you!”

Slowly, cautiously, Whitefoot poked his head out from beneath the old log and looked up at Chatterer. “What kind of a message?” he asked suspiciously.

“A message you’ll do well to heed. It is from Mother Nature,” replied Chatterer.

“A message from Mother Nature!” cried Whitefoot, and came out a bit more from beneath the old log.

“That’s what I said, a message from Mother Nature,” replied Chatterer. “She says you are to come join all of us for a learning session at sun-up tomorrow morning.”

Then Chatterer explained about the learning sessions and where they were typically held each morning and what a lot he and his friends had already learned together. Whitefoot listened with something very like dismay in his heart. That place where they gathered was a long way off. That is, it was a long way for him, though to Peter Rabbit or Jumper the Hare it wouldn’t have seemed long at all. It meant that he would have to leave all his hiding places and the thought made him shiver.

However, Mother Nature had sent for him and not once did he even think of not attending. “Did you say that you gather at sun-up?” he asked, and when Chatterer nodded Whitefoot sighed. It was a sigh of relief. “I’m glad of that,” he said. “I can travel in the night, which will be much safer. I’ll be there. That is, I will if I am not caught on the way.”

Meanwhile over on the Green Meadows Peter Rabbit was looking for Danny Meadow Mouse. Danny’s home was not far from the dear Old Briar-patch, and he and Peter were very good friends. So Peter knew just about where to look for Danny and it didn’t take him long to find him.

A meadow mouse visiting our driveway?

“Hello, Peter! You look as if you have something very important on your mind,” was the greeting of Danny Meadow Mouse as Peter came hurrying up.

“I have,” said Peter. “It is a message for you. Mother Nature says for you to be on hand at sun-up tomorrow when our learning session opens over in the Green Forest.”

“Of course,” replied Danny in the most matter-of-fact tone. “Of course. If Mother Nature really sent me that message–”

“She really did,” interrupted Peter.

“There isn’t anything for me to do then attend,” finished Danny. Then his face became very sober. “That is a long way for me to go, Peter,” he said. “I wouldn’t take such a long journey for anything or for anybody else. Mother Nature knows, and if she sent for me she must be sure I can make the trip safely. What time did you say I must be there?”

“At sun-up,” replied Peter. “Shall I call for you on my way there?”

Danny shook his head. Then he began to laugh. “What are you laughing at?” asked Peter.

“At the very idea of me with my short legs trying to keep up with you,” replied Danny. “I wish you would sit up and take a good look all around to make sure that Old Man Coyote and Reddy Fox and Redtail the Hawk and Black Shadow, that pesky Cat from Farmer Brown’s, are nowhere about.”

Peter obligingly sat up and looked this way and looked that way and looked the other way. No one of whom he or Danny Meadow Mouse need be afraid was to be seen. He said as much, then asked, “Why did you want to know, Danny?”

“Because I am going to start at once,” replied Danny.

“Start for where?” asked Peter, looking much puzzled.

“Start for the gathering space of course,” replied Danny.

“Um— we don’t begin until sun-up tomorrow,” Peter stated with hesitation.

“Which is just the reason I am going to start now,” replied Danny. “If I should put off starting until the last minute I might not get there at all. I would have to hurry, and it is difficult to hurry and watch for danger at the same time. The way is clear now, so I am going to start. I can take my time and keep a proper watch for danger. I’ll see you over there in the morning, Peter.”

Danny turned and disappeared on one of his hidden little paths though the tall grass. Peter noticed that he was headed towards the Green Forest.

When Peter and the others arrived the next morning they found Whitefoot the Wood Mouse and Danny Meadow Mouse waiting with Mother Nature. Safe in her presence, they seemed to have lost much of their usual timidity. Whitefoot was sitting on the end of a log and Danny was on the ground just beneath him.

Wood Mouse illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

“I want all the rest of you to look well at these two little cousins and notice how unlike two cousins can be,” said Mother Nature. “Whitefoot, who is quite as often called a Deer Mouse as Wood Mouse, is one of the prettiest of the entire Mouse family. I suspect he is called Deer Mouse because the upper part of his coat is such a beautiful fawn color. Notice that the upper side of his long slim tail is of the same color, while the under side is white, as is the whole under part of Whitefoot. Also those dainty feet are white, hence his name. See what big, soft black eyes he has, and notice that those delicate ears are of good size.”

“His tail is covered with short fine hairs, instead of being naked as is the tail of Nibbler the House Mouse, of whom I will tell you later. Whitefoot loves the Green Forest, although out in parts of the Far West where there is no Green Forest he lives on the brushy plains. He is a good climber and quite at home in the trees. There he seems almost like a tiny Squirrel. Tell us, Whitefoot, where you make your home and what you eat.”

A wood mouse at the edge of the forest

“My home just now,” replied Whitefoot, “is in a certain hollow in a certain dead limb of a certain tree. I suspect that a member of the Woodpecker family made that hollow, as no one was living there when I found it. Mrs. Whitefoot and I have made a soft, warm nest there and wouldn’t trade homes with anyone. We have had our home in a hollow log on the ground, in an old stump, in a hole we dug in the ground under a rock, and in an old nest of some bird. That was in a tall bush. We roofed that nest over and made a little round doorway on the under side. Once we raised a family in a box in a dark corner of Farmer Brown’s sugar camp too.

“I eat all sorts of things–seeds, nuts, insects and meat when I can get it. I store up food for winter.”

“I suppose that means that you do not sleep as Johnny Chuck does in winter,” remarked Peter Rabbit.

“I should say not!” exclaimed Whitefoot. “I like winter. It is fun to run about on the snow. Haven’t you ever seen my tracks, Peter?”

“I have, lots of times,” spoke up Jumper the Hare. “Also I’ve seen you skipping about after dark. I guess you don’t care much for sunlight.”

“Oh no, I don’t,” replied Whitefoot. “I sleep most of the time during the day, and work and play at night. I feel safer then. On dull days I often come out. It is the bright sunlight I don’t like. That is one reason I stick to the Green Forest. I don’t see how Cousin Danny stands it out there on the Green Meadows. Now I guess it is his turn to share and tell us more.”

Meadow Mouse illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

Every one looked at Danny Meadow Mouse. In appearance he was as unlike Whitefoot as it was possible to be and still be a Mouse. His body was rather stout, looking stouter than it really was because his fur was quite long. His head was blunt, and he seemed to have no neck at all, though of course he did have one. His eyes were small, like little black beads. His ears were almost hidden in his hair. His legs were short and his tail was quite short, as if it had been cut off when half grown. No, those two cousins didn’t look a bit alike.

“Danny is a lover of the fields,” began Mother Nature, “and meadows where there is little else other than grass in which to hide. Everything about him is just suited for living there. Isn’t that so, Danny?”

“Yes, I guess so,” replied Danny.

“Now it is your turn to tell how you live and what you eat and anything else of interest about yourself,” Mother Nature said encouragingly.

“I guess there isn’t too much interesting about me,” began Danny modestly. “I’m just one of the plain, common little folks. I guess everybody knows me so well there is nothing for me to tell.”

“Some of them may know all about you, however I don’t,” declared Jumper the Hare. “I never go out on the Green Meadows where you live. How do you get about in all that tall grass?”

“Oh, that’s easy enough,” replied Danny. “I cut little paths in all directions.”

“Just the way I do in the dear Old Briar-patch,” added Peter Rabbit.

“I keep those little paths clear and clean so that there never is anything in my way to trip me up when I have to run for safety,” continued Danny. “When the grass gets tall those little paths are almost like little tunnels. The time I dread most is when Farmer Brown cuts the grass for hay. I not only have to watch out for that dreadful mowing machine, I also have to watch when the hay has been taken away since the grass is so short that it is hard work for me to keep out of sight.”

“I sometimes dig a short burrow and at the end of it make a nice nest of dry grass. Sometimes in summer Mrs. Meadow Mouse and I make our nest on the surface of the ground in a hollow or in a clump of tall grass, especially if the ground is low and wet. We have several good-sized families in a year. All Meadow Mice believe in large families, and that is probably why there are more Meadow Mice than any other Mice in the country. I forgot to say that I am also called Field Mouse.”

“Danny eats,” continued Mother Nature, ” grass, clover, bulbs, roots, seeds and garden vegetables. He also eats some insects. He sometimes puts away a few seeds for the winter, although he depends chiefly on finding enough to eat, for he is active all winter. He tunnels about under the snow in search of food. When other food is hard to find he eats bark. He gnaws the bark from young fruit trees all the way around as high as he can reach, and of course this kills the trees.”

“ And I will finish our session today mentioning that Danny is a good swimmer and not at all afraid of the water,” said Mother Nature. “No one has more predators than he, and the fact that he is alive and here this morning is due to his everlasting watchfulness. This will do for today. Tomorrow we will take up others of the Mouse family.”

Using these prompts inspired from today’s chapter draw, write, color, paint, cut & paste, or creatively capture your ideas and story adventures in your P.L.A.Y. nature journal!

  1. How do a Wood Mouse and Meadow Mouse look different? Are they the same in any way since they are from the same larger family?
  2. Have you ever seen a Meadow Mouse out in a field? Did you think it was something else?
  3. Have you ever seen a family of humans and wondered how they are all related even though they may have different hair color or texture, different skin tones, even facial features (like eyes and nose) that just don’t look the same? What were your thoughts? Could it be that we are all one human family just like all the different types of mice all belong to one mouse family?

NOTE: The specific science Family name is Muridae which comes from the Latin word mus meaning mouse.


If you find the work and vision of P.L.A.Y. supports you and your family on the life learning path, please pass it forward to friends and neighbors as a Simple Gift that keeps on giving.



Nature Poop Post #11

A magical moment in any outdoor adventure is to find . . .

SCATBEDOODOO!!!

Who left this behind?


SCATBEDOODOO is a new special combination of two fun things:

SCAT = animal poop

SCAT = the improvised singing of nonsense syllables in jazz music like bop-doo-wop


❤ 🙂 ❤

What to do on this special occasion:

1-Watch Your Step!

2-Look with your eyes not your hands (no touch!)

3-Draw or take a snapshot of the poop to later decipher which field or forest animal

left behind this special clue.

4- Then sing your own verse of SCATBEDOODOO to celebrate discovering which

animal has passed this way before you!


What other natural treasures did you find in your P.L.A.Y. today? 🙂


Draw, write, color, and creatively capture your discoveries

on the pages of your Nature Adventure book!

Animal BOOK LOOK – Chapter 10 – Pocket Gopher


Chapter 10

Pocket Gopher


On the way to see Mother Nature the next morning Peter Rabbit wondered who they would learn about that day. He was so busy wondering that Peter wasn’t really paying attention to where he was going. The result was that as he hopped out of a bramble-tangle just within the edge of the Green Forest, he nearly landed in something worse than the worst brambles that ever grew. It was only by a wild side jump that he saved himself. Peter had almost landed among the thousand little spears of Prickly Porky the Porcupine.

“Gracious!” exclaimed Peter.

“Hey,” shouted Prickly Porky. “You almost had a few of my little spears sticking in you this very minute.” He waddled along a few steps, then began talking again. “I don’t see why Mother Nature sent for me this morning,” he said. “I’m not much for long walks.”

Peter pricked up his long ears. “Oh, I know!” he cried. “ You’re a Rodent, and we are going to learn all about you this morning.”

“I’m not a Rodent; I’m a Porcupine,” Prickly Porky said matter-of-factly.

“You’re a Rodent just the same. You’ve got big gnawing teeth, and any one with that kind of teeth is a Rodent,” reported Peter. Then at a sudden thought a funny look passed over his face. “Why, that means that you and I are related in a way,” he added.

“Oh, I don’t believe it,” Prickly Porky said still shuffling along. “ What is this learning session about anyway? I already know how to get all I want to eat and how to make everybody get out of my way and leave me alone, and that’s enough to know when you are a porcupine.” He rattled the thousand little spears hidden in his coat, and Peter shivered at the sound.

Prickly Porky the Porcupine illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

At that Peter hurried on ahead, lipperty-lipperty-lip, while Prickly Porky slowly shuffled and rattled along behind.

All the other four-legged folks were there when Peter arrived. Prickly Porky wasn’t even in sight. Mother Nature wasted no time and began at once.

“Yesterday,” she began, “I told you about two little haymakers of the high mountains of the Far West. Who were they, Peter Rabbit?”

“Pika and Stubtail the Mountain Beaver,” replied Peter with great promptness.

“Right,” said Mother Nature. “Now I am going to tell you of one of my little plowmen who also lives in the Far West and prefers the great plains to the high mountains, though he is sometimes found in the latter. He is Grubby the Gopher, a member of the same order the rest of you belong to, and yet of a family quite his own. He is properly called the Pocket Gopher.”

“Does he have pockets in his cheeks like mine?” asked Striped Chipmunk eagerly.

“He has pockets in his cheeks, and that is why he is called Pocket Gopher,” replied Mother Nature; “however they are not at all like yours, Striped Chipmunk. Yours are on the inside of your cheeks, and his are on the outside.”

“How funny!” exclaimed Striped Chipmunk.

“Your pockets are small compared with those of Grubby,” continued Mother Nature. “One of his covers almost the whole side of his head back to his short neck, and it is lined with fur, and remember he has two of them. Grubby uses these for carrying food and never for carrying out earth when he is digging a tunnel, as some folks think he does. He stuffs them full with his front feet and empties them by pressing them from the back with his feet. The Gopher family is quite large and the members range in size from the size of Danny the Meadow Mouse to that of the Rat, only these bigger members are stouter and heavier than the Rat. Some are reddish-brown and some are gray. Whatever his size and wherever he is found, Grubby’s habits are the same.”

All this time Peter Rabbit had been fidgeting about. It was quite clear that Peter had something on his mind. Now as Old Mother Nature paused, Peter found the chance he had been waiting for. “If you please, why did you call him a plowman?” he asked eagerly.

“I’m coming to that,” replied Mother Nature, smiling at Peter’s eagerness. “Grubby Gopher spends most of his life underground, very much like Miner the Mole, whom you all know. He can dig tunnels just about as fast. His legs are short, and his front legs and feet are very stout and strong. They are armed with very long, strong claws and it is with these and the help of his big cutting teeth that Grubby digs. He throws the earth under him and then kicks it behind him with his hind feet. When he has quite a pile behind him he turns around, and with his front feet and head pushes it along to a little side tunnel and then up to the surface of the ground. As soon as he has it all out he plugs up the opening and goes back to digging. The loose earth he has pushed out makes little mounds, and he makes one of these mounds every few feet.”

“Grubby is a great worker. He is very industrious. Since he is underground, it doesn’t make much difference to him whether it be night or day. In summer, during the hottest part of the day, he rests. His eyes are small and he doesn’t see well because he has little use for them, coming out on the surface very seldom and then usually in the dusk. He has a funny little tail without any hair on it; this is very sensitive and serves him as a sort of guide when he runs backward along his tunnel, which he can do quite fast. A funny thing about those long claws on his front feet is that he folds them under when he is walking or running. Do any of you know why Farmer Brown plows his garden?”

As she asked this, Mother Nature looked from one to another, and each in turn shook his head. “It is to mix the dead vegetable matter thoroughly with the earth so that the roots of the plants may get it easily,” explained Mother Nature. “By making those tunnels in every direction and bringing up the earth below to the surface, Grubby Gopher does the same thing. That is why I call him my little plowman. He loosens up the hard, packed earth and mixes the vegetable matter with it and so makes it easy for seeds to sprout and plants to grow.”

Pocket Gopher illustration by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

“Then he must be one of the farmer’s best friends,” spoke up Happy Jack Squirrel.

Mother Nature shook her head. “He has been in the past,” she said. “He has done wonderful work in helping make the land fit for farming. However where land is being farmed he can be a bit of a challenge. You see he eats the crops the farmer tries to raise, and the new mounds he is all the time throwing up bury a lot of the young plants, and in the meadows make it very hard to use a mowing machine for cutting hay. Then Grubby gets into young orchards and cuts off all the tender roots of young trees. This kills them. You see he is fond of tender roots, seeds, stems of grass and grain, and is never happier than when he can find a field of potatoes.”

“Being such a worker, he has to have a great deal to eat. Then, too, he stores away a great deal for winter, for he doesn’t sleep in winter as Johnny Chuck does. He even tunnels about under the snow. Sometimes he fills these little snow tunnels with the earth he brings up from below, and when the snow melts it leaves odd little earth ridges to show where the tunnels were.”

“Grubby is very neat in his habits and keeps his home and himself very clean. During the day he leaves one of his mounds open for a little while to let in fresh air. Then he closes it again. He doesn’t dare leave it open very long, for fear Shadow the Weasel or a certain big Snake called the Gopher Snake will find it and come in after him. Digger the Badger is the only one of his predators who can dig fast enough to dig him out, and at night, when he likes to come out for a little air or to cut grain and grass, he must always watch for Hooty the Owl. Old Man Coyote and members of the Hawk family are always looking for him by day, so you see he has plenty of predators, just like the rest of you.”

“He got the name Gopher because that comes from a word meaning honeycomb, and Grubby’s tunnels go in every direction until the ground is like honeycomb. He isn’t very social social and he is always ready to fight. On the plains he has done a great deal to make the soil fine and rich, as I have already told you, however on hillsides he does a great deal of harm. The water runs down his tunnels and washes away the soil.”

“Hello!” Mother Nature said with a start, ” Look who’s here! ”

There was a shuffling and rattling and Prickly Porky climbed up on an old stump. He was looking much out of sorts after his long walk.

Using these prompts inspired from today’s chapter draw, write, color, paint, cut & paste, or creatively capture your ideas and story adventures in your P.L.A.Y. nature journal!

  1. How many animals can you think of that have “pockets”? Can you compare how humans use pockets to how animals use “pockets”? What is the same and what is different?
  2. What would it be like to spend most of your days underground like the Pocket Gopher? Can you imagine spending your days digging and tunneling and never seeing the sun or the moon? What would it feel like to not be impacted by the weather, seeing neither rain nor snow or experiencing the wind on your face?

If you find the work and vision of P.L.A.Y. supports you and your family on the life learning path, please pass it forward to friends and neighbors as a Simple Gift that keeps on giving.


P.L.A.Y. has created more updated animal, bird, beaver, deer, and toad story adventures from the Thornton Burgess archives for you and your family.

ENJOY!!!

These tales are woven with fun facts and fiction featuring local four-legged and feathered friends in the fields and forests of New England.

Animal BOOK LOOK – Chapter 8 – The Marmot Family


Chapter 8

The Marmot Family


Johnny Chuck was the first one on hand the next morning. The fact is, Johnny was quite excited over the discovery that he had some near relatives. He always had supposed that the Woodchucks were a family by themselves. Now that he knew that he had some close relatives, he was filled with quite as much curiosity as ever, just like his friend Peter Rabbit. Just as soon as Mother Nature was ready to begin, Johnny Chuck was ready with a question. “If you please,” he said, “who are my nearest relatives?”

“The Marmots of the Far West,” replied Mother Nature. “You know, you are a Marmot, and these cousins of yours out there are a great deal like you in a general way. The biggest is Whistler, who lives in the mountains of the Northwest. The fact is, he is the biggest of all the Marmot family.”

“Is he much bigger than Johnny Chuck?” asked Peter Rabbit.

“Considerably bigger,” replied Mother Nature, nodding her head. “ I should think he would weight twice as much as Johnny.”

Johnny’s eyes opened very wide. “Oh my!” he exclaimed, “I sure would like to see him. Does he look like me?”

Hoary Marmot illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

“In his shape he does,” said Mother Nature, “although his coat is different. His coat is a mixture of dark brown and white hairs which give him a grayish color. The upper part of his head, his feet and nails are black, and so are his ears. A black band runs from behind each ear down to his neck. His chin is pure white and there is white on his nose. Underneath he is a light, rusty color. His fur is thicker and softer than yours, Johnny; this is because he lives where it is colder. His tail is larger, somewhat bushier, and is a blackish-brown.”

“If you please, why is he called Whistler?” asked Johnny Chuck eagerly.

“Because he has a sharp, clear whistle which can be heard a very long distance,” replied Mother Nature. “He sits up just as you do. If he sees danger approaching he whistles, as a warning to all his relatives within hearing.”

“Does he live in a hole in the ground just like Johnny Chuck does?” asked Peter Rabbit.

“He does,” replied Mother Nature. “All Marmots live in holes in the ground, Whistler lives up on the sides of the mountains, often so high that no trees grow there and the ground is rocky. He digs his hole down in between the rocks.”

“It must be a nice, safe hole,” said Peter. “I guess he doesn’t have to worry about being dug out by Reddy Fox.”

“You guessed quite right,” laughed Mother Nature. “Nevertheless, he has reason to fear being dug out. You see, out where he lives, Grizzly, the big cousin of Buster Bear, also lives, and Grizzly is very fond of a Marmot dinner when he can get one. He is so big and strong and has such great claws that he can pull the rocks apart and dig Whistler out. By the way, I forgot to tell you that Whistler is also called the Gray Marmot or the Hoary Marmot. He lives on grass and other green things and, like Johnny Chuck, gets very fat in the fall and then sleeps all winter. There are one or two other Marmots in the Far West who live farther south than does Whistler and their habits are much the same as those of Whistler and Johnny Chuck. None of them are social. I mean by that you never find two Marmot homes very close together. In this they differ from Johnny’s smaller cousin, Yap Yap the Prairie Dog. Yap Yap wouldn’t be happy if he didn’t have close neighbors of his own kind. He has one of the most social natures of all the four-legged folk.”

“Please do tell us about him,” begged Happy Jack Squirrel.

“Yap Yap is the smallest of the Marmot family,” said Mother Nature. “In a way he is about as closely related to the Ground Squirrels as he is to the Marmots. Johnny Chuck has only four claws on each front foot and Yap Yap has five, just as the Ground Squirrels have. He looks very much like a small Chuck dressed in light yellow-brown. His tail for the most part is the same color as his coat and the end is black, though there is one member of the family whose tail has a white tip. In each cheek is a small pouch, that is, a small pocket, and this is one of the things that shows how closely related to the Spermophiles he is.”

Prairie Dog illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

“As I said before, Yap Yap is very social by nature. He lives on the great open plains of the West and Southwest, frequently where it is very dry and rain seldom falls. When you find his home you are sure to find the homes of many more Prairie Dogs very close at hand. Sometimes there are hundreds and hundreds of homes, making a regular town. This is because the Prairie Dogs dearly love the company of their own kind.”

“Does Yap Yap dig the same kind of a hole that I do?” asked Johnny Chuck.

“In a way it is like yours,” replied Mother Nature, “and at the same time it is different. In the first place, it goes almost straight down for a long distance. In the second place there is no mound of sand in front of Yap Yap’s doorway. Instead of that the doorway is right in the very middle of the mound of sand. One reason for this is that when it does rain out where Yap Yap lives it rains very hard indeed, so that the water stands on the ground for a short time. The ground being flat, a lot of water would run down into Yap Yap’s home and make him most uncomfortable if he did not do something to keep it out. So he brings the sand out and piles it all the way around his doorway and presses it down with his nose. In that way he builds up a firm mound which he uses for two purposes; one is to keep the water from running down the hole, and the other is as a sort of watch tower. He sits on the top of his mound to watch for his enemies. His cousins with the white tail digs a hole more like yours.”

“Yap Yap loves to visit his neighbors and to have them visit him. They are lively little people and do a great deal of talking among themselves. The instant one of them sees an enemy he gives a signal. Then every Prairie Dog scampers for his own hole and dives in head first. Almost at once he pops his head out again to see what the danger may be.”

“How can he do that without going clear to the bottom to turn around?” demanded Peter.

“I wondered if any of you would think of that question,” chuckled Mother Nature. “Just a little way down from the entrance Yap Yap digs a little room at one side of his tunnel. All he has to do is to scramble into that, turn around and then pop his head out. As I said before, his tunnel goes down very deep; then it turns and goes almost equally far underground. Down there he has a nice little bedroom. Sometimes he has more than one.”

“If it is so dry out where he lives, how does he get water to drink?” asked Happy Jack.

“He doesn’t have to drink,” replied Mother Nature. “Some folks think that he digs down until he finds water way down underneath, however this isn’t so. He doesn’t have to have water. He gets all the moisture he needs from the green things he eats.”

“I suppose, like the rest of us, he has lots of predators?” said Peter.

Mother Nature nodded. “Yes, of course,” she said. “Old Man Coyote and Reddy Fox are very fond of Prairie Dog. So are members of the Hawk family. Then in some places there is a cousin of Shadow the Weasel called the Black-footed Ferret. He is to be feared most of all because he can follow Yap Yap down into his hole. There is a cousin of Hooty the Owl called the Burrowing Owl because it builds its home in a hole in the ground. You are likely to find many Burrowing Owls living in Prairie Dog villages. Also you are apt to find Buzztail the Rattlesnake there too.”

“A lot of people believe that Yap Yap, Buzztail and the little Burrowing Owl are the best of friends and often live together in the same hole. This isn’t so at all. Buzztail is very fond of young Prairie Dog and so is the Burrowing Owl. Rather than dig a hole for himself the Owl will sometimes take possession of one of Yap Yap’s deserted holes. If he should make a mistake and enter a hole in which Yap Yap was at home, the chances are that Yap Yap would kill the Owl for he knows that the Owl is a predator. Buzztail the Rattlesnake also makes use of Prairie Dog holes and odds are that if there are any Prairie Dog babies down there they never live to see what the outside world is like.”

“Why is he called a Dog?” asked Peter.

Mother Nature laughed right out. “Goodness knows,” she said. “He doesn’t look like a Dog and he doesn’t act like a Dog, so why people should call him a Dog I don’t know, unless it is because of his habit of barking, and even his bark isn’t at all like a Dog’s–not nearly so much so as the bark of Reddy Fox.”

“Now I guess this will do for today. Have you four-legged folks had enough of these sessions?”

“No,” cried Peter Rabbit and Jumper the Hare and Happy Jack and Chatterer the Red Squirrel and Striped Chipmunk and Johnny Chuck. “We want to know about the rest of the members of the order of Rodents or Gnawers,” added Peter. “Of course in a way they are sort of related to us and we want to know about them.”

Mother Nature laughed good-naturedly. “All right,” she said, “come again tomorrow morning and we’ll see what more we can learn.”

Using these prompts inspired from today’s chapter draw, write, color, paint, cut & paste, or creatively capture your ideas and story adventures in your P.L.A.Y. nature journal!

  1. Make a drawing of Yap Yap the Prairie Dog’s tunneled home using the description in the story. Compare this to your drawing of Johnny Woodchuck’s tunneled home. Now “dig a little” further in resource books or online to see how these two related folks have both similar and different homes. Be sure to look for “cross-section” drawings that show all the details of how things look underground.
  2. How can an owl, a rattlesnake, and a prairie dog all use the same tunnels without bumping into one another? How do they know which hole to go into and not find someone else at home? What do you think this looks like underground when all of them are resting – separately?

If you find the work and vision of P.L.A.Y. supports you and your family on the life learning path, please pass it forward to friends and neighbors as a Simple Gift that keeps on giving.


P.L.A.Y. has created more updated animal, bird, beaver, deer, and toad story adventures from the Thornton Burgess archives for you and your family.

ENJOY!!!

These tales are woven with fun facts and fiction featuring local four-legged and feathered friends in the fields and forests of New England.

Animal BOOK LOOK – Chapter 7 – Woodchucks


Chapter 7

The Woodchuck Family


Peter Rabbit delivered Mother Nature’s message to Johnny Chuck requesting he join them for a learning session. Johnny didn’t seem at all pleased. He grumbled to himself. He didn’t want to go. He didn’t want to learn anything about his relatives. He was perfectly satisfied with things as they were. As a rule he can find plenty to eat very near his home, so he seldom goes far from his own doorstep. Peter left him grumbling and chuckled to himself all the way back to the dear Old Briar-patch. He knew that Johnny Chuck would honor Mother Nature’s request.

Sure enough, the next morning Johnny Chuck came waddling through the Green Forest just as Mother Nature was about to begin. He didn’t look at all happy, and he didn’t reply at all to the greetings of the others. However, when Mother Nature spoke to him he was very polite.

“Good morning, Johnny Chuck,” she said.

Johnny bobbed his head and said, “Good morning.”

“I understand,” continued Mother Nature, “That you are not at all interested in learning about your relatives. Did you know that the more one knows the better fitted he is to take care of himself and do his part in the work of the Great World? However, it wasn’t for your benefit that I sent word for you to be here this morning. It was for the benefit of your friends and neighbors. Now if you would kindly sit up so that all can get a good look at you.”

Johnny Chuck sat up, and of course all the others looked at him. It made him feel a bit uneasy. “You remember,” said Mother Nature, “how surprised you little folks were when I told you that Johnny Chuck is a member of the Squirrel family. Happy Jack, you go sit beside Johnny Chuck, and the rest of you look hard at Happy Jack and Johnny and see if you can discover the family resemblance.”

Seeing Happy Jack the squirrel and Johnny Chuck sitting up side by side, Peter Rabbit caught the resemblance at once. There was sort of family look about them. “Why! Johnny Chuck does look like a Squirrel,” he exclaimed.

Woodchuck illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

“Ah yes, he does look like a Squirrel, because he is one,” said Mother Nature. “And Johnny Chuck is very much bigger and so stout in the body that he is not as nimble as the true Squirrels. You will also notice that the shape of his head is much the same as that of Happy Jack and he does have a Squirrel face when you come to look at him closely. The Woodchucks, sometimes called Ground Hogs, belong to the Marmot branch of the Squirrel family, and wherever they are found they look much alike.”

“As you will notice, Johnny Chuck’s coat is brownish-yellow, his feet are very dark brown, almost black. His head is dark brown with light gray on his cheeks. Beneath he is reddish-orange, including his throat. His tail is short for a member of the Squirrel family, and although it is bushy, it is not very big. He has a number of whiskers and they are black. Some Woodchucks are quite gray, and occasionally there is one who is almost all black, just as there are black Gray Squirrels.”

“Johnny, here, is not fond of the Green Forest, and instead loves the Old Orchard and the Green Meadows. In some parts of the country there are members of his family who prefer to live just on the edge of the Green Forest. You will notice that Johnny has stout claws. Those are to help him dig, for all the Marmot family are great diggers. What other use do you have for those claws, Johnny?”

Green Meadow & Old Orchard, seen here in the spring, where woodchucks like to live.

“They help me to climb,” replied Johnny promptly.

“Climb!” exclaimed Peter Rabbit. “Who ever heard of a Woodchuck climbing?”

“I can climb if I have to,” replied Johnny Chuck. “I’ve climbed up bushes and low trees lots of times, and if I can get a good run first, I can climb up the straight trunk of a tree with rough bark to the first branches–if they are not too far above ground. You just ask Reddy Fox, he knows.”

“That’s quite true, Johnny,” said Mother Nature. “You can climb a little, however you are better as a digger.”

“He certainly is a great digger,” exclaimed Peter Rabbit. “My, how he can make the sand fly! Johnny Chuck certainly is right at home when it comes to digging.”

“You ought to be thankful that he is,” said Mother Nature, “for the holes he has dug have saved your life more than once. By the way, Peter, since you are so well acquainted with those holes, suppose you tell us what kind of a home Johnny Chuck has.”

Peter was delighted to share. “The last one I was in,” he said, “was a long tunnel slanting down for quite a distance and then straightening out. The entrance was quite large with a big heap of sand out in front of it. Down a little way the tunnel grew smaller and then remained the same size all the rest of the way. Way down at the farther end was a nice little bedroom with some grass in it. There were one or two other little rooms, and there were two branch tunnels leading up to the surface of the ground, making side or back doorways. There was no sand around either of these, and they were quite hidden by the long grass hanging over them. I don’t understand how Johnny made those doorways without leaving any sand on the doorsteps.”

“Oh!” inserted Johnny Chuck. “That was easy enough. I pushed all the sand out of the main doorway so that there would be nothing to attract the attention of any one passing near those back doorways. Those back doorways are very handy in time of danger.”

“Do you always have three doorways?” asked Happy Jack.

“No,” replied Johnny Chuck. “Sometimes I have only two and once in a while only one and that isn’t really safe, so I mean always to have at least two.”

“Do you use the same house year after year?” piped up Striped Chipmunk.

Johnny shook his head. “No,” he said. “I dig a new hole each spring. Mrs. Chuck and I like a change of scene. Usually my new home isn’t very far from my old one, because I am not fond of traveling. Sometimes, however, if we cannot find a place that just suits us, we go quite a distance.”

“Are your babies born down in that little bedroom in the ground?” asked Jumper the Hare.

“Yes,” replied Johnny Chuck. “Where else might they be born?”

“Oh, I don’t know, I thought Mrs. Chuck might make a nest on the ground the way Mrs. Peter and Mrs. Jumper do,” replied Jumper.

“No, siree!” replied Johnny. “Our babies are born in that little underground bedroom, and they stay down in the ground until they are big enough to hunt for food for themselves.”

“How many do you usually have?” inquired Chatterer the Red Squirrel.

“Six or eight,” replied Johnny Chuck. “Mrs. Chuck and I have large families.”

“Do you eat nuts like the rest of our family?” inquired Striped Chipmunk.

“No,” replied Johnny Chuck. “Give me green food every time. There is nothing so good as tender sweet clover and young grass, unless it be some of those fine vegetables Farmer Brown grows in his garden.”

Sweet Clover in the spring is a tasty treat for many.

Peter Rabbit nodded his head very emphatically as if he quite agreed.

“I suppose you are what is called a vegetarian, then,” said Happy Jack, to which Johnny Chuck replied that he supposed he was. “And I suppose that is why you sleep all winter,” added Happy Jack.

“If I didn’t I would starve,” responded Johnny Chuck promptly. “When it gets near time for Jack Frost to arrive, I eat and eat and eat the last of the good green things until I’m so fat I can hardly waddle. Then I go down to my bedroom, curl up and go to sleep. Cold weather, snow and ice don’t worry me a bit. I simply stay tucked inside.”

“Me too,” spoke up Striped Chipmunk. “I sleep most of the winter myself. Of course I have a lot of food stored away down in my house, and once in a while I wake up and eat a little. Do you ever wake up in the winter, Johnny Chuck?”

“No,” replied Johnny. “I sleep right through, thank goodness. Sometimes I wake up very early in the spring before the snow is all gone, earlier than I wish I did. That is where my fat comes in handy. It keeps me warm and keeps me alive until I can find the first green plants. Perhaps you have noticed that early in the spring I am as thin as I was fat in the fall. This is because I have used up the fat, waiting for the first green things to appear.”

“Do you have many predators?” asked Peter Rabbit, who has so many himself that he is constantly thinking of them.

“Not many, enough though,” Johnny Chuck said with a frown. “Reddy Fox, Old Man Coyote, humans, and Dogs are the worst. Of course, when I was small I always had to be watching out for Hawks, and of course, like all the rest of us little folks, I am afraid of Shadow the Weasel. Reddy Fox has tried to dig me out more than once, however I can dig faster than he can. If he ever gets me cornered, he’ll find that I can fight. A small Dog surprised me once before I could get to my hole and I guess that Dog never will tackle another Woodchuck.”

“Thank you Johnny Chuck,” Mother Nature said with a smile. “ And I’d like to tell you all more about Johnny Chuck’s family including his big cousin out in the mountains of the Great West named Whistler, and on the prairies of the Great West he has a smaller cousin named Yap Yap. They are quite important members of the Marmot family. Johnny Chuck, I’d love for you to join us too,” she added.

“Yes, if you please, Mother Nature,” he said, “I think I’ll come. I didn’t know I had any close relatives, and I want to know more about them.”

So it was agreed that all would gather again at sun-up the next morning. Then everybody started for home to think over the things they had learned.

Using these prompts inspired from today’s chapter draw, write, color, paint, cut & paste, or creatively capture your ideas and story adventures in your P.L.A.Y. nature journal!

  1. Since it is not likely to see a woodchuck sitting directly next to a squirrel, how else might you observe and compare a woodchuck to a squirrel? Make a list of similar features and differences or draw them if you like.
  2. When you read Johnny Chuck’s description of his tunneled home what images come to mind? Can you draw or paint and label his home underground with the details provided?
  3. Visit this LINK for photos and more information about woodchucks from the Mass Audubon Society.
  4. *How is the woodchuck burrow and tunnels made so that he doesn’t drown in heavy rains? How is the bedding carried into the burrow? If observing a woodchuck in the meadow, where is it likely to station itself to sit upright and look for intruders? What is the shape of a woodchuck’s ear? Does a woodchuck have good hearing? When do woodchucks know to reappear in the spring? When are young woodchucks born?

Prompts with a * are inspired by or found in the Handbook of Nature Study written by Anna Botsford Comstock, a professor at Cornell University, focusing on flora & fauna in the Northeast in 1911.


If you find the work and vision of P.L.A.Y. supports you and your family on the life learning path, please pass it forward to friends and neighbors as a Simple Gift that keeps on giving.


P.L.A.Y. has created more updated animal, bird, beaver, deer, and toad story adventures from the Thornton Burgess archives for you and your family.

ENJOY!!!

These tales are woven with fun facts and fiction featuring local four-legged and feathered friends in the fields and forests of New England.