I was not aware that groundhogs were the largest species in the squirrel family and never actually associated these two. Both can certainly be pesky. Any one whose backyard is home to a complex, underground burrowing system, knows that groundhogs can be even more pesky than their smaller squirrel relative.
Perhaps your neighbourhood groundhog has enjoyed eating tasty treats from your garden to fatten up for the winter. One-third of their body weight is consumed every day, and they do love what a vegetable garden offers. This feeding frenzy plumps them up and they are all set to hibernate from October to early spring.
In fact, males wake early in February and pay a visit to all the dens in their territory. They want to introduce themselves to any females within a three-acre radius. Come March, when they are fully awake, they are ready for a return visit. Mating season begins and thirty-two days later, between two and four kits are born. They stay with their momma for about two months, then they are sent out to “seek their fortunes”. An otherwise solitary animal, groundhogs protect each other by emitting a series of high-pitched whistling sounds as a warning of danger. It’s like a Neighbourhood Watch community.
Humans, unlike groundhogs, benefit greatly from social interaction. A day seems to stretch on forever when you are lonely and have limited social supports. Socially isolated seniors are at risk of being sedentary and not eating well. They have a higher likelihood of falls and a greater risk of hospitalization.
Social isolation also affects the psychological and cognitive health of seniors. It is associated with higher levels of depression. When going through a tough time alone, a lack of emotional support and friendship can increase anxiety and coping abilities. Studies confirm that loneliness isn’t good for anyone’s health. It increases levels of stress hormones and leads to poor sleep, and a compromised immune system.
An upcoming blog will highlight a new project for Meals on Wheels London. The Lunch Buddies Program will focus on isolated clients. We hope that this project will make a significant impact and recreate for those involved, a sense of community and well-being with the interactions that will take place.
The feelings brought on by the thought of a longer winter, lack of sunshine and light can affect many people. Come this Friday, groundhogs like Wiarton Willie, Dunkirk Dave, and Sir Walter Raleigh may predict an early spring. Wouldn’t this be a terrific pick-me-up for anyone eager to see more sun, consistent warmer temperatures and green grass. Laura