Hashbrown’s Squash Garden

Hashbrown has a wonderful Squash Garden! Hashbrown is the education groundhog at the Toronto Wildlife Centre. (See my earlier post about her here.)

Eric, one of the staff people at the TWC, does a great job and is super creative in her enclosure, enrichment, and care. He gave me a tour of the garden when I arrived for my shift this week. The garden is awesome – and it came about organically, so to speak.

Hashbrown is fed squash as part of her diet, among other fruits and vegetables. She has her own large room at the TWC, and it has tunnels under a thick layer of mulch and greenery. There are toys and a kennel for her above the mulch ground.

Eric has been cleaning and improving her room for months. He dumps her dirty mulch at a certain spot in the grounds — and it started sprouting!

Apparently from Hashbrown was passing the seeds in her seed-filled poop. The mulch was being dumped into a site with plenty of fertilizer, sunshine, rain, and wind protection. It started routing and growing! Recently Eric asked Lauren, another staff person, to make a sign, and together they created this adorable garden marker.

It is now growing big healthy squash!

Baby Groundhogs in Toronto Park

Groundhog babies in Wilket Creek Park. Photo by Heather Kelly.

These little groundhogs were out exploring this morning when my friend Zoe and I were happily surprised to come across them on the path in Wilket Creek Park. A young mother and her toddler had stopped to watch the baby groundhogs, too, though they didn’t know what the little animals are.

These juveniles must have emerged from their underground burrow within the last couple of weeks. They were likely born in May, and then started to explore the world of this park, their home, at about 6 weeks old. So that would have been around early July.

Groundhog baby in Wilket Creek Park. Photo by Heather Kelly.

Also called woodchucks, yes, as in “how much wood would a woodchuck chuck, if a woodchuck could chuck wood…,” whistle-pigs, or land-beavers, they are part of the family of mammals that includes squirrels and chipmunks. In a segment of that family, the marmots, only beavers and porcupines are larger than groundhogs.

When not enjoying some sunshine, groundhogs are usually underground in their well-designed burrows, which are complete with bedrooms, specially designated bathrooms, spy holes, and entrance and exit.  

“All sorts of animals are able to thrive because of the shelter supplied by woodchuck holes. The list includes a wide variety of fur and game animals, some of which destroy huge quantities of farm pests, such as rats, mice and insects. Skunks, raccoons, foxes, rabbits, and snakes all take shelter in woodchuck holes,” according to the Canadian Wildlife Federation.

We were lucky to see these little ones out and about in the sunshine at around 9am since, although they are daytime animals (diurnal), they are most active early mornings and early evenings.

Groundhog baby and squirrel checking eachother out. Photo by Heather Kelly.

Cuddles with Hashbrown the Groundhog

Today’s small joy: a quick cuddle with Hashbrown the groundhog.

Today is my one year anniversary working at the wildlife centre!

I would not normally take a photo of any animal at the Centre, but Hashbrown is an education animal, not a patient, and it’s an anniversary.

I am very lucky to have time with Hashbrown. She is hilarious! Silly and mischievous and playful and moody, similar to a 3 year old human.

A few of us have scheduled play time and snuggle time with her, as part of keeping her acclimated to humans and her training. She has a job teaching the public and school children about wildlife, and these sessions are part of helping her do her job well.

Vets, animal shelters, zoos, aquariums, and wildlife hospitals have been recognized as essential services (for the animals in care, closed to the public), and I am so glad to be able to go to care for the patients and get some quality snuggle time in with sweet Hashbrown!