A rare sighting of an albino groundhog

Sunday, September 2, 2012

This is the only albino groundhog I have ever seen. I watched as it ate vegetation on the opposite side of a woven metal fence about 100 yards away. As I contemplated how to approach the fence and animal for a decent photo, the groundhog suddenly decided to make a hasty escape. It slid under the fence and surprised me by running toward me. I photographed it as it ran across a well-mowed pasture going into trees nearby. I had unwittingly stopped close to this animal's den or place of safety.

The groundhog is a ground-dwelling rodent whose range extends from southeast Alaska across much of northern North America as far south as Georgia. Within its range the groundhog is the largest rodent. The groundhog is closely related to marmots of the mountainous West.

An albino animal is an animal that normally would be another color but is white because its skin lacks a pigment called melanin. Without this pigment an animal's hair will be white and its eyes will be pink.

It is possible for plants to also be albinos. If a plant lacks normal amounts of chlorophyll its leaves and flowers may be white. These rarities of nature are exciting to find.

Through the Woods is a weekly nature photo column by Aaron Horrell. Find this column at semissourian.com to order a reprint of the photo. Find more work by him at the Painted Wren Gallery.

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