Here's something you don't see every day…a black groundhog! I've only ever seen one other black-furred woodchuck—and that occasion, several years ago, afforded merely a fleeting, drive-by glimpse at some distance.
Like spontaneous magic, this amazing individual simply appeared in my yard the other morning, pausing no more than ten feet beyond the window! I was truly flabbergasted!
The expected coat coloration for groundhogs is a basic, run-of-the-mill brown. Black-furred wild critters are few and far between here in Ohio. A few black squirrels in small colonies scattered throughout the state—though none anywhere near my southwestern bailiwick. And in Ohio's Appalachian foothill regions—miles away from these pastoral precincts—you might spot one of the handful of black bears who call the Buckeye State home.
Otherwise, the only black mammals you'll see are wandering cats and dogs. My visitor was a genetic anomaly—an atypical, dressed-in-sable, melanistic-phase whistle-pig!
Melanism is an overdevelopment of the dark-colored pigment—melanin—in fur, skin, feathers, or scales. It's the opposite of albinism, which is a lack of color pigment, and can occur in any animal, including birds and reptiles. Those classy-looking black squirrels are really melanistic-phase gray squirrels—a fairly common occurrence.
Over the years I've seen any number of melanistic-phase animals, including various hawks, whitetail deer, raccoons, and foxes. But when it comes to groundhogs, I'm told melanism is extremely rare.
I'm fortunate such a unique creature came my way—and glad I can share this singular treat.