Four Legs + HOUSE: Newburgh

Newburgh Haggis.

Summertime in the Hudson Valley means more than just green mountains, winding rivers, antique fairs and crickets—it also means groundhogs, also known as woodchucks.

Among famous groundhogs of the northeastern United States, most everyone already knows Punxsutawney Phil and Staten Island Chuck (full name Charles G. Hogg), but I’d like to introduce you to a lesser-known celebrity groundhog: Newburgh Haggis.

First spotted by Evan in the summer of 2008, Haggis has made a very nice home for himself (herself? I’m not going to check) in our garden, devouring numerous vegetable and herb plants straight down to the root. He’s raised children under the deck, created a tunnel system to rival the NYC subway, and dutifully “relocated” (i.e. dug up and left for dead) several plants according to his own landscaping sensibilities.

In other words, he’s a member of the family. Sometimes he has friends Scarface and Fatback over, but mostly he’s a solo ‘hog. We’ve accepted the path of destruction he leaves in his wake, and we welcome his arrival every year.

Moments after the photo above was taken, the sweet potato plants pictured were reduced to tiny stumps, of course, but at least Haggis got a nice meal out of it, right? Sure, he’s trouble. But he has such a cute face.

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  • Reply Callista June 5, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    WHAT?! A woodchuck and a groundhog are the same thing?! I had no idea! You just blew my mind. No joke.

  • Reply Lesley June 5, 2011 at 1:53 pm

    Gah I LOVE groundhogs! So so much. It makes me crazy when people think they’re just ‘pests’ that need to be eradicated (same with squirrels, raccoons, etc.). I’m so tickled that your post glorifies Newburgh in all his (her?) groundhog glory.

    I actually have this little groundhog puppet from Folkmanis that looks alarmingly accurate. We’ve dubbed him “Mr. Groundhog” and he is a staple of our apartment, haha. I love that you think they’re cute, and I may love the pictures even more :)

  • Reply stephanie June 5, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    that second picture is hilarious, the look on his face is amazing! caught in the act.

  • Reply belinda June 5, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    cute little fellow!

  • Reply LINDA F June 5, 2011 at 2:27 pm

    So cute and a troublemaker indeed! I’ve been looking for sweet potato plants. Where did you get them? (I live in the Hudson Valley in the Hamlet of Wallkill)

    • Reply Anna @ D16 June 5, 2011 at 2:48 pm

      Linda, the garden center at Adams in Newburgh has a great selection of plants (that’s where we buy our stuff), but even Lowe’s and Home Depot usually have sweet potato plants (green and purple).

  • Reply Olivia June 5, 2011 at 3:12 pm

    For a face like that, a little plant loss it totally worth it.

  • Reply Anna June 5, 2011 at 4:33 pm

    What on earth? Never seen anything like it. I am from the UK and we certainly don’t have these little babies in our gardens. Looks quite cute – but struggling with scale here. Is it the size of a rabbit or more a small dog?

    • Reply Anna @ D16 June 5, 2011 at 4:57 pm

      Maybe like a large rabbit or a cat? Smaller than a raccoon, but bigger than a squirrel!

      We even celebrate Groundhog Day (February 2nd) in the US to mark the coming of spring. :)

  • Reply Felicity June 5, 2011 at 5:26 pm

    Living in Australia we have lots of amazing critters but the closest to Mr Haggis would be our wombat and they are really, really docile.
    A classic [and very poor] joke here is
    “Why is a wombat famous?”
    Because he eats, roots and leaves.

    Perhaps Mr Haggis really is more like the wombat than we thought!

  • Reply Elisa @ What the Vita June 5, 2011 at 5:38 pm

    I love your attitude towards that cute little animal!

  • Reply dkzody June 5, 2011 at 7:17 pm

    We have squirrels, whom I feed. They are living creatures and have needs just like the rest of us. If the bounty of nuts, leftover breads and cereals, and dried fruits should run out, one of the little guys will sit on a limb and look longingly at the patio door, and if I fail to notice, will begin to loudly chirp. They move higher in the tree when I come out with a bowl of munchies and watch as I empty the bowl in the saddle of the tree.

  • Reply Mac June 5, 2011 at 7:41 pm

    Oh Man. He is too cute to be any REAL trouble, right? We just found that we have a chipmunk living in our backyard. He is now living on a steady diet of sunflower seeds and peering eyes :-)

  • Reply Shilo June 5, 2011 at 8:06 pm

    He’s so fuzzyyyy. How do you not snuggle him?
    Wild animal? psh!

  • Reply Sarah June 5, 2011 at 8:57 pm

    Just ran into one of these guys yesterday at Storm King. As soon as he saw me coming he ducked into a drain pipe, peeking his nose out every so often, but I could not get him to come out again.

  • Reply Lori E. June 5, 2011 at 9:12 pm

    Have you seen this? It cracks me up every time.

  • Reply Jenny June 5, 2011 at 10:06 pm

    He’s gorgeous. I’m so glad you and Mr D16 have accepted him. Bless you!

  • Reply kelly w June 6, 2011 at 12:24 am

    Where’s the ‘love’ button? SO, so cute.

  • Reply Southern Gal June 6, 2011 at 1:55 am

    uh oh – i HATE those critters!

    in the first year of my now five year garden – i bought over $300 worth of perennials and annuals (mainly p) (from graceful gardens) and set them out (this after weeks of clearing debris and waste trees and other junk and creating beds and digging and tilling and – well , you get the picture )

    next morning – HALF were eating completely away.

    over that summer and the next, i spent HOURS and HOURS finding and plugging holes in the fence and under the fence and in the ground and …

    and giving up on many of the plants that i wanted for the garden – like echinacea and daisies and any thing in the mallow and hollyhock family.


    eventually one of my cats decided to become an outdoors mainly cat and actually since then its been much better – but i still shy from the plants GH would like so as not to attract him.

    i still have nightly visits from the other neighborhood residents – mr. raccoon, miss possum and ms skunk.

    ah the joys of urban gardening!

  • Reply tinajo June 6, 2011 at 3:45 am

    Such a cute troublemaker – we don´t have these animals in Sweden! :-)

  • Reply Vanessa June 6, 2011 at 6:18 am

    So infuriating yet adorable, all at once. He’s lucky you’ve got so much patience :-)

  • Reply Dusa June 6, 2011 at 8:58 am

    Ah, the state mascot of PA! We don’t have as many here in VT, but the ones we do have are just as sleek and cute as Sir Haggis. Thank you for making him part of the family.

  • Reply Ema June 6, 2011 at 9:16 am

    I had a crazy neighbor who recommend I get a bag of fish heads from the market, leave it in the sun for a few days then put it in their burrowing hole. While I never tried this method, I never doubted that it would work. Lord knows I’d be runnin’..

    • Reply Anna @ D16 June 6, 2011 at 10:36 am

      That seems like it might attract a whole new set of problems!! Oh my!

  • Reply Sid June 6, 2011 at 9:35 am

    Haggis is officially the best name for a groundhog ever.

    You’re not alone in letting “wild” animals have the run of the place. Though thankfully they’re not destructive, I’ve currently re-arranged our life around attempting not to disturb the robins that have nested above our front door.

  • Reply k June 6, 2011 at 10:02 am

    Haha! We’ve also got some of our own sweet face critters that like to make a meal out of our garden. Our menagerie includes chipmunks that eat our strawberries, rabbits that eat our dark dancer clover, a momma raccoon and her babies that go straight for the garbage and of course the beloved woodchuck / whistlepig that eats anything and everything! This year we’ve built a big ol’ raised garden lined with wire mesh and surrounded by fences. It’s only a matter of time before I have a picture of them all climbing over it! At least they’re cute.

  • Reply L June 6, 2011 at 10:19 am

    Yes, Haggis (love the name!) is darling — as well as frustrating and destructive. Bless you for seeing the appealing side; it’s so easy for us humans to forget who was actually here first.

    That said, if you want to preserve any of your plants, try hardware cloth cages both above and below ground. The plants might get nibbled, but shouldn’t totally be eaten when there is protective metal surrounding them.

  • Reply INK+WIT June 6, 2011 at 10:29 am

    Ha! so cute. We have one that lives under our 100+yr old barn

  • Reply Tess June 6, 2011 at 10:47 am

    I like my family of groundhogs too! I thought I was the only one. Most people try to kill them. I let them eat whatever they like. Even my cats don’t mind them! Yours is a cutie!

  • Reply beth c June 6, 2011 at 11:06 am

    We had a groundhog that lived on a landfill (I work for an environmental consulting company) and we had to catch him so he didn’t ruin the landfill… when we caught him, he had a bit of wait time to be relocated, I of course, gave him water through the wires and some apples and named him Lime (the landfill’s name is Lemon Lane) and he was sent on his way. I love their little chubby faces!!

  • Reply June 6, 2011 at 1:22 pm

    I have a similar problem, only instead of a fat groundhog, I have a fat skunk(s)! The latest victim? A pot of basil plants. All three were dug up, but only one was eaten… I guess that, unlike my random (and accidental) wild mushroom crop, basil isn’t tasty for skunks? Actually, all this talk of pot and ‘shrooms… maybe it’s not a skunk at all, just a hungry stoner!

  • Reply Rebecca June 6, 2011 at 2:18 pm

    Clearly you are a city person! LOL!! Us country folk are bred to have utmost disdain for them! They ruin fields, cause crop loss, damage equipment, break the legs of livestock, and just make a mess of things. This critter doesn’t know how good s/he has it! Growing up we had Jack Russells because they were the best groundhog dogs. My dad and dog got one just last week, and both were quite proud of themselves. I’ll be sure to tell ours around the farm to move to town so they can live a life of leisure!

    Keepin’ it real in the country.

  • Reply raquel June 6, 2011 at 3:03 pm

    hahah. That is one cute groundhog. But groundhogs are definitely NOT chipmunks. Chipmunks look like Alvin:

  • Reply heather June 6, 2011 at 3:36 pm

    Oh Haggis! He’s soooo cute! My mother has a giant groundhog in her yard that lives under her shed. He’s been there (or at least, someone that looks exactly like him) for years.
    Since he’s being fed so well, I’m sure Haggis is there to stay. ;)

  • Reply Chenney June 6, 2011 at 6:32 pm

    There are so many potential band names in this post.

  • Reply satsuki | zakka nouveau June 6, 2011 at 7:35 pm

    he is just SO SO CUTE!!!! i would let him eat all of my herbs/garden too if he came to visit me~ :) it’s even sweeter that he comes to visit every season~

  • Reply Miss B. June 6, 2011 at 9:07 pm

    Lol, you are both good people to take Haggis’s visit in stride:)

  • Reply Janet June 7, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    Haggis is SUPER CUTE!

  • Reply Kylee June 7, 2011 at 10:38 pm

    Omg. He is SO cute! I wish we had them in my neck of the woods!

  • Reply PhillyLass June 8, 2011 at 9:01 am

    I don’t know if this would deter Haggis, but my mom sprinkles cayenne pepper on her plants to keep critters from eating them. She’s had, er, moderate success with the technique.

  • Reply April June 8, 2011 at 10:43 am

    Wondrous Haggis!

  • Reply hena tayeb June 9, 2011 at 10:35 pm

    Lol.. fatback and scarface.. love the names.. nice of you to be so welcoming.

  • Reply OurSoundHome June 10, 2011 at 11:40 pm

    Holy crap, I am in awe of this creature and his destruction, I have been experiencing the same thing with a couple River Otters that are having their way with my yard this summer! Very similar to your description, but it includes “seafood” going all over my yard (I will let you use your imagination on that one, ahem). ;-) only, I haven’t gotten to a mind set of thinking they are cute yet, I am still in the I-Can’t-Believe-You-Killed-My-Garden mode.

    Fun to hear your story ;-)

  • Reply Jaimie June 11, 2011 at 4:53 pm

    SO CUTE! Even if he is trouble.

    All we get down here in Texas are birds (mostly pigeons and grackles) and squirrels. Occasionally the dogs manage to catch a bird and eat it. I was home one day when it happened and it was traumatic. The squirrels seem unnaturally clever and like to harass the dogs from the fence, and there’s giant male that likes to tease our kitten through the window.

  • Reply Martha February 2, 2012 at 9:48 am

    1. I bet he loves kale, too.
    2. This is the first time I’m seeing the re-design of the comments section. The all-caps in the name/email/site fields are a nice touch!

  • Reply cottageofstone February 2, 2012 at 10:07 am

    Oh my! Cute for sure. Haggis is pretty much the best name ever. We name squirrels at our house. I pick names like Ignacio. My kids? Captain Bonkers.

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