Woodchucks, also known as groundhogs, whistlepigs, Canada marmots, and thickwood badgers, are creatures we don’t really think about much outside of tongue-twisters and unnecessary holidays in February. Yet the story of Coco proves that these animals are far more interesting than we often give them credit for.
Back in 2014, a family from Ohio discovered what they believed to be a dead woodchuck in their yard. Yet, when they lifted her up with a shovel, she started to move.
That’s when they realized that the woodchuck wasn’t dead but was seriously injured.
They contacted Molly Ryan, a local wildlife rehabilitator, who took the creature in, named her Coco, and nursed her back to health.
“The first thing I had to do was get her stabilized on fluids to rehydrate her and get her body temp back to normal,” Ryan told The Dodo.
“While Coco was in the 90-degree heat of that yard, birds had started to come down and peck at her head, so once she was stabilized, I started looking at the wound on her head. Every step of the painful cleaning and poking with needles, she was sweet as could be.”
It took a lot of work to get Coco healthy again. She was just skin and bones when she was rescued. Ryan would have to get up twice a night just to make sure she was doing alright.
At a certain point, she decided to keep Coco next to her bed so she could check on her more easily.
Then she started letting Coco sleep next to her.
“She would snuggle up right by me and make sure part of her body was touching me all night,” Ryan said.
As Coco’s rehabilitation was coming along, Ryan had planned to release her into the wild soon. Yet she soon realized something that she had, up to this point, overlooked.
“I noticed she held her eyes at half-mast or sometimes not open at all,” Ryan said. “She would start walking, and then start walking a bigger and bigger circle, until she was in a straight line again. I had a hunch so took her to the vet to verify:
“Yes, Coco was blind.”
Coco became a permanent addition to Ryan’s family from then on. She’s a pet by night but an education animal by day, teaching people the dos and don’ts of how to handle wild animals.
Despite being blind, Coco can navigate Ryan’s house with ease, hanging out on couches …
…and even cuddling up with the family cat!
“There is nothing that makes getting out of bed harder than having to leave a gently snoring round fluffball of snuggling woodchuck,” Ryan said.
Coco is a lovable critter with her own quirky personality. She loves golden Oreos, but hit her with a similar looking cookie and she’ll throw a fit!
“Don’t try to give her a different brand of Oreo or she will spit it right out!” Ryan advised.
So, as we approach Groundhog Day next month, keep this funny furry creature in mind.