a peek inside the fishbowl

27 Aug, 2012

A rare sighting of Ottawa’s Black Groundhog

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Ottawa

Mark bikes to work along the river, and as he approaches the area by the locks near Parliament Hill he often spotted a very mysterious creature: a black groundhog.

For awhile he thought he was dreaming, or that his coffeeless fatigue-fuelled eyeballs were playing tricks on him. What was this black THING loping across the bit of lawn? Was it really a groundhog, or something else, like a very fat cat or a very odd beaver? Was it really black? If so, why is it black? IS THIS A REBEL GROUNDHOG??!

What tormented him even more was that he was never able to get a clear view. UNTIL NOW.

And so I present to you a rare example of a black groundhog, possibly the only one of its kind in Ottawa. (It’s quite handy there happened to be a brown one on the scene for comparison, don’t you think?) Check it out:

Of course I had to find out why this guy has a black coat. It’s a result of something called melanism. According to Wikipedia, this is “an undue development of dark-colored pigment in the skin or its appendages and is the opposite of albinism.” It’s also the reason we have black squirrels here in Ottawa. Our black squirrels are actually melanistic Eastern Grey Squirrels. Bet you didn’t know that!

In may also interest you to know that the groundhog is also known as a woodchuck. This is something I never understood, mostly because of that old tongue-twister: “How much wood can a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood.” Groundhogs don’t chuck wood! Anyway, you can read more about them at Hinterland Who’s Who. There’s a video too! If you grew up in Canada you will remember that opening music in a split second.

23 Responses to "A rare sighting of Ottawa’s Black Groundhog"

1 | Pamela

August 27th, 2012 at 2:29 pm


That groundhog is awesome!

2 | Valerie

August 27th, 2012 at 5:37 pm


We had one visit us in Beaverbrook (Kanata). Took us ages to agree that it was a groundhog – it used to stand on its hind legs and steal the tomatoes!

3 | binki

August 28th, 2012 at 12:45 pm


I was in the Glebe yesterday and noticed a squirrel with a ringed tail. I’m serious. Not high contrast like a racoon – more light grey and dark grey. The Glebe is “evolving” in more ways than one. ;-)

4 | Zoom

August 30th, 2012 at 1:27 pm


How interesting! I’m so glad you got footage. As you may or may not know, I am a direct descendant of The Groundhog Lady of Ottawa. She raised many orphaned baby groundhogs over the years, and I was sometimes pressed into service as a groundhog babysitter. Her very first orphaned baby groundhog – the one who started her on her way to becoming The Groundhog Lady of Ottawa – was an albino groundhog named Albert. But in all her years of being The Groundhog Lady of Ottawa (she’s retired now), she never once saw a black one.

5 | vero

September 1st, 2012 at 7:50 am


I saw one on Aviation Parkway this week. I also thought I was dreaming…. so I’m glad to see that I’m not going crazy.

6 | Brian Roberts

June 26th, 2013 at 1:46 pm


Well, Thank God I am not going nuts. I just saw a Black Woodchuck (Groundhog) In Effingham New Hampshire today. It crossed the road in front of me and went into a field. Really Cool

7 | Roberta Zastawniak

June 21st, 2014 at 9:16 pm


we saw a black groundhog today up by the Walmart in Delmont, PA….a brown one was chasing it and they both went across the road right in front of us…we were amazed!

8 | Owen

September 10th, 2014 at 5:56 pm


Another black groundhog spotted in Ottawa. Near Industrial @ Riverside

9 | Billy Anderson

October 5th, 2014 at 6:07 pm


My wife has been telling me that she has seen this black animal by our pond outside out kitchen patio doors. Every time she sees it she calls me. By the time I get to the doors it’s gone. Today I saw it. A black ground hog. Wow. Our back yard backs up to an wooded area. I googled it. An it states that this is a rare animal.

10 | Linda

June 16th, 2015 at 2:59 pm


We have a black ground hog under our neighbors shed in south key’s, Ottawa
If they are rare could someone come get him because we have a tiny Yorkshire terrier who has tried to attack him several times.

11 | Catharine Lyons-King

June 17th, 2015 at 10:17 pm


There’s one we’ve spotted now a couple of times — near Calabogie.

12 | Sara

July 18th, 2016 at 4:42 pm


We have a family of groundhogs behind our house, about six of them and one is completely black. We’re in the bayshore area, so there’s two!

13 | andrea tomkins

July 21st, 2016 at 10:28 am


Maybe the black groundhogs are slowly taking over Ottawa like the black squirrels did!

14 | Lynn Blackburn

August 20th, 2016 at 1:31 pm


We have a rare black groundhog with little grey nose digging up our lawn in Cantley Qc…
So there are 3 in the area… :-)

15 | Kim

July 24th, 2017 at 10:47 am


We have one in Pembroke as well. Super cute!

16 | andrea tomkins

July 24th, 2017 at 11:28 am


They are adorable critters. Like mini black bears!

17 | Gary Johnston

April 11th, 2018 at 10:11 pm


Saw one in my back yard in the Alta Vista and Heron area yesterday. I thought I saw a ‘black squirrel on steroids’, then it moved and stood up on it’s back legs. Yup, a groundhog, but black. This one had a normal short brown tail. I didn’t know they existed…

18 | Colin

April 25th, 2018 at 4:31 pm


Saw a black groundhog today in Buckingham. Didn’t believe it until I looked it up saw this. Lol


June 29th, 2018 at 8:48 pm


i live in a semi rural area outside of Montreal, and have ground hogs visit my property every summer… they come from the Goodyear plant grounds mostly.i trap and relocate 2 – 3 each year. last year i trapped a jet black one – really cute. and this year while driving by the Goodyear plant grounds, i saw another one… so they seem to not be that rare, although until last year i had never seen one. B T W, Goodyear grounds is at least 10 acres large… and on any early morning, you can spot 10 -15 eating close to their burrows.
they are pests, and i trap the in cages and take them 2+ mile saway. they burrow under our porch, or shed…

20 | Michael

July 30th, 2018 at 12:06 pm


Saw one in my veggie garden @ work (Sheffield Rd) 2 weeks ago. Finished putting chicken wire fence up next day. It is about 1 foot below surface so should help to keep rodents out.

21 | Melanie Weber

August 22nd, 2018 at 5:46 pm


There is one living on the side of McFarlane Rd in Nepean

22 | Lucie

September 7th, 2018 at 12:01 pm


There was one feasting on apples in my yard. When I first saw it, I thought I was looking at a huge black squirrel, because it was sitting on its hind legs and nibbling on an apple, just like a squirrel would. However, this groundhog was really dark black! The one in the video above is more of a dark brown.

23 | Yana

May 9th, 2019 at 5:49 pm


There is one near the train in Carleton Uni

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The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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