Badger hunting in Wisconsin

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Frank Schultz
Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The names of things matter. Consider Jimmy the Groundhog, Sun Prairie’s answer to the spring-predicting Punxsutawny Phil.

Jimmy is a groundhog, but that chubby rodent eating everything in your garden is usually called a woodchuck around here. Groundhogs and woodchucks are the same animal, scientific name Marmota monax, also known in some places as a whistle-pig or land-beaver, sources say. (Land beaver, really?)

Anyway, the state Legislature is considering removing groundhogs from the state’s protected species list and setting up a hunting season for them, which would probably sit fine with anyone whose garden has ever been ransacked by one. But who would want to kill Jimmy the Groundhog?

OK, so some of you wouldn’t give a fig for any groundhog. I understand. But consider: If we declare woodchuck hunting season, what about badgers?

Yes, badgers. They’re not only the mascot of this blog, but they’re the Wisconsin’s official state animal and mascot of the UW-Madison sports teams. Yes, I’m talking about Bucky. Shoot Bucky? Are you kidding?

That’s what Jimmy’s owner suggested to legislators at a hearing today, Wednesday, April 24, 2013. His message was: If you start hunting woodchucks, could badgers be next?

No one would ever agree to hunting the state animal, you say? Well, consider the mourning dove. The inside cover of my “State of Wisconsin Blue Book” tells me that the mourning dove is the state symbol of peace. And yet, we have a mourning dove season.

All of this is not to come down one way or the other on what should be hunted, but to offer food for thought. Those interested in food for the table might want to post their favorite woodchuck recipes in the comments section.

What I really wanted to say was, names have meaning, significance and even power. They should be chosen carefully. This is a topic I will return to the next time someone chooses a boneheaded name for a building, a government program or a street. (Whistle-Pig Lane is a name I could warm up to, come to think of it, but only in an area where people use that term for woodchucks.)

Bucky’s full name, by the way, is Buckingham U. Badger. Bucky is just a nickname. Go, Badgers!

Last updated: 9:20 am Tuesday, July 9, 2013

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