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Friendly groundhog charms river valley users

A friendly animal in Edmonton’s river valley may soon rival Balzac Billy as the famous Alberta groundhog.

A friendly animal in Edmonton’s river valley may soon rival Balzac Billy as the famous Alberta groundhog.

The CBC’s Tim Adams came across a groundhog on Saturday while he was out for a run in Government House Park just below the Royal Alberta Museum.

There he met MariahOwusu, who was out for a bike ride with her father Tony.

Mariah was giving the groundhog raisins, nuts and Smarties candy that she was carrying in a plastic bag.

“I loved it. It’s adorable,” she said.

Mariah named the groundhog “Raisins” because he seemed to like that snack the best. Others say, however, “Raisins” may be the legendary groundhog known as Gordon.

Either way, the animal the Owusus encountered may not be the only friendly river valley groundhog. Tim told the CBC’s Mark Connolly that just 100 metres east he witnessed another close encounter.

“I swear to you — this groundhog is standing up on its hind legs and two kids are actually petting it,” he said.

A creature ready for his closeup

CBC Videojournalist Travis McEwan had a similar experience when he went out to track down the animal, who proved to be very curious about CBC's camera.

Tim says that he was initially reluctant to tell this story because he doesn’t want people to overwhelm the groundhogs.

He hopes that people will let the animals be.

Park Ranger Ramsey Cox agrees, saying people should not feed or pet the creatures, no matter how friendly they seem.

“They could carry, very rarely, some sort of communicable disease. There's always the opportunity that it could bite your fingers or nip at you. Or get aggressive with you.”

The best food for the animal is what it would naturally find, he added.

“Any of the greens that it can eat. Any of the insects and in that case it gets sort the most bang for its buck. The most nutrition it can get and it's living in its natural cycle. That's the most important part.”

However, he added, feeding wildlife is not against city bylaws.

What's in a name?

There is also debate about whether Gordon and Raisins are, in fact, groundhogs.

Edmonton AM listeners have said they could be ground squirrels, woodchucks, marmots or otters.

A definitive answer may be on the way Tuesday at 6:10 a.m. on Edmonton AM when host Mark Connolly speaks to trapper and wildlife expert Bill Abercrombie.

Check out the picture and let us know in the comments!

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