Shortly after the world’s most famous groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, predicted an early spring on Groundhog Day Saturday, the Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rescue Center asked their Facebook followers to help house their own resident groundhog, Phyllis. The blind marmot needs $700 to construct a unique display cage suited for her special needs. So far they’ve raised $220 (as of Tuesday, February 5).
“She’s an orphan,” explains Evelyn Alexander office manager Amanda Daley. Phyllis was found as a baby in Riverhead last June, and they determined she was blind from birth. “We could see she had swelling in her eyes and they were watery,” Daley says, noting that the groundhog was also infested with fleas and 60 ticks, which had caused wounds and irritation all over her body. “She wouldn’t have had that if her parents were grooming her,” Daley adds.
The rescue center saved Phyllis’s life, but because of her blindness—an ophthalmologist diagnosed her blind in one and the ability to only see some shade and shadow in the other—which did not clear up as they had hoped, she was deemed “not releasable” and had to be hand raised. In such cases, Daley says the center will either place the animal elsewhere or keep it for education, if it can acclimate to humans.
Phyllis was sent to a rehabber is Manorville who raised her to be tame so she could begin educating local children about her species. “She does well [with people],” Daley says, but her life would be greatly improved by proper accommodations.
Donations would give Phyllis a larger hutch with a warm hibernation den that would allow people to view her while also keeping them, and her, safe. Given the right dwelling, she could have a good future serving as an ambassador for her fellow groundhogs, which Daley says are quite common on the East End of Long Island.
“The population has increased significantly over the last couple of years,” she says. “They’re thriving out here.”
Visit wildliferescuecenter.org to learn more about the Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rescue Center (228 W. Montauk Highway) in Hampton Bays, 631-728-4200. You can donate directly to Phyllis using the Facebook embed below, or donate to the organization here.