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Groundhog

Marmotax monax

 

Origin: North America

 

Lifespan: Can live up to 6 years, though most average 2-3 years.

 

Size: 

  • Adult groundhogs weigh 2-6.5 kg (4.4-13.9 lb)

  • Males are slightly larger than females.

  • Groundhogs are heavier in the Fall than in early Spring.

 

Diet: Herbivore

  • Their diet varies usually consisting of wild grasses and other vegetation, including berries.

  • In Spring, they will also eat grubs, grasshoppers, insects, and snails

 

Activity: Mostly diurnal. They are often active in the early morning and late afternoon.

 

Reproduction:

  • Groundhogs usually breed in their second year of life.

  • Breeding season is from March to mid- or late April. This is after hibernation.

  • A mated pair will stay together in the same den until the birth of the young.

  • Gestation period is 31 to 32 days, with about 2-6 offspring to a litter.

  • The male leaves the den after the young are born.

  • The female introduces the young to the wild once they grow fur and are no longer blind.

  • The  male then returns to help encourage the young to copy the adult's behavior and learn survival skills.

  • By August the family breaks up and scatter to dig burrows of their own.

 

Extra Facts:

  • Males emerge from hibernation in March to April.

 

  • Females take longer than males to wake up from hibernation.

 

  • Groundhogs are also called woodchucks, whistle pigs, land beavers and the Canada Marmot.

 

  • Young are called Chucklings.

 

  • They alert other groundhogs using a high pitched whistle to warn the rest of the colony of nearby danger.

 

  • Groundhogs are one of a few species that enter true hibernation and often have a separate den sites for it.

 

  • They have extremely powerful jaws and will defend their burrows tenaciously against intruders.

 

  • Often times, a groundhogs burrow will be used by many other species if left unattended.

 

  • In the U.S. and Canada, a yearly celebration is dedicated to groundhogs. It is known as Groundhog's Day, and occurs on February 2nd. Tradition dictates that if an emerging groundhog sees its shadow due to clear weather, it will retreat to its den and winter will continue for 6 more weeks. If the groundhog does not see its shadow due to cloudiness, Spring will arrive early. There are no consistent correlations between the groundhog seeing its shadow and the arrival of Spring.

 

  • Groundhogs are used in medical research on Hepatitis B-induced liver cancer. A percentage of the woodchuck population is infected with Woodchuck Hepatitis Virus (WHV). This virus is similar to that of the Human Hepatitis B Virus. Humans do no receive Hepatitis from groundhogs infected with WHV, but the virus and its affects on the liver make the groundhog the best available animal for the study of viral hepatitis in humans.

 

  • Groundhog burrows have revealed two archeological sites!

 

  • They are typically loners, though den near others in a communal location for protection against predators.

 

  • Groundhogs need to eat 1/3 of their body weight a day in Spring and Summer. 

 

  • They have incredibly dense bones, which means they can survive major blows to the skull that would be fatal to other similarly sized animals. 

 

  • Groundhogs are not the fastest species, reaching top speeds of only 8 mph. Due to this, they do not travel too far from their burrow entrances.

 

  • Their burrows consist of more than 50 feet of tunnels, buried 5 ft. below the Frost Line. 

 

  • They are the largest members of the squirrel family.

 

  • Woodchucks are the only marmots east of the Mississippi River.

 

 

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