Groundhog: Burrow Mania!
The groundhog—also known as a woodchuck—spends much of its days alone, foraging for plants and grasses and digging burrows up to 66 feet (20 meters) long. Groundhogs often burrow under open areas such as meadows and farmlands, which can make the critter a real nuisance to farmers. Groundhogs destroy crops and create holes in the soil, which can damage tractors and injure livestock. (People aren’t the only ones who trip—cows can stumble too!)
But burrows are super-important to groundhogs. They’re where the rodents sleep, raise their babies, and even poop. (They actually have separate bathrooms!) Burrows also provide protection from predators such as coyotes, hawks, and black bears. And it’s not just the groundhog that uses its burrow—animals such as rabbits, chipmunks, and snakes move in once a groundhog has moved out.
Sleeping is their favorite hobby
Farmers get a break from pesky groundhogs come winter when the rodents enter their burrows to hibernate. In the spring, females give birth in their dens to about three to five pups. But they don’t hang out for long. By around two months old, they’re off on their own—whether they see their shadows or not.
Few animals are as dedicated to hibernating as groundhogs. Known as “true hibernators,” they snooze from late fall to late winter or early spring, which can mean up to as many as six months of deep sleep, depending on their climate. During this time, their body temperatures can drop below 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit), and their heart rates slow from 80 beats per minute to just five. Here’s why Bill Murray hated the movie Groundhog Day.
- Groundhogs are the largest species in the squirrel family.
- Other names for groundhogs include woodchucks, whistle-pigs and land-beavers.
- Groundhogs are skilled climbers and swimmers, which helps them to escape less-skilled predators.
- Groundhog burrows are so complex that each has its own “bathroom” chamber.
- Groundhog burrows are known to have been responsible for uncovering a historic village in central Ohio – now a famous archeological site.