25 Interesting Facts About Groundhogs

  1. Groundhog is a species of marmot, a giant ground squirrel. It is also called the woodchuck.
  2. Groundhogs are present only in North America from Canada to the continental USA.
  3. Groundhogs are one of the few true hibernating animals. During the hibernation period in winter, their heart rate decreases from 75 beats to 4 bps. Their breathing rate and body temperature also reduce considerably.
  4. Groundhogs eat a large amount of food in the summer and autumn seasons. It assists them in developing fat reserves before hibernation in winter.
  5. The Woodchuck hepatitis virus (WHV) in groundhogs was the first such virus discovered after hepatitis B (HBV). Due to its similarity with HBV in humans, laboratory testing of groundhogs played a vital role in finding treatment for HBV in humans. (Source)
  6. Groundhogs usually inhabit meadows, open fields, and forest edges. Sometimes, they are present in forests.
  7. Groundhogs produce a whistling sound when scared or as a warning to other groundhogs. This sound earned them the name whistle-pig.
  8. Groundhogs have assisted in revealing two archaeological sites in the USA, the Ufferman Site in Ohio and the Meadowcroft Rockshelter site in Pennsylvania. 
    Inside Meadowcroft Rockshelter in the USA
    Groundhogs assisted in discovering archaeological sites

  9. Groundhogs have several predators, including wolves, foxes, dogs, coyotes, black bears, bobcats, lynxes, snakes, and birds of prey.
  10. The main diet of groundhogs includes grasses, fruits, bark, and buds of trees. They also consume insects and other small animals.
  11. Groundhogs provide an advantage to farmers by eating snails, grubs, and other pest insects.
  12. Groundhogs dig burrows that can be 65 feet deep and contain a primary and multiple additional entrances. During this process, they remove up to 65 pounds of soil and rock from the ground. These dens also provide shelter to cottontail rabbits and other animals during winter. (Source)
  13. These mammals dig separate places for hibernation and toilet in their burrows.
  14. Groundhog burrows are damaging to crops and buildings. These can weaken building foundations and damage trees and surface crops like hay, alfalfa, etc.
  15. Groundhog burrows provide some advantages to soil and plants. They bring oxygen underground and mix minerals present above the surface and subterranean ground.
  16. Groundhogs usually do not drink water. They stay hydrated through water in their food or by using dewdrops from leaves.
  17. Groundhogs are diurnal animals, while they are most active at dusk and dawn.
  18. Groundhogs reproduce once a year in early spring after hibernation. The pregnancy lasts for around a month, and the litter size includes one to nine babies. The male groundhog mates with multiple females and play no role in caring for the newborns.
  19. Groundhogs maintain a small family structure, including one adult male, two adult females, and their offspring.
  20. All male and many female infants leave their mother’s den three months after birth. However, nearly 35% of female babies stick with their mothers for around a year.
  21. These rodents can live up to six years in the wild, with an average lifespan of three years. They can reach 14 years in captivity.
  22. Hunting groundhogs is allowed in many parts of Canada and the USA due to their harmful effects on soil, crops, and building. However, the population is stable in its natural range and ranked “least concerned” in IUCN red list.
  23. Groundhogs can become aggressive at times and can carry rabies. Therefore, handling them oneself can be dangerous.
  24. February 2 is celebrated as Groundhog Day in several places in Canada and the USA. According to folklore, a groundhog leaves its burrow on this date. If it sees its shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter. This tradition started during the 19th Century.
  25. Their burrows protect groundhogs against predators. However, they can also use their ability to swim and climb trees and shrubs to avoid any danger.

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