I'm a real groundhog. I am also known as a woodchuck which is an
anglicized corruption of the Indian name for my species 'Wojak'. My scientific
name is Marmota monax and I belong to the Squirrel Family. The origin of
my other name, groundhog lies in my squat appearance, waddling gait and habit of
living in the ground. By the way, I want the record straight now. I have
been known to chew on bits of wood, but I do not cut down trees or move timber.
My friend the beaver does that--not me! Some people think that I am
worthless because I like to dig tunnels. A lot of my animal friends like
Skunks, foxes, weasels, opossums and rabbits really appreciate me because they
use my abandoned tunnels as their homes.
I don't have a cushy
life like Punxsutawney Phil that forecasts the weather on Feb. 2. He lives
in an electrically heated burrow. I don't!
I make my burrow down in the ground fairly deep--at least below the frost line
so I can stay warmer. I also make me a nice warm bed of leaves and hay.
When I go to sleep nothing happens in my burrow all winter! I hibernate or
sleep. That means my body temperature can go as low as 39-40 degrees and I
live off my fat.
The way I get my wake
up call is still a mystery to scientists but they have some really good guesses!
My internal clock is believed to be affected by changes in the amount of
daylight. This causes my body to produce a hormone (or a chemical) which
helps me to wake up. I don't know why humans make such a big deal over
"Phil" because I start waking up the following week anyway!
I guess I should really be proud because the humans are always looking to
groundhogs for the first signs of spring!
After I finally come
out of my burrow, I am really starved! I like to eat succulent green
plants, such as clover, dandelion greens, plantain, and grasses. I am a
complete Vegetarian. Sometimes I even eat vegetables out of a nearby
garden. Peas, beans and corn are my favorite. Occasionally I might climb
trees to obtain apples and pawpaws which I relish. During the summer, I put on
as much weight as possible and I am soooooo fat in August that it makes me tired
and I start preparing for hibernation for sometime in after the leaves have
fallen off the trees and the temperature gets really chilly. By the end of
October, I am curled up in profound sleep in my underground nest. So deep is my
sleep that even if you warm me up, it will take me several hours to awaken.
I can weigh between
4-14 pounds (1.8-6.3 kg), being lightest in spring when I am just out of
hibernation and heaviest in fall prior to hibernation. If I didn't eat and get
really fat before the fall, I might not survive the winter as I lose half my
weight during winter. No wonder I wake up really,
really hungry. I am quite short, and me and my friends length varies from 16-27
inches (406-685 mm). I have powerful legs and a medium-long, bushy, and somewhat
I'd like to tell you a
little bit about my fur. The long, coarse fur of my back is a grizzled
grayish brown with a yellowish to reddish cast. Fortunately for me humans do not
consider my fur as fashionable! They do not think it is particularly thick
and warm but it is on me! The grey-brown appearance is much more appealing
to my friends and besides, I look so much better in it than a human would!
I prefer to live along
the edges where timbered areas are bordered by open land or along fence rows and
heavily vegetated gullies or stream banks. Here I dig my burrows. The main
entrance to which I often position beneath a tree stump or rock and is usually
conspicuous because of a pile of freshly excavated earth and stones. I also make
side entrances which are smaller and better concealed. Normally tunnels in my
burrow will lead to an enlarged chamber, 3-6 feet (.9-1.8 m) underground, which
contains my nest.
While digging, I
normally use my front feet and claws, but I also use my teeth to move stones or
cut roots. I dig so rapidly, that I can finish a small burrow in one day, though
upkeep is continuous as long as I occupy it.
this? How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck
wood? I can give you the answer to that! About 700 pounds! A
wildlife biologist once measured the inside volume of a typical
woodchuck/groundhog burrow. He estimated that if wood filled the hole
instead of dirt, I would have chucked about 700 pounds worth! That should
show you that I'm staying quiet busy doing things other than just eating. As I
move tremendous quantities of subsoil in the course of burrow construction, me
and my friends contribute much to the aeration and mixing of the soil.
relatives (other groundhogs) can be found in North America. Some of
my relatives live in Canada, as well as the eastern United States! I
have a life span of 4 to 6 years in the wild and have been known to live up to
10 - 18 years in a zoo. Enough of this! I'd better get back
to sleep. After all, I wouldn't want to take any glory from Phil and his