Just how much do you know about Groundhogs? If not enough, here is you chance to learn 93 amazing Groundhog facts.
From their various names to their special day, these facts will span over the various aspects of Groundhogs like their names, physical features, habitat, burrowing habits and much more.
Wait, what did you just say? You want to learn more about Groundhog Day?
Just read on…
There’s a lot of information on Groundhog Day as well!
Between, do not try to keep a Groundhog as a pet because they are pretty aggressive! We warned you!
Before we start, let us take a look at their classification:
Species: M. monax
Groundhog Facts: Names | 1-4
1. Groundhog is a rodent which belongs to the family Sciuridae and a larger group of ground squirrels called Marmots. Its scientific name is Marmota monax.
2. Groundhog is known by many names like Groundpig, Wood-shock, Chuck, Whistler, Canada Marmot, Weenusk, Whistlepig, Woodchuck, Thickwood Badger, Moonack, Monax, and Red Monk.
3. In eastern Canada, French Canadians call the Groundhog “Siffleux”. To distinguish Groundhog from prairie badger, it is called Thickwood Badger in the northwest region of the United States of America.
4. The word Woodchuck is not related to wood or chucking in any way. Woodchuck stems from an Algonquian (a sub-family of Native American languages) word called “wuchak” which meant digger.
Groundhog Facts: Physical Features | 5-10
5. Groundhog is the largest of all the sciurid (members of Sciruidae family) in its range.
6. An adult Groundhog is around 40 to 50 centimeters long which includes a 15 centimeters bushy tail. A Groundhog’s tail is generally shorter (1/4th of the total length of the body) than other sciurids.
7. Its weight is around 5 to 12 pounds or 2.3 to 3 kilograms. Big Groundhogs can weigh as much as 15 pounds or nearly 7 kilograms of weight!
8. It has an average lifespan of 3 to 6 years in the wild. It is not really easy to raise a Groundhog as a pet because it is pretty aggressive.
9. A Groundhog has 4 incisor teeth. The teeth grow nearly 1.5 millimeter a week. Their extreme usage of teeth wears down the teeth the same amount they grow every week.
10. Teeth of a Groundhog are white to ivory white. Their limbs are short and powerful and their claws are thick and curved which are adapted for digging.
Groundhog Facts: Habitat | 11-14
11. Groundhogs usually like open country, woodland, etc. However, a Groundhog always remains close to its burrow entrance.
12. Though it prefers woodland edges and open country, it can live in multiple habitats like fields, woodlots, hedgerows, low elevation forests, and pastures.
13. Groundhogs usually spend their summers and winters in dens. They make these dens or burrows in well-drained soil.
14. Unlike for many animals, human activity actually helped Groundhog to survive better. With increased human activity, access to food increased and Groundhogs thrived better.
Groundhog Facts: Behavior | 15-23
15. Not much is known about the behavior of the Groundhogs. They are very good swimmers even though their bodies are heavy. They are diurnals meaning they remain active during the day time or during late afternoons.
16. They can even climb trees for surviving a predator attack or for surveying the surroundings.
17. When threatened, Groundhog scurries to the burrow but when its territory is invaded, it defends its territory fiercely with its two incisors and two powerful front claws.
18. It shows agnostic behavior (a social behavior which includes threats, placation, retreats, etc.), is territorial, and fights to establish supremacy (dominance).
19. Females’ territories overlap a bit. During late spring and early summer, the females try to expand their territories and the overlap is around 10% during this time.
20. On the other hand, males don’t have any overlap with other male ranges but male territories can overlap with 1 to 3 females’ territories.
21. When the Groundhogs are outside their dens, they mostly concentrate on food or else they will stand on their hind feet and stay alert for any danger.
22. It is generally seen that two or three individuals in a colony of Groundhogs remain alert, looking out for danger.
23. When the Groundhogs get alarmed, they whistle in high pitch to warn the whole colony. It is because of this whistle they produce that they are called Whistlepig.
Groundhog Facts: Behavior | 24-29
24. When they are caught by a predator, or when they are fighting, or when they are injured, they squeal. The other sounds they produce are low barks and sounds when their teeth grind.
26. They have low social tolerance meaning that there is not much of physical contact among the Groundhogs in a colony.
27. Having said that it is important to note that a Groundhog social group generally consists of a male and two females and their litter (current and sometimes previous ones mostly females).
28. Interactions between two female groups are quite rare but if interaction takes place, it is pretty aggressive. Interactions within a female group is friendly.
29. The male Groundhog visits each female every day during the gestation period.
Groundhog Facts: Burrows | 30-38
30. Groundhogs are extremely good at burrowing. The longest burrow ever to be found is around 24 feet! The soil that was taken from this den weighed 640 pounds!
31. Most of the Groundhogs are solitary by nature. In fact, they are the most solitary of all the marmots. However, sometimes it is seen that few Groundhogs sharing the same burrow.
32. A single burrow may have anywhere from 2 to 5 entrances. These entrances increase their chances of escaping from predators and in turn increasing their chances of survival.
33. Burrows are usually big with tunnels can run up to 15 meters which can be buried up to 1.5 meters underground.
34. Groundhogs use burrows for safety, during hibernation, for sleeping, as love nest, for retreating during bad weather, and as a nursery. In addition to all these features, the burrows also have an excrement chamber.
35. The nest chamber is typically located around 20 inches to 3 feet below the ground. The chamber measures 16 inches in width and 14 inches in height.
36. As mentioned earlier, a single burrow has 2 to 5 entrances. Mostly there are two entrances only. One is the main entrance and the other one is the spy entrance.
37. If the side galleries of burrows are to be considered, then the longest burrow of Groundhogs measures up to 47 feet and 11.5 inches.
38. The number of burrows for one Groundhog declines with urbanization.
Groundhog Facts: Hibernation | 39-45
39. Groundhogs enter into hibernation (a state where the metabolic activity is extremely low, and the heart beat and respiration rate fall drastically) during winter months.
40. Groundhogs are actually true hibernators or obligate hibernators.
41. True or obligate hibernators mean that they sleep during winter months and they will not wake up even if they are touched or moved when they are in torpor state. Apart from this, their temperature nearly matches with that of the environment.
42. There is something called facultative hibernators. They enter into hibernation to escape from scarcity of food or extreme cold or both. They are in sleep but can wake up easily.
43. For facultative hibernators, the heart beat and respiration rate slow down but their body temperature stays the same.
44. The Groundhogs build winter burrows as well for hibernating. They build these winter burrows in bushy or wooded areas. They dig below the frost depth (the depth at which the soil or ground water is expected to get frozen) where the temperature is not freezing.
45. Their usual time for hibernating is from October to March or October to April. However, in temperate areas, they may hibernate for as less as three months.
Groundhog Facts: Hibernation | 46-51
46. Groundhogs which live in northern latitudes hibernate for longer periods when compared to their counterparts in southern latitudes.
47. They weigh maximum just before hibernation starts just to survive the winter period.
48. During hibernation the body temperature of the Groundhog usually remains at 1.7 degrees Celsius (normal body temperature is 37.2 degrees Celsius) and the heart rate falls between 4 and 10 beats a minute (normal rate of heart beat is 80 beats per minute) and the rate of respiration goes down to one breath every six minutes!
49. They experience torpor (state of inactivity) and arousal during the hibernation.
50. By the month of February, Groundhogs lose nearly half of their weight. Once they come out of their winter burrows, they are still left with some fat storage to live on till the weather gets warmer and flora flourishes.
51. Males get out of hibernation before females.
Groundhog Facts: Diet | 52-57
52. Groundhogs are known to be mostly herbivores. Their diet mainly includes wild grasses, berries, agricultural crops (according to the availability and season), etc. They eat around 1/3rd part of their weight in vegetation each day!
53. During early spring, dandelion and coltsfoot make up the major diet of the Groundhogs. Other important foods include sheep sorrel, buttercup, red raspberries, black raspberries, plantain, tearthumb, timothy-grass, wild lettuce etc.
54. However, they seldom eat grasshoppers, snails, insects, grubs etc. They may even eat small baby birds by accident. But these Groundhogs are not as omnivorous as the other members of Sciuridae.
55. An adult Woodchuck needs around a pound of vegetation each day. Groundhogs stuff themselves as much as they can during spring (preparation for hibernation) instead of storing the food.
56. During June, the Groundhog’s metabolism slows down, intake of food decreases, and their weight increases by 100% as the body stores energy in the form of fat to sustain during hibernation period and even during late winters.
57. Groundhogs usually don’t drink water. They get water from the juices of succulent stems, roots and plants that they eat.
Groundhog Facts: Reproduction | 58-64
58. Groundhogs attain sexual maturity at the age of 2 years. Nonetheless, there are cases where some individuals breed during their first year.
59. The season for mating extends from early March to mid to late April. The pair (which is mating) remains in one den throughout the gestation period, which is about 31 to 32 days.
60. As the birth of baby Groundhogs approach, the male leaves the den. The Groundhogs produce a litter once every year.
61. Each litter contains two to six young which are hairless and blind. Once the young ones grow hair and have the ability to see (usually takes around 2 months), the mother introduces these young ones to the wild.
62. It is at this stage, the male or the father may return to the family.
63. By August’s end, the family breaks and each one again goes to make their own burrows.
64. Some of the females (around 35%) may stick for around a year or so with their mothers and leave mother before the new litter of the mother arrives.
Groundhog Facts: Interaction with Humans | 65-69
65. Groundhogs, on one hand are a nuisance to humans and on the other side, they help us a lot.
66. Their habit of making dens and burrows and their diet are troublesome for the farmers. They also destroy farm ponds.
67. However, the dens are occupied by red foxes, rabbits, skunks etc. These animals feed on grasshoppers, mice, beetles etc. and save the yield of the farm.
68. By making dens, the Groundhog brings the subsoil to the top layer and help in improving soil.
69. It is a very important game animal and a difficult one to hunt. In few parts of Appalachia, Groundhogs are eaten.
Groundhog Facts: Interaction with Humans | 70-74
70. They are useful in medical research in study of hepatitis B induced liver cancer. Some of the members get infected with Woodchuck Hepatitis Virus (WHV) which is similar to human hepatitis B virus.
71. The only other animal which can be used in the study of hepatitis B induced liver cancer is chimpanzee which is an endangered species.
72. Groundhogs are also used in biomedical research investigating obesity, endocrine system, reproduction, energy balance, neoplastic disease etc.
73. Their hibernation patterns are also being researched which may help in reducing the heart beats of humans during surgeries.
74. Groundhogs have also revealed an archeological site, the Ufferman site in Ohio, U.S., thanks to their burrowing! Many artifacts have also been excavated by them.
Groundhog Facts: Groundhog Day | 75-93
75. Did you know Groundhogs have a day for themselves? Yes, the Groundhog Day is celebrated on 2nd of February every year in Canada and United States.
76. This day is celebrated because of the superstition of the Pennsylvania Dutch that if a Groundhog comes out of its burrow and sees its shadow, it will get into the burrow again and winter will last for six more weeks and if it doesn’t see the shadow then, the spring season will come early.
77. This superstition is believed in modern times as well. However, studies didn’t find any correlation with Groundhog coming out of the burrow and the arrival of spring season.
78. This lore actually came from Germany where the badger is a forecasting animal.
79. Groundhog Day was first observed by the German groups in Pennsylvania. The first Groundhog Day celebration was mentioned in James L. Morris’ diary.
80. The diary mentioned Groundhog Day on February 2nd, 1840.
Groundhog Facts: Groundhog Day | 81-29
81. However, the first reported news of this day’s celebration was done by Punxsutawney Spirit newspaper in 1886.
82. First Groundhog Day which was celebrated officially was in the year 1887 where a group made a trip to Gobbler’s knob in the town to ask the Groundhog about the weather.
83. The father of Groundhog Day is Clymer Freas who was the city editor of the Punxsutawney Spirit newspaper.
84. It is also generally believed that Punxsutawney was the first place where this day’s celebrations took place. It was then spread from this place to entire USA and Canada.
85. In the 1880s, Groundhog became famous as game animal and was hunted. Groundhog Feast took place in September every year where people of Punxsutawney Groundhog Club used to enjoy Groundhog’s meat.
86. A drink called Groundhog Punch was also being served. The description of the flavor of Groundhog’s meat is between chicken and pork.
Groundhog Facts: Groundhog Day | 87-93
87. This hunting and feasting of Groundhogs didn’t gain much popularity, fortunately for the Groundhogs, and it was soon discontinued.
88. Groundhog which forecasts weather in Punxsutawney has a name, Phil. He is famously known as Punxsutawney Phil and has quite a lot of followers.
89. As of today, the largest Groundhog Day is celebrated in Punxsutawney which attracts a crowd of 40,000 people every year.
90. Did you know there was a movie on Groundhog Day? The movie, Groundhog Day, was screened in 1993 and it showed the festivities that took place in Punxsutawney.
91. It was after the release of this movie that the celebrations of Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney gained a lot of popularity.
92. There are many places like Wiarton, Ontario; New York; Wisconsin, Dunkirk; Staten Island etc. where Groundhog Day celebrations take place.
93. Some of the famous Groundhogs are Punxsutawney Phil, Dunkirk Dave, Jimmy the Groundhog, Staten Island Chuck, etc.