In honor of Groundhog Day and our mascot, Willy, here is a closer look at groundhogs.
The groundhog becomes a celebrity once a year, when Punxsutawney Phil emerges from underground on February 2 to predict when winter will end. As the legend goes, if Phil sees his shadow, he scurries back into his burrow and winter will continue for six more weeks. If he doesn’t see his shadow, we will have an early spring.
Groundhog Day has been celebrated since 1886. Punxsutawney Phil has been part of the festivities since 1887. Although there isn’t much science behind Phil’s predictions, it is a beloved tradition.
Other than Groundhog Day, most people don’t know a lot about groundhogs. Here’s some more information about these interesting animals.
The groundhog has several names. It is also called a land-beaver, whistle-pig, marmot and woodchuck. The most common of these names is woodchuck, but that is not because it chucks wood. The name comes from the Algonquin Indian word for the animal, which is wuchak.
Groundhogs are rodents, just like mice and rats. They are closely related to squirrels. Groundhogs are the largest animal in the squirrel family.
Groundhogs live in underground homes called burrows. They dig the burrows with their thick claws. The burrows are usually between 2 feet and 5 feet deep. They have two different burrows. One is where they hibernate, which is a sleep-like state during the winter. The other burrow is for the warmer parts of the year.
These furry creatures have a special greeting. One groundhog will walk up to another and touch its nose or mouth to another groundhog’s nose or mouth. This is sometimes called an Eskimo kiss.
Groundhogs usually start hibernating in late October or November and continue until February. While they are hibernating, their body temperature drops from 99 degrees to 37 degrees. Their heart rate drops from 80 beats per minute to 5 beats per minute.
Groundhogs mostly stay on land or underground in their burrows, but they can climb trees. They also know how to swim.
A groundhog’s burrow has a bathroom. One chamber, or room, is used only as a toilet.
Groundhogs are herbivores, which means they eat plants and animals. They mainly eat grass, leaves, branches, bark, fruits and vegetables. They also eat insects, small birds and eggs. They can eat 1 pound of food a day.