Forest Findings: Groundhog

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by Colleen Dabrowski

Groundhogs, called Marmota monax, are often also known as woodchucks. Groundhogs are large rodents known for their burrowing behaviors and destructive tendencies. They are about 20 inches long with a six- to seven-inch tail. Groundhogs weigh, on average, six to twelve pounds, according to Havahart. Groundhogs are native to central and eastern United States, as well as parts of Alaska and Canada. They often live in areas where woodlands meet open fields or meadows, in complex burrow systems they construct in dry soil. Groundhogs are listed as a species of least concern, due to their large, stable populations, according to National Geographic.

Groundhogs are herbivores and eat ⅓ of their weight in vegetation every day. In the summer and fall, groundhogs increase their consumption levels to develop fat reserves that will last them through winter hibernation, according to Havahart. Groundhogs are diurnal, meaning they’re active during the day and sleep during the night. The groundhog, often found on Drew’s campus, has a holiday on February 2 each year.

Groundhog day originates from the Pennsylvania Dutch who brought over the European tradition. It came from German lore where they believed that a badger could predict the weather. The first recorded mention of Groundhog Day was in 1840!

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