The Groundhog, also known as a Woodchuck, Land-Beaver, Whistle-Pig or Marmot, is the largest member of the squirrel family. After the first frost, they retire into their underground burrows to hibernate, where their heart rate and breathing slow, and their body temperature drops to just above the freezing point, all of which help to conserve energy so that they burn less fuel to help get through the winter. They do not eat during hibernation, surviving only from of the body fat that they acquire during the warmer months. They reappear from their deep sleep in early spring. They are most active in the early morning and late afternoon hours and are often seen standing erect on their hind feet looking for danger. When danger is near, they will use a high-pitched whistle to warn others and retreat to their underground burrow for safety.
The Groundhog is a stocky animal with short legs, a flat head, small ears and a short brown to black bushy tail. They have sharp thick claws which are very helpful in the digging of their burrows. Their fur coloration is a mix of brown and gray. They are approximately 16 to 26 inches including their tail, and weigh about 4 to 9 pounds. Males and females are the same color. Males are larger than females.
Prefer woodlands bordering grassy meadows or open land, fields or agricultural land to construct their burrows, which can be very large. Burrows can have multiple chambers for sleeping, bringing up their young and hibernating. Burrows can have multiple entrances which provide a means of escape from predators.
Groundhogs can be found from Alaska, Canada and throughout the northeastern and much of the eastern United States.
Herbivore. Grasses, leaves, fruits and vegetables from agricultural crops. They will also eat insects. Most of their liquids come from the food that they consume.
Up to six years in wild and 20 years under human care.
Breeding occurs in early spring. Gestation period is approximately 30 days. Litter averages 2-6 kits or cubs. The male will leave the den when the birth of the young approach. The female will raise the young. At about 6 weeks the young are ready to leave the burrow and are independent from their mother.
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Contact Info: Connecticut's Beardsley Zoo 1875 Noble Avenue Bridgeport, CT 06610
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