Groundhog Day Dates
Punxsutawney Phil may be leaving his den to “predict” the weather, but his fellow groundhogs head outside at this time of year for a different purpose – speed dating! Scientists that tracked groundhogs for several years found that after about three months of hibernation, male groundhogs wake up in February to take stock of the available females in their territory. A male visits and spends the night with two or three females, getting to know each of them by rubbing noses. He then heads back to his own den, where he snoozes away until March mating season comes around.
More fun groundhog facts:
- Groundhogs are part of the squirrel family – they are also known as “woodchucks” and “whistle-pigs.”
- Groundhogs are “true hibernators.” While hibernating, a groundhog’s body temperature drops to about 40 degrees Fahrenheit and its heartbeat drops to about four beats per minute!
- Groundhog burrows are elaborate. They can be 20 to 30 feet long and include a nest, nursery, toilet chamber and spy-holes.
- How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? One wildlife biologist estimated that if the typical groundhog’s burrow was filled with wood instead of dirt, the animal would have “chucked” about 700 pounds!
(Sources: Danielle Brigida, National Wildlife Federation. “The Real Reasons for Groundhog Day,” http://blog.nwf.org/wildlifepromise/2009/02/the-real-reasons-for-groundhog-day/; and “Groundhog Day Trivia,” http://blog.nwf.org/wildlifepromise/2008/02/groundhog-day-trivia/)
Photo credit: D. Gordon E. Robertson, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Groundhog,_eating.jpg