Saturday, February 2, 2013

Groundhog

Marmota monax
Today is, of course, Groundhog Day. And where I'm at, they did not see their shadow - Spring is coming! (Or so goes the story).

The Groundhog goes by many names, including the Woodchuck (yes, they are the same!) and my favorite, the Whistle-pig. They are members of the Squirrel family, and are actually the largest Squirrels within their range. They can be found throughout the northern parts of the North American continent, living in lowland forests and open plains.

Though they may not look as agile as their arboreal squirrel cousins, they too can climb trees quite well. They are also great swimmers despite their lumpy appearance.

Groundhogs build extensive burrows that they live in year round. During the summer they retreat to these hideaways to sleep and to raise their young. In winter they use them for hibernation, and they are only of the few mammals that enters a real  true hibernation state.

In the warm months the Groundhogs spend their time gorging on food, preparing for the long sleep ahead. When hibernation time comes, their heart rate lowers, their body temperature drops, and they sustain themselves on their built up body fat.

IUCN Status : Least Concern
Location : North America
Size : Length up to 26in (65cm), Weight up to 9lbs (4kg)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Mammalia -- Order : Rodentia
Family : Sciuridae -- Genus : Marmota -- Species : M. monax

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