Quiz: Name a species of North American wildlife that not only has its own holiday, but has a movie named after it, too.
If you’re scratching your head, wondering what a Groundhog has to do with a Woodchuck (who do not, by the way, chuck wood) — they’re just two names for the same animal.
(Click the thumbnail to open the slide show, and the “x” to close it.)
The Woodchuck (also know as Groundhog or less commonly the Whistlepig) is a member of a group of ground squirrels otherwise known as marmots. Although it is not the only species of marmot in North America, it is the most widely distributed, and can be found throughout the north-eastern US and eastern Canada.
Although many sources say that an adult woodchuck can weigh 4 – 9 pounds, animals close to 30 pounds are known — especially where they find secure sheltered areas with plenty of things to eat.
Groundhogs are primarily herbivores, and will eat wild grasses and shoots, berries, wildflowers, and agricultural crops where they can get them. (Our secretary, Gayle, once worked on a farm where a groundhog would burrow under large pumpkins, and hollow them out, so that when the staff went to pick them, there was nothing left but a shell.) They will also sometimes eat insects, snails, and other small animals.
Groundhogs are skilled burrowers. They excavate cozy, and often intricate, homes for sleeping and hibernating, and this is where they give birth to and raise their young. A mating pair will stay together until the young are ready to be born, and then the male will move out of the burrow.
One litter per year are born in April or May, and as soon as the young are fully furred and their eyes are open, their mother will lead them out into the world and they begin to forage. This is usually when the father returns to the family–
–After all the hard work is done. ::wink::