Whereas many People would acknowledge famed Punxsutawney Phil as a groundhog, they could not know a lot else concerning the species. As Groundhog Day approaches on February 2, let’s take a minute to contemplate the attention-grabbing, ecologically vital animals for which the day is called.
For starters, groundhog is a misnomer, stated Chris Whittier, V97, analysis assistant professor of conservation drugs at Cummings College. They’re truly in the identical household as chipmunks and prairie canine.
You’re reading: what is a baby woodchuck called
And despite the fact that they could be consuming your vegetable backyard in the summertime, “keep in mind that groundhogs are vital native wildlife wherever they exist, stated Whittier, who can be director of the college’s grasp’s program in conservation drugs. “If you happen to occur to have conflicts with them in your yard, there are various sources to assist, together with these methods from MassWildlife.”
Listed here are 5 takeaways from Whittier as we sit up for Groundhog Day:
1. Groundhogs are also called woodchucks or “whistle-pigs.” The acquainted title woodchuck truly has nothing to do with wooden, and stems from the Native American names for them: wuchak, wejack, and presumably otchek, which is a reputation for fishers. The title whistle-pig, which is most typical in Appalachia, stems from groundhogs’ behavior of constructing a high-pitched whistling sound, normally as a warning to different groundhogs once they really feel threatened. (The pig is just like how we check with woodchucks’ rodent-cousin the guinea pig.)
2. They’re truly massive squirrels. Able to weighing as much as 15 kilos, groundhogs are among the many largest members of the squirrel household Sciuridae and throughout the taxonomic tribe of marmots or floor squirrels—a bunch that additionally consists of chipmunks and prairie canine. Like these relations, groundhogs are highly effective diggers that make massive, advanced underground burrows. These burrows will not be solely probably useful to soils for aeration and nutrient recycling, however they’re usually utilized by different burrowing animals similar to foxes, opossums, raccoons, and skunks.
You might want to know: what is the didgeridoo used for
3. Groundhogs are vital intermediaries within the meals chain. Primarily herbivores, groundhogs eat quite a lot of vegetation, together with from individuals’s gardens. However in addition they could eat issues we contemplate pests, similar to grubs, different bugs, and snails. They’re even reported to eat different small animals similar to child birds. Due to their comparatively massive grownup measurement and burrowing—to not point out climbing and swimming talents—groundhogs don’t have many predators except for coyotes, foxes, home canine, and, after all, people. (Nevertheless, child groundhogs typically do fall prey to raptors similar to hawks, owls, and eagles.)
4. Being pregnant goes by quick for them. Groundhog mating season is within the early spring and, after solely a month-long being pregnant, mom groundhogs sometimes give delivery to a litter of two to 6 blind, hairless infants. Younger groundhogs are known as kits, pups, or typically chucklings. Groundhog households disperse within the fall, and the younger attain sexual maturity by two years. Groundhogs sometimes stay three to 6 years within the wild, however have been reported to stay for as much as fourteen years in captivity.
5. Groundhogs are among the many few species of true hibernators. That is the a part of their conduct that has led to North American Groundhog Day custom. After shedding as much as half their weight whereas hibernating, groundhogs normally emerge from their winter burrows in February—therefore the date of this vacation. The shadow-observing lore has no scientific foundation. It was truly imported from a German custom that bases forecasting on the conduct of the European badger—a very unrelated small mammal of the carnivore—versus rodent—order, however one which does additionally burrow and endure a much less intense type of hibernation.
Genevieve Rajewski will be reached at email@example.com.