A-z - Animals

Marmot (Marmot)

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"Unlike other groundhogs, they prefer low-lying areas."

Groundhogs are large lowland rodents found throughout most of the United States. and Canada. Like all rodents, they are curious, intelligent animals that can survive in a variety of environments. They belong to a group of ground squirrels known as groundhogs. Other names for this animal include prairie dog, thick wood badger, moon rabbit, land beaver, and whistle pig.

groundhog-woodchuck-1

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4 Unbelievable Facts About Groundhogs!

Animals Endemic to North America: Groundhogs
Groundhogs are master burrowers with strong claws and claws adapted for digging.

© iStock.com/mirecca

  • They can climb trees.
  • They build large and extensive underground burrows.
  • They whistled to each other as a warning.
  • They are excellent swimmers.

You can check out more incredible facts about groundhogs.

scientific name

Its scientific name is Marmota monax , but it is also known as the marmot. The name groundhog has nothing to do with wood or chuck, but comes from the Algonquian word for animal wuchak.



evolution

Vitana Cetic
Vintana sertichi , the ancient ancestor of the groundhog, lived between 66 and 70 million years ago.

© https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Vintana_NT_small.jpg – License

Little is known about the groundhog's earliest relatives, but a fossil discovered in 2014 solved some of the puzzles. Scientists have reconstructed fossil fragments found in Madagascar, revealing the 5-inch-long skull of an ancient marmot that lived 66 to 70 million years ago.

Vintana sertichi is a large rodent estimated at 20 lbs. The tiny mammal was tiny among its giant dinosaur neighbors — but it had a strong bite. This animal has large eyes, good hearing and a keen sense of smell. Like modern groundhogs, ventanas eat roots, seeds, and nut-like fruits. Like modern rodents, the creature had huge chewing muscles that allowed it to move its jaw up and down.

Vitana belonged to a group of early mammals known as Gondwanathers, previously known only by their teeth. They lived among the dinosaurs on the ancient southern supercontinent Gondwana. The Vitana fossil is the third Cretaceous mammal skull to be found in the Southern Hemisphere.

appearance

Marmot isolated
Groundhogs are large rodents with thick fur and round bodies.

© Eric Isselee/Shutterstock.com

Groundhogs are large, sturdy rodents covered in long, thick fur. It has a squirrel-like face with large black eyes and a curious expression. Groundhogs are easily recognizable by their chubby bodies, broad, bushy tails, and large paws.

This rodent usually stands about two feet tall. Its tail can be as long as 10 inches. Most groundhogs weigh 13 to 17 pounds, about the weight of a large house cat or a small dog.

The most distinctive feature of marmots are their four long, sharp front teeth. They have two on the top and two on the bottom of their mouths. Many prairie dogs have yellow teeth, while prairie dogs often have white incisors.

Behavior

Groundhog comes out of a hole in the snow
Groundhogs dig elaborate burrows where they live year-round and hibernate in winter.

© iStock.com/BrianEKushner

Groundhogs are intelligent animals with complex social interactions. They form close bonds with their children and whistle to communicate threats to each other.

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Despite their size, they are fast runners, good climbers, and good swimmers. They are estimated to have a top speed of nearly 10 mph.

These skills give them an edge against predators. Groundhogs are constantly on the lookout for threats and are often seen standing on their hind legs to survey their territory. They will whistle at each other when they feel threatened, which has led to one of their common names, "whistling pigs."

Groundhogs hibernate every winter. During hibernation, their body speeds slow down considerably – their breathing slows from 80 to 5 breaths per minute. Their breathing dropped from 16 breaths per minute to two breaths per minute. Their body temperature dropped from 99 degrees to 37 degrees.

They emerge from their burrows in early February. If a fledgling groundhog senses that winter is really over, it will come out of its burrow. If it judges that the weather is still too cold for foraging, it returns to its burrow.

This annual behavior has led to many myths about groundhogs and their ability to predict weather. In the United States, the prediction of the groundhog led to the creation of Groundhog Day. Held annually on February 2, the highlight is watching selected rodents come out of their burrows and deciding whether to come out or return. While it is believed that this depends on whether the groundhog sees its shadow, this myth is not true. Groundhogs use other senses to tell when winter is over.

According to tradition, if the animals cannot see their shadows, spring is near. However, if he sees his shadow and returns to his burrow, we can look forward to another six weeks of winter. Many cities and states have their favorite seers, but Punxsutawney Phil is undoubtedly the most famous.

Punxsutawney Phil: The most famous groundhog ever

Punxsutawney Phil on Groundhog Day
Punxsutawney Phil is famous for predicting the arrival of spring on Groundhog Day.

©Anthony Quintano/Flickr – License

Phil, a resident of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, has been "predicting" the weather since 1886. There have been many "Phils" since then, but Punxsutawney preserves the legend that Phil took an "elixir of life" that made him immortal.

The town established a tradition in 1887 of visiting the Gobblers Knob, where Phil's Cave is located. Today, visits to Gobbler's Knob are the town's main source of income. Thousands of tourists come to watch Phil deliver his annual weather forecast.

The story was immortalized in the 1993 film "Groundhog Day," in which Bill Murray was forced to repeat "Groundhog Day" over and over until he learned to be a more loving human being. The film cemented Phil's popularity and made the town more of a tourist attraction.

The current Punxsutawney Phil lives in a climate-controlled man-made cave. You can visit him at Punxsutawney any time of the year.

Punsuttoney Phil Statue in Ponsuetoney, Pennsylvania
Punxsutawney Phil on public display in a man-made cave in Pennsylvania.

©Mark Van Scyoc/Shutterstock.com

Phil's activities have not been without controversy. Animal welfare group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has repeatedly asked the town of Punxsutawney to replace Phil with a robot. They say forcing Phil to be kept in captivity, put on shows and appear in front of crowds is cruelty to animals.

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According to the Introverted Activist blog, "Groundhogs are wild prey, which makes them naturally fearful of situations such as being regularly displayed in public…by various people in any capacity; in large groups Being hoisted into the air in front of a person while being bombarded with loud sounds, bright lights and other disturbing sensations, especially when they would rather hibernate."

Despite these criticisms, no one seems to be moving to replace Phil with a robot or an animal more accustomed to being with humans.

Habitat

Groundhog standing on top of burrow
Groundhogs help maintain healthy soil conditions in woodland habitats by digging holes.

© iStock.com/gilles_oster

While most prairie dogs live in rocky mountainous regions, prairie dogs prefer woodland and lowland plains areas. They live in fields, pastures, croplands, gardens and hedges. In these habitats, they are considered important habitat engineers, similar to how beavers are important habitat engineers in ponds. Due to their constant burrowing activity, groundhogs help maintain healthy soil conditions in woodland soils.

They are burrowing rodents. They build massive underground homes called burrows, where they hide food, hide from predators, and raise young. These complex settlements can become very large. Some caves measure 66 feet long.

diet

what do groundhogs eat
Groundhogs eat tree bark, vegetation, insects, and fruit.

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Groundhogs are omnivores, but their diet is mostly vegetarian. They mainly eat grass, plants, flowers, fruits, bark and vegetables. Some of the woodchuck's favorite foods include dandelions, sheep sorrel, buttercup, raspberries, clover, and alfalfa. Sometimes, they may eat grubs, grasshoppers and snails.

They are eager eaters. They eat a lot in spring, summer and fall. They do this to build up fat reserves to get them through the three-month period of hibernation. In winter, they hibernate in burrows.

Predators and Threats

Fox screaming at night - red fox in the field
Foxes, coyotes, and bobcats are natural enemies of prairie dogs.

©iStock.com/Rejean Bedard

Groundhogs are prey to large predators, including coyotes, badgers, bobcats and foxes. Birds of prey and small animals may sometimes eat their young.

They have ways to protect themselves. Their teeth and claws are sharp and they won't hesitate to fight when threatened. Retreating into their burrows is also an excellent conservation strategy, since most animals don't follow them underground.

Humans are another threat. These voracious eaters can devour a backyard garden or small farm in no time. Gardeners and farmers often try to stop them from eating their crops. They are also prime targets of legal hunting for their fur and meat.

Many people consider them to be pests, but one person decides to stop fighting nature and deal with it in a completely different way. In a video that went viral on social media, he documented how he built an entire vegetable garden for a local family of groundhogs.

Reproduction and Life Cycle

marmot
Female groundhogs give birth to two to six pups and care for them for about three months.

© toha90/Shutterstock.com

In February, a male awakens from hibernation and begins hunting for females. He enters the female's burrow and mates with her. After a gestation period of about 32 days, the female gives birth to two to six young, known as pups.

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The cubs are born blind and hairless, and their mother feeds them for the first six weeks. At three months old, they can forage and eat on their own. After about a year, most pups leave to build their dens.

Groundhogs are not monogamous, but they may stick together like family when foraging.

Most live about six years in the wild. In captivity, they can live up to 14 years.

population

Groundhogs are native to the United States and Canada. Their estimated population is over 200 million.

marmot
Groundhogs are loud, and their calls sound like whistling.

©Andrea Izzotti/Shutterstock.com

enjoy groundhog every day

You don't have to wait until Groundhog Day to appreciate these smart and fun animals. You can see them in most wooded and forested areas of the United States and Canada. You might even have a family of them living in your backyard.

Groundhog coming out of a burrow
If your home is in the country or suburbs, there's a good chance groundhogs live near you.

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See all 169 animals that start with G

They are both groundhogs, which is a species of ground squirrel. Gophers are also burrowing rodents, but they are much smaller than groundhogs. A typical gopher is about 6 inches long and weighs half a pound.

Marmots, like woodchucks, are burrowing rodents that spend most of their time outside their burrows. They only use their tunnels to hide food and hide from predators. Both species like to be outside and observe their territories.

Gophers, on the other hand, spend most of their time in their burrows, only coming out to find food and mate. Gophers and groundhogs do not hibernate.

If you have groundhogs in your garden and you want them to move, here are some ideas.

It is a large, stocky rodent with coarse hair. It has two long front teeth on the top of its mouth and two on the bottom. Groundhogs look like large squirrels, but they have flat, broad tails.

They are not friendly. While groundhogs don't attack unprovoked, they are aggressive and will engage in fierce fighting if they feel threatened. Like all rodents, they are intelligent and fun to watch, but they are best appreciated from a distance.

Groundhogs are generally not dangerous, but incidents of them biting people have occasionally occurred. A particular concern with groundhogs is that they can carry rabies. While only 1-3 people die each year from rabies, it is a very serious virus with a 99.9% fatality rate if left untreated.

Believe it or not, science has tried to determine this. In 1988, wildlife conservationist Richard Thomas conducted a study to try to figure this out. The groundhog certainly doesn't throw wood around, but he decides how much wood the groundhog can throw away if he uses it to build his burrow.

The answer is a woodchuck who can throw away about 700 pounds of wood a day if he wants to. That's a lot of wood!

The biggest differences between beavers and prairie dogs are their size, habitat, and diet. Beavers are considerably larger than prairie dogs, although prairie dogs are probably the largest in the world. In addition, the habitats in which the two live are quite different. Beavers are semi-aquatic animals that need a source of water to survive, while woodchucks are terrestrial animals that mainly live in underground burrows. Finally, the diets of beavers and groundhogs are different. Beavers are known for their woody appetite, eating the inner bark of a variety of trees. Groundhogs mainly eat grass, flowers, shrubs and crops.