Groundhogs are also know as “woodchucks”, “whistle pigs” and “marmots”. The groundhog is a member of the rodent family. Typically, an adult groundhog can grow to weigh approximately eight to fourteen pounds and average about 22 inches. and they can be found from as far west as Alaska and British Columbia, across Canada, south into Oklahoma, and as far east into all the North East United States.
Groundhogs are “fossorial” – meaning, they live most of their lives underground. They dig burrows or “dens”, that have several entrances, each connected with the main tunnel and nesting chamber where the groundhog will hibernate for the winter. Their whiskers help them to “see” underground, but above ground they have excellent hearing and eyesight!
Their natural enemies are the fox, wildcats, coyotes and hawks. Another natural enemy of the groundhog is man. Man has built homes and roads in many of the areas the groundhog has called home, reducing the size of the natural environment for Dunkirk Dave and others like him.
In the wild, groundhogs like to eat leaves, clover, the soft stem parts of wildflowers like the buttercup, daisies, dandelions and thistles. He also likes to eat the bark of young trees that is scratched or nibbled loose. Blackberries, raspberries and cherries are Dunkirk Dave’s favorite dessert!
Groundhogs can create a fair bit trouble by helping themselves to crops that farmers grow. Sometimes, a taste of alfalfa, soybean or corn is just too irresistible!
Why do groundhogs eat so much? They have to eat to build up their fat stores for their long winter nap, called “hibernation”. Hibernation is a very deep, sleeplike condition where breathing and the heartbeat slows down so much, you can barely tell the animal is alive.
Many different types of animals hibernate for the winter, because that is the time when food is most scarce and the temperature is very cold. Groundhog bodies store up fat and sugars from their warm weather feasts, and around about October, groundhogs are so fat, they can barely walk!
As the weather begins to get cooler, the groundhog makes his way to his nesting chamber and snuggles down for a 5 month nap! Can you imagine sleeping for 5 months? You would wake up very hungry and thirsty, wouldn’t you?