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  • Natural History of Groundhogs

    Mr. Murray's 7th Grade Students
    Dolphin Senior Public School
    Mississauga, Ontario

    For pictures and detailed information on Groundhogs:

    The Latin name for the groundhog is marmota monax. In Ontario it is also called the Woodchuck, which comes from the Alongkian Indian name for the groundhog.

    General appearance:
    The groundhog is fury with brown hair has a large head short legs chunky body small bushy tail and it has no special markings. In the autumn groundhogs get an extra layer of fat.

    The groundhog lives in open forests, forest edges, and rocky areas. They dig holes in the forest and find holes in rocky areas. CALLS: The Groundhog has a few calls: a shrill whistle if alarmed. It also hisses , growls and squeals when annoyed. It also releases different smells to communicate . Reproduction:
    After hibernation the Male Woodchuck finds the Female and they both mate in a burrow. The female produces 2-6 young. The female has one litter each year of her life. The blind and hairless young will open their eyes and start to grow fur in one month and then, after two months, they will have to fend for themselves.

    head and body put together equals 40 to 50 cm. It has a fairly small tail which is 10 to 17.5 cm.

    The Groundhog's average mass is 2 to 5.5 kg. Its weight increases just before hibernation.

    The Groundhog has little teeth and a well developed coat Many Groundhogs have different colored coats. Red, Brown and Black are the most common.

    Among some of the Groundhog's predators are the Coyotes, Wolves, Bears, Red Foxes, and Cougar. Because Groundhogs eat crops, like clover, corn and grain, farmers try to kill them. Many others die from being hit by cars. The population of groundhogs has declined recently in Ontario due the increased population of coyotes.

    They can have young when they are a year old. They mate between March and April. The mothers are pregnant for 31-32 days. They have 2-6 young in a litter.

    Related Species:
    Chipmunk, Ground and Tree Squirrels, Marmots, Prairie Dogs, and the Squirrel Family

    They eat green plants such as Grass, Leaves and Alfalfa. They put on a lot of weight before hibernation. When they wake up they've lost half of their weight.

    The woodchucks burrow entrance is well concealed from predators and they also make a fake entrance to their burrow so the enemies can not trap them in. The woodchuck excavates his burrow in fields and its familiar to farmers. The woodchuck often sits in front of it's burrow (on a mound of dirt that was dug out from the burrow) and surveys the land looking for predators. Sometimes the groundhog sits on a fence post for a better view.

    Wiarton Willy is a very rare albino groundhog with white hair and pink eyes and can not see very well. Wiarton willy is a rare groundhog because albinism is very rare!

    Danger Underground
    Although predators are a major cause of death of groundhogs, there is an other way groundhogs die and it happens during hibernation. Some groundhogs go into hibernation and don't ever wake up.

    Groundhogs can get diseases like hepatitis B, Bronchopneumonia, pneumonia. They are most likely to get diseases when they are to skinny and are not eating properly.