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Wildlife Wednesday: Groundhog

February 2nd is Groundhog Day but what is a groundhog? Also known as a woodchuck or whistle pig, it is a member of the rodent family, and is actually a type of ground squirrel. The name woodchuck possibly comes from a mistranslation of the Algonquin word for the animal – wuchak – while the name whistle pig refers to the high-pitched screech they make when communicating with each other. Like all rodents, they have long, sharp incisors perfect for gnawing and chewing. Although they don’t munch on acorns like their squirrel cousins, their favorite foods include grasses, clovers, dandelions, and even farmers’ crops. While Groundhog Day is in February, you won’t find any wild groundhogs out and about. They prepare their burrows for hibernation in October and do not emerge until March. While in hibernation, their body temperature drops down to a chilly 41℉, and their heart only beats 4 times per minute, making them one of only two true hibernators in the state of Michigan (the other being the thirteen-lined ground squirrel). Each groundhog builds an extensive network of burrows and tunnels that can reach lengths of up to almost 70 feet! These burrows have multiple entrances and separate chambers for sleeping, nesting, and using the bathroom. You can find them throughout the Metroparks, so be on the lookout!

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