In this post, we review 10 interesting facts you may not know about groundhogs.
Groundhogs were first made famous thanks to a small newspaper in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.
A writer for the local paper declared that since groundhogs did not see their shadow, spring would arrive early. This led to the legend of Punxsutawney Phil, the groundhog who lets us know how soon spring will come.
There is also the cult classic movie “Groundhog Day” starring Bill Murray.
While you might be familiar with the pop culture surrounding the groundhog (or woodchuck as they are also known) here are 10 facts you may not be aware of.
Facts about groundhogs
- When a groundhog hibernates, his heart rate slows from 80 bpm to just 5.
- The groundhog’s breathing slows from about 16 breaths per minute to as few as two.
- Groundhogs are one of the few animals that are true hibernators. They fatten up in the warm seasons and then sleep for the majority of the three months of winter.
- While groundhogs hibernate, they go approximately 150 days without eating any food. During that time, they only lose about a quarter of their body weight thanks to slow metabolism.
- During hibernation, the body temperature of a groundhog can drop as much as 60 degrees! At the start of hibernation, a groundhog may have a body temperature of 99 degrees, but it can go as low as 37 degrees. For comparison, humans can die if their body temp drops to 70 or below.
- While it is still warm out, groundhogs may eat up to a pound of food. That’s the same as a 200-pound person eating a 20-pound steak!
- To keep up with this roaring appetite, groundhogs have upper and lower incisor teeth that grow nearly 1/16 of an inch each week!
- These incisors grind during each bite, so proper alignment is critical. Otherwise, they will keep growing and if too long, upper incisors can impale the lower jaw.
- The phrase escape tunnels probably came from groundhogs! The burrows these animals make are their escape route from enemies. Groundhogs cannot run much faster than 8 mph, while foxes top out around 25 mph. Luckily these burrows keep them one step ahead.
- These burrows can be as much as 6 feet deep, and loop around underground for 20 feet or more. They also typically have two entrances but in some cases, there may be up to a dozen.
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