The ground hog
, Marmota monax
, is also called the woodchuck
or the whistle-pig
. This rodent
is a member of the squirrel family
, and is found across Canada
and in the northeastern
and midwestern United States
. The western United States
is the home of its closest relatives
, the yellow-bellied marmot
and the hoary marmot
A stout body and short legs give the gound hog its low-to-the-ground appearance. Its length is 20"-27", and its weight 5-10 lbs. (more before hibernation). Its fur is a grizzled brown, while its feet are a darker brown or black. Typical of the squirrel family, the front feet have 4 clawed toes and the hind feet have 5 clawed toes. The woodchuck has small ears, large black eyes, a furry tail, and sometimes an area of white fur around its nose. Its sight, hearing, and smell are all reported to be keen, and it produces a shrill whistle when alarmed. Although it lives on and under ground, the woodchuck can also swim and climb trees.
As a rodent, the ground hog has a distinct pattern of teeth. There are 4 large incisor teeth for biting off vegetation and gnawing through roots when tunneling. These teeth keep growing, about 1/16" per week. Constant usage wears them down again by about that much each week. A gap in the teeth follows, then eighteen chewing teeth. These enable the woodchuck to grind up the vegetation he is eating. The jaw can move from side to side as well as up and down, making chewing easier.
The winter den is generally used from October through February. With a thick layer of fat in the fall, the ground hog retires to his winter den, seals the sleeping chamber with dirt, and curls into a ball on his nest to sleep. The ground hog is a true hibernator. His heart rate slows down to about 4 beats per minute, his body temperature is lowered to
about 40 degrees, and his breathing is slowed considerably.
In the spring, the ground hog awakens. It's soon time to move to the summer den and to begin eating the tender vegetation that appears. There is a brief mating season,
and the female gives birth to a litter of 4 or more pups 28 days later, in April or May. The pups are born naked and blind; they are helpless for about a month. Then they begin making short trips outside of the burrows to eat grass and clover. They must then watch out for enemies like foxes, hawks, coyotes, and dogs.
In South Africa the aardvark is sometimes called a groundhog.
This node rescued by The Nodeshell Rescue Team