by Hassan Travis-Frank
Groundhog Day; a popular North American holiday tradition that involves with the groundhog seeing his shadow, and will return to his hibernation bed. However, if the groundhog does not see his shadow, then spring will arrive early. But what are the true facts of the groundhog emerging out of its hibernation bed? Why do groundhogs come out of their hibernation beds? Well, it’s not their shadow of course! Groundhogs are rodents and they are a different marmot. Groundhogs belong to the squirrel family called Sciuridae. This includes tree squirrels, ground squirrels, and flying squirrels; the groundhog and marmot belong in that family. Groundhogs are true hibernating animals, and they stay in a state called a dormant state. This means their heart rate and body temperature fall dramatically. The groundhog can take a quick breath, and will not take another until the next minute.
To prepare themselves for hibernation, groundhogs will fatten themselves up, so they can store fat to keep warm during hibernation. But why do groundhogs come out of their hibernation bed? Again, it’s not letting know that spring is coming or coming out seeing their shadow. The reason why groundhogs come out of hibernation is that male groundhogs are looking for females. Male groundhogs will get a head start for the mating season and reproduction. The males will have a territory that have burrows of several female groundhogs. There are many competition between rival males, and they will fight to defend their territory for their right to mate. According to Penn State’s Dr. Stam M. Zervanos, who explains on the National Geographic website, “Typically, there’s a male that has a territory that includes several female burrows. And there’s some competition for that territory. They try to defend that territory, and they go from burrow to burrow to find out if that female is still there.” Male groundhogs will defend a territory when a female is present. In addition, males will use vocalizations to call a mate, while surveying their territories; this is how the groundhog mating season is prepared.
Groundhogs make all sorts of vocalizations, and are nicknamed “whistle pig.” Their vocalizations include whistling, grunting, chirping, chuckling, and teeth chattering. Now the question is: Why do male groundhogs have to mate early? The truth is that baby groundhogs need a lot of time to prepare themselves for hibernation, so they could get ready for their first winter. According to the Animal Facts Encyclopedia website, “the idea is that baby groundhogs need lots of time to get ready for their first winter, and timing mating just the right is critical for the survival of the species.” It is known that a mother groundhogs can have up to 10 babies, but the most common in litter size is 3 to 6, according to the Animal Fact Encyclopedia website. When the baby groundhogs are big enough, they are out on their own; making a burrow of their own and getting ready for hibernation. Now that you learn the truth why groundhogs come out of their hibernation beds, you can educate your friends and families about them. Groundhogs are interesting animals and we must learn a lot from these fascinating rodents. We are willing to learn everything we can about every different species of animals, and groundhogs are a great example to help us understand their behaviors and environmental lives.