Tag Archives: Hibernation

Five Fun Groundhog Facts!

By Trudyann Buckley

Groundhog photo by Derek Stoner

Groundhog photograph by Derek Stoner

A groundhog could count these facts on one hand! …if he could count.

  1. groundhog1Groundhogs are also called whistle-pigs and woodchucks.

They are called whistle pigs because, when they spy a threat, they sometimes whistle. This may be to warn others, or to scare their predators. They’re not closely related to pigs at all!

Woodchucks don’t have anything to do with wood, either. (Though, they can climb trees to get away from predators.) The name “Woodchuck” actually comes from the Native American name for Groundhogs: wuchak.

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2.    groundhog2How Much Wood A Woodchuck Would Chuck:

If we’re talking about nibbling on wood, they do that to file down their teeth, but not too often.

But lots of people would say “to chuck” means to throw something. Groundhogs are great at digging burrows, so they chuck a lot of dirt, but not wood. In fact, one scientist found that they “throw” about 700 pounds of dirt out of the way to make one burrow. If you imagine that dirt is a bunch of wood chips instead, you have your answer!

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groundhog33.  Their teeth keep growing!

Groundhogs are rodents. They’re closely related to squirrels, and more distantly related to mice, rats, and beavers. Rodents are set apart from other mammals by their two front teeth, which just keep growing! If they don’t file their teeth down by munching, they’re in trouble! A groundhog’s teeth can grow a little less than an inch every year.

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groundhog44. They hibernate!

A lot of the mammals who live in Delaware stay active during the winter, but not groundhogs! They eat a lot during the fall, pack on the pounds, and then they burrow into the ground and fall asleep for the winter. While hibernating, they can lower their body temperature from around 99 degrees to 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and sometimes even colder temperatures! Their heartbeat and breathing also slows down. During that time, they use their extra fat as fuel to keep them alive. Then, they wake up in the spring!

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groundhog55. Groundhog Day used to be Candlemas Day!

Groundhog Day has been celebrated on February 2nd in Punxsutawney, PA since the early 1800s. It falls on the Christian holiday of Candlemas, the festival of light. The superstition goes that if it’s sunny on Candlemas, then there will be six more weeks of winter. However, if it’s cloudy, then Spring is coming! So, in Europe, if a hedgehog emerged from hibernation on Candlemas and saw his shadow, uh oh! More winter! When Europeans came to America, groundhogs were chosen as a substitute, since there were no wild hedgehogs here.

Sun on Feb. 2nd meant MORE winter!

Do you want to celebrate Groundhogs with Delaware Nature Society? Come on over to Ashland Nature Center on February 1st at 10am for the Groundhog Gala! We’ll be meeting a Groundhog puppet friend, visiting an outdoor burrow, playing games, and crafting our own furry friend!

The Groundhog Gala is a seasonal family program, perfect for families with kids below ten years old! Learn more and register HERE! or, call (302) 239-2334 to register over the phone!

Sleepy turtles and frozen frogs!

Hello everyone! We’re Rebecca Wadman and Corey Harrison, the Environmental Education interns here at Delaware Nature Society for 2014-2015! We’re going to be keeping this blog up to date with the exciting things that are happening here at DNS, from family programs to seasonal changes.

Winter is here, and the plants and animals all around us are slowing down. Lots of birds have migrated to the southern United States and the tropics for the winter. You might have seen flocks of birds traveling, but by now all the birds that are going to go south have left Delaware for the year.

Some animals have started to hibernate, slowing down all their bodily functions, letting their temperature drop, and resting for the winter. Reptiles, amphibians, and many mammals go through some kind of hibernation.

Baby box turtle

Tiny Box Turtle – Photo by Rebecca Wadman

Reptiles, like our turtles and snakes, rest for the winter underground or in the mud at the bottom of ponds. Turtles in our area hibernate for about half of the year! Before they hibernate, turtles stop eating and start moving slowly. Aquatic turtles hide in the mud on the bottom of ponds, but box turtles have powerful legs and claws that they use to dig deep holes in the ground. Most turtles don’t hibernate for the entire winter, but will come out of their hiding places and go look for a drink of water if it gets warm enough to move around.

Wood Frog in the snow

A Very Cold Wood Frog – Photo by Derek Stoner

Amphibians also hibernate. Many frogs dive down to the bottom of ponds and hibernate there. They do not burrow, they just sit on the bottom of the pond until it gets warm again in the spring. Toads, like our American toads, dig deep burrows in soft dirt by pushing and kicking with their back legs. They have to dig down far enough that they won’t freeze in the winter when it gets cold. In some places, this means they have to dig a hole three feet deep! A lot of the time, toads will just use a burrow left behind by some other animal, so they don’t have to dig their own. Some frogs, like wood frogs, will hide underneath logs and leaves and will actually freeze for part of the winter!

Come join us on our winter hikes at Coverdale Farm Preserve, the third Sunday of the month January-April and try to see some of these animals waking up! These walks are from 1-3pm, and are for the whole family.  Please register at www.delawarenaturesociety.org and search for the program “Winter Hikes – Warming Snacks”.  For members, these programs are $10 per person.  You’ll also have the chance to see our farm animals, including baby animals in the spring, and make some delicious snacks!