As we approach Groundhog Day 2012 (February 2nd), we thought it would be fun to take a look at some of the remarkable things that are known about these critters. Groundhogs (or woodchucks) are rodents and are part of the marmot family. After squirrels, they are among the most frequently observed mammals in the U.S. and Canada.
Here are ten things you may not have known about America’s “woodchucks.”
The name “woodchuck” does not come from these creatures tossing wood around or from just being woodland dwellers but rather it comes from an Algonquian (possibly Narragansett) name for the animal, wuchak.
The average animal weighs between 4-9 pounds but some (in places where there is alfalfa farming, for example) have been known to reach 30 pounds which would make them “woodchunks.”
Many people are surprised to discover that groundhogs are accomplished swimmers and (when pursued by a predator or reaching for a snack) are excellent tree climbers.
When they observe something that might be a threat, they will rise up on their hind legs and let out a clear warning whistle to family members much in the same way as prairie dogs in the West.