backyard groundhog by danapommet ()
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This is “chubby” and s/he is a groundhog (Marmota monax), also known as a woodchuck or a land-beaver, and is in the rodent family. It is widely distributed in North America and common in the northeastern and central United States. Groundhogs are found as far north as Alaska, with their habitat extending southeast to Alabama. Groundhogs usually live from two to six years in the wild. They are 16 to 26 inches (40 to 65 cm) long (including a 6 inch (15 cm) tail) and weighing 4 to 9 pounds (2 to 4 kg). Our back yard goes back about 90 feet, then 20 feet of tall grass and maybe 70 more feet of small trees and pines. “Chubby” comes out early in the morning while the grass is still damp, to feast on clover. Any motion near our back windows and s/he is off into the trees. It has taken me all summer to get this shot.
Groundhogs are well adapted for digging, with short but powerful limbs and curved thick claws. They are excellent burrowers, using burrows for sleeping, rearing young, and hibernating. Suited to their temperate habitat, groundhogs are covered with two coats of fur: a dense grey undercoat and a longer coat of banded guard hairs that gives the groundhog its distinctive "frosted" appearance. Mostly herbivorous, groundhogs primarily eat wild grasses and other vegetation, and berries and agricultural crops when available. They also eat grubs, grasshoppers, insects, snails and other small animals. Like squirrels they also have been observed sitting up eating nuts but unlike squirrels do not bury them for future use.
Groundhogs are one of the few species that enter into true hibernation, and often build a separate "winter burrow" for this purpose. In most areas, groundhogs hibernate from October to March, but in more temperate areas, they may hibernate as little as 3 months. To survive the winter, they are at their maximum weight shortly before entering hibernation. They emerge from hibernation with some remaining body fat to live on until the warmer spring weather produces abundant plant materials for food. Despite their heavy-bodied appearance, groundhogs are accomplished swimmers and excellent tree climbers. Some info from Wikipedia. Great in zoom mode.
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