Out Wit Woodchucks

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Groundhogs: Woodchucks, Marmots, and Whistle Pigs by Richardson and Adele

Woodchuck Interesting Facts

  • One of the woodchuck's defense mechanisms is the spraying of a musky odor from its anal glands-look out!
  • Woodchucks have the ability to manipulate objects with their paws because of they have fifth "finger" sometimes referred to as a thumb stump.
  • Woodchucks mate once per year in March and April.
  • The gestational period lasts 30 days.
  • Woodchucks give birth to up to seven (7) babies at one time.
  • Woodchuck young are born pink, hairless, blind and helpless.
  • Woodchuck Day is February 2 each year with the most famous ceremony taking place in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, home of the most famous woodchuck, Punxsutawney Phil. Legend says that if Punxsutawney Phil comes out of his burrow for the first time after his long winter's nap and sees his shadow, we are in for another six (6) weeks of winter!
  • According to historians the legendary Woodchuck Day began as an early Christian practice called Candlemas Day. The tradition was to have candles blessed and distributed to the people by the church. The people, creative as we are, created a short saying about the day:

    If Candlemas be fair and bright,
    Come, Winter, have another flight;
    If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
    Go Winter, and come not again.

    When the tradition was introduced to Germany they took it one step further including the European Hedgehog in the mix. They believed that if the hedgehog seen his shadow on that day it would return back to his burrow, and we would see a second winter. The legend was brought to the US by German immigrants who where the earliest settlers in Pennsylvania. They decided that because the woodchuck was strikingly similar to the European Hedgehog and the legend continues!
  • American farmers during the 19th Century coined their own phrase around Woodchuck Day: "Woodchuck Day, Half your Hay". This was meant as a reminder that if they didn't have half of their hay remaining it could be hard to stretch out the remainder until the new grasses began to grow.
  • Woodchucks have been found with all black or all white fur in the wild. Black furred animals are called melanistic and White furred animals albino. Woodchucks have other unique skills. They are able to manipulate objects with their paws because they have thumb stumps with claws.
  • Woodchucks communicate with one another using a variety of sounds, including a shrill alarm whistle (hence the moniker whistle-pig) to warn one another of approaching predators.
  • Woodchucks have one annual moult where they shed their fur for a new coat during the summer months.
  • Why Whistle Pig? Woodchucks have very distinct defense mechanism-whistling. When cornered or other wised threatened the animal lets out high pitched whistle.

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