Cornelius’ Corner: “Grumpy Groundhogs!”
Hey, everybody – I’m the groundhog who lives near the Visitor Center. Cornelius let me borrow his blog today to lodge a complaint with all of you about this whole Groundhog Day situation.
Why does everybody only celebrate groundhogs on one day a year? And why does that one day have to be when I’m trying to finish up my hibernation?
There I was last week, hibernating in my burrow, when I was woken up by all the chatter about groundhogs. To be fair, we are pretty awesome creatures. We’re related to squirrels, and we are excellent climbers and swimmers. Our real talents, though, lie in architecture. Each groundhog digs his or her own burrow. These burrows are very complex – they are at least six feet deep and can be over twenty feet long! They usually have more than one entrance and exit, but the main entrance is marked by a large mounded pile of excavated soil. Two or three side tunnels lead to chambers for sleeping, raising young, and hibernating. We even usually build a latrine chamber!
We’re active during the day when we’re not hibernating, but we really like dawn and dusk. We forage for grasses, ferns, leaves, fruits, bark, insects, eggs, and even the occasional treat from somebody’s vegetable garden. I especially love apples and sometimes climb up into the tree to get one because I can’t wait for it to fall down. We can eat over a pound of vegetation per day. How else are we going to store enough fat to support us during hibernation?
Speaking of hibernation, we’re really good sleepers! Hibernation in Pennsylvania typically starts in mid-November and lasts until late February. We bed down in our special leaf-lined hibernation chamber. Our metabolic and respiratory rates slow and our body temperature drops to around 42° F. This lets us survive using only the fats we stored up from eating all those yummy dandelions during the summer. If humans tried to lower their body temperature like we can, they would get hypothermia! We do take breaks during hibernation to stretch and visit the latrine, which helps our brains and muscles stay healthy.
All that to say, hibernation is hard work. And really, we don’t know more about the weather than any of you do. Anyway, I would love to keep chatting with you about how awesome we groundhogs are, but I need to get back to my nap now. Do you have more questions about groundhogs? Go bug Cornelius in the Visitor Center, or check back in with me in March!