Spring is here and that means the emergence of our local groundhog or woodchuck population around New York Harbor. It’s time for them to get up and get out.
Groundhogs are the only true hibernating mammal around the harbor. They will enter into a deep sleep sometime in October. Their body temperature drops from 99° F to 40° F, and their heartbeat slows from 80 beats per minute to 5. These modest size marmots will survive all winter on fat reserves they accumulated from summer and fall foraging activities. During that time they need to eat approximately 1/3 of their weight in vegetation each day if they are going to survive hibernation. An important reason why you always see these furry critters eating so much food!
Usually late March or early April, the groundhogs will wake up and start to get lively. They have the look of love and the need to breed. Males will start the breeding season first by establishing territories from other nearby males. Then he is off in search of a female.
Mating will occur in March or April. Usually older male groundhogs will mate with multiple females. No monogamy or marriage for groundhogs. Females and males will have no further interaction after mating.
A typical female groundhog will have a gestation period of 30 to 33 days. She will give birth to between one and nine baby groundhogs, with four or five being the most common litter size. Groundhog pups are born pink, naked, deaf, blind and helpless.
A young 2-month old groundhog emerging from it's mother's den.
Young groundhogs will stay with their mothers until they are able to take care of themselves, approximately 44 days after they're born. Then the mother will begin to show aggression toward her young, prompting them to leave the den and become independent at approximately 2 months of age, or sometime around June or July.
All the excitement begins now. Sleepy woodchucks are waking up and getting ready for another breeding season.