Other Mammals - Sounds Wild
Groundhog Day


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Groundhog Day

Groundhogs are marmots, one of three kinds of marmots found in Alaska. Groundhogs, also known as woodchucks, are the smallest of Alaska's marmots. February second is Groundhog Day, and there's a good reason for that. Groundhog Day falls halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. Groundhog Day has its origins in ancient European weather lore where the mid-winter behavior of some animal, usually a badger or bear, indicates how much longer winter will last; and in the Pagan festival of Imbolg, which celebrated the lengthening days and the early signs of spring.

The American holiday originated in mid-1800s in Central Pennsylvania among German-immigrant farmers. The annual celebration in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, is the best known and largest gathering in the U.S. and has been since the 1800s. Those Pennsylvania groundhogs might actually peek out of the burrows mid-winter, but Alaska's groundhogs definitely do not. They're hibernating, and they are serious hibernators.

In summer, a groundhog maintains a body temperature of a hundred degrees, a heart rate of 200 beats per minute, and a respiratory rate of 50 breaths per minute. A hibernating groundhog drops its body temperature to about 35 degrees, barely above freezing, reduces its respiration to one breath per minute, and its heart rate to just four beats per minute.