One of the more common rodents in North America is the Groundhog (Marmota monax; also called Woodchuck, Whistle-pig). True hibernators, they eat continuously in the warm season to maximize fat reserves before going into their underground burrows. The hibernation period is 5 or 6 months, October to March.
I often see Groundhog tracks in the snow in March, but this year I’ve already had several early sightings of animals out and about, wandering across open fields in the snow. They must be hungry, because I see little survival value in a large brown rodent, a favorite food of coyotes and foxes, wandering around in the middle of a snow-covered field with no escape holes.
This animal actually stopped in the middle of a field and tried to dig through the snow and frozen ground to open a burrow. It then continued wandering, this time in the general direction of some farm structures.
Groundhogs will eat the bark of woody plants at this time of year, but they’re much too early for the fresh greens that they’re seeking. Under these conditions, some will probably crawl back into a burrow, accepting the fact that the life of a vegetarian living off the land can be pretty challenging in the snow belt!
Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.