Newsletter March 2010

Fun Animal Fact of the Month

During hibernation the Groundhog’s heart rate goes from 80 beats/minute to 5 beats/minute, their temperature drops from 99 degrees farenheit to 40 degrees farenheit and their breathing drops from 12 breaths/minure to 4 breaths/minute

Inspirational Quote Of the Month

“Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”
~ Harold R. McAlindon

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The Groundhog


February 2nd , Groundhog Day, has come and gone, Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow and winter hung on for most of those 6 weeks. But what is so special about February 2nd? Well, February 2nd is considered “Cross-Quarter Day” which means the halfway point between the winter solstice in December and the Vernal Equinox in March. In many cultures the day is celebrated to signify the midpoint of winter….and the Groundhog? It is believed that the Groundhogs’ internal clock is affected by annual changes in daylight. Basically hormonal responses to cyclic changes in the production of melatonin, a sleep-related hormone is released and is thought by some researchers to be the signal to wake-up. Hence, as the days get longer, the Groundhog begins to stir and is one of the first animals to wake up from hibernation. And when the Groundhog wakes up, he is hungry. Groundhogs raid gardens, fields, lawns, orchards, nurseries and may gnaw or claw on shrubs and fruit trees. They will also chew on outdoor furniture, decks and siding while scent marking or filing their front teeth, which never stop growing. Groundhogs are amazing land engineers that can reek havoc on your foundation and cause incredible structural damage to your commercial or residential properties. We have watched them destroy some of the best landscape properties in our area. They typically burrow entrances among shrubs near vegetable and ornamental gardens; under woodpiles, brush piles, stone walls, under sheds, porches, decks and crawl spaces. Typically, their burrows will have many chambers and more than one entrance, sometimes up to three entrances. Although not aggressive, they will defend themselves and become aggressive if approached by humans or pets.

Groundhogs, also known as Woodchucks or Whistle pigs are one of 14 species of Marmots. They are the largest members of the squirrel family. Their scientific name is Marmota Monax. Groundhogs are grizzled brown on the top part of their coat, some with blackish or rufous tones and they are buffy below. Ears are short, rounded and their face has pale puffy patches. Legs are short and powerful and their tail is bushy. Their fur has two layers, one layer on the outside that serves as a waterproofing layer and the inside layer that maintains their body heat. They have excellent hearing and eye site. They have a shrill whistle followed by a chuck, chuck. Their typical size is 17.75 to 24 inches for the body, 7 to 10 inches for the tail and they typically weigh 13 lbs. They are diurnal, most active in the early morning and evening. They are good swimmers. They can climb trees up to a height of 20 ft, but most commonly keep to 8-12 feet.

Groundhogs are herbivores. They eat succulent grasses, weeds, clover, fruits (apples, cherries, pears), berries, field and garden crops. They have been known to climb trees to take fruits such as cherries, apples and pears. Groundhogs binge and put on weight in the summer, reaching maximum mass in August. By late October, they are becoming lethargic and preparing to hibernate. They begin to hibernate deeply from the time of the first heavy frost through early spring. They will burrow below the frost line to hibernate and they sometimes hibernate in small groups. When the Groundhog is hibernating his temperature will drop from 99 degrees Fahrenheit to 40 degrees Fahrenheit, his heart rate will drop from 80 beats per minute to 5 beats and his breathing goes from 12 breaths a minute to 4. By the time they wake up they will have lost half of their body weight. It is a medical wonder that is still highly researched.

The Groundhog breeds from February to March and their gestation period is 31 days. Birthing typically occurs from late March to early May. The typical size of a litter is 3 to 4 young.

A couple of interesting facts; a Groundhog hairs are used for tying trout flies. Early American Indians used the sturdy Groundhog hides for soles of moccasins.


The Groundhog

Groundhog digging his burrow

Some Preventative Maintenance:

1. Remove brush piles and debris, and keep areas well-trimmed.

2. Erect a “rat wall” fence around gardens and fields. Make sure the woodchucks can’t climb over or dig under this barrier. Use 1–1 1/2″ chicken wire. The fence must be 4 feet high and buried 1 foot deep; if you prefer, you can bury it only 1–2″ down, if you bend the edge outward into a “L” shape that sticks out at a 90° angle to prevent the woodchucks from burrowing underneath it. Also bend the top 15″ of the fence out at a 45° angle to keep them from climbing over it, or add an electric wire strung 4–5″ above ground level, and 4–5″ from the outside of the fence.

3. Another modification of the rat wall design. Use 2 × 4″ welded wire that’s 2 ft. high, bottom buried in the L-shaped shelf as described above. String an electric wire across the top of the fence. (Durable and effective but more expensive.)


Mohonk Preserve. Sunday March 21st. 22nd Annual Signs of Spring Walk 2 to 4 pm. Saturday April 3rd. Who Lives Here? Reptile & Amphibians for Families from 1 to 3 pm. Saturday April 10th. Fantastic Frogs from 1 to 3 pm. For more information please visit

Museum of Hudson Highlands. Every Sat. & Sun. at the Wildlife Nature Center, “Meet the Animal of the Week” 1:00 pm & 2:30 pm. Saturday April 3rd. Cottontail tails; learn about Wild Cottontail Rabbits 10 am. Saturday April 10th. Nest Watch 10 am. Sunday April 11th Searching for Salamanders 10am. For more information please visit;

Weinberg Nature Center. Sunday March 28th & April 11th. Meeting the Resident Animals 11 am to 12 pm and 2 pm to 3 pm. Saturday March 27th. Nature Lovers and Artists 11:30 am to 1 pm. Saturday April 10th. Exploring New Spring Creatures and Growth 2 pm to 3 pm. For more information please visit;

Beczak Environmental Education Center. Saturday March 27th. Come Fly with Me 11:00 am & 1:00 pm. For more information please visit;

Scherman-Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary. March 21st. Wallkill River NWR 8:45 am. For more information please visit

And for some Wildlife fun all year round visit: – located in West Orange, NJ —located in Sussex, NJ The Bear Mountain Zoo located in the Bear Mountain State Park, NY

Stay tuned…next month Got Wildlife? will highlight all of the nature summer camps available in our service area.