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Woodchucks Heading for Winter Burrows

11-10-14 woodchuck 122Woodchucks are one of the few species of mammals that enter into true hibernation. When the temperatures dip into the 40’s, usually in October or November in the Northeast, most woodchucks leave their summer burrows and head for the woods, where they dig a tunnel that ends in a chamber that is well below the frost line (and therefore above freezing). Here they curl up in a ball and live off of the 30% additional body weight they put on in the fall. In order to survive until March or April, a woodchuck’s metabolism slows way down. Its heartbeat goes from 100 beats a minute to five, and its body temperature goes from 96 degrees F. down to to 47 degrees F.

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3 responses

  1. Marilyn

    So there goes the Punxsutawney Phil myth. Unless PA woodchucks snooze differently. At 47º and 5 bpm, a chuck would be in no condition to check the weather!

    November 10, 2014 at 12:16 pm

    • Exactly, Marilyn. Male woodchucks awaken and make their way to female woodchucks’ burrows, mate and then return for a few more weeks of sleep, but they don’t usually do so until March, at least in New England. You can find their muddy trails in the snow!

      November 10, 2014 at 12:40 pm

  2. Hibernation is one of the most amazing of nature’s adaptations. I’ve seen quite a few fattened animals preparing for the winter ahead. The bear that visits the yard I’ll be happy to see absent from the bird feeders!

    November 12, 2014 at 3:26 pm

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