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Male Woodchucks Out and About

2-22-19 woodchuck burrow IMG_0555Hibernation, the true slowing down of one’s metabolism (a Woodchuck’s body temperature drops from 99 degrees F. to 40 degrees F. and its heartbeat drops from 100 beats per minute to 4 beats per minute) is one way an animal conserves energy. Male and female Woodchucks use the energy they’ve conserved very differently in early spring.

At the end of February and in March, males arouse themselves about a month prior to the mating season and spend long periods visiting females and defending their territory. Muddy tracks and trails can be seen near their winter burrows (see photo) at this time of year. Females remain in their burrows in a state of hibernation, saving as much energy as possible for the birth and raising of their young. After confirming the presence of females on their territories, males return to their burrows for the next month or so, awakening along with the females in time for their mating season.

The timing of Woodchuck procreation is not a relaxed affair. It is quite precise, in fact, for very good reasons. If Woodchucks mate too early in the spring, their young won’t be able to find food once they are weaned. If they mate too late, their young won’t have the time necessary for putting on weight and storing fat before hibernation begins. Now is the time to look for signs indicating male Woodchuck activity near their winter woodland burrows.

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6 responses

  1. Laurel Smith

    Let’s get ‘em now!

    Sent from my iPad


    February 22, 2019 at 8:32 am

  2. Alice Pratt

    ….’.males arouse themselves’….no ‘pun’ intended….😮🤭🤐

    February 22, 2019 at 1:41 pm

  3. Kathie Fiveash

    I was not aware that woodchucks have dens in the woods. I always think of them as field creatures.

    February 22, 2019 at 5:15 pm

    • Hi Kathie,
      Their summer dens are usually in fields, winter dens in woods!

      February 24, 2019 at 10:35 am

      • Kathie Fiveash

        That’s so interesting Mary. I guess they are itinerant in the fall, seeking out shelter. Then back to their old summer haunts in the spring. I wonder if they return to the same dens each year, or resettle.

        February 26, 2019 at 2:22 pm

  4. Bill on the hill

    Currently I am looking at 30 plus inches of snow in my fields & presumably all of that in the woods as well. I will have to take your word on this Mary…
    Great post & I am not looking forward to dropping down into the chuck holes in my lower fields anytime to soon, as both my tractors do not take kindly to this…!

    February 23, 2019 at 8:35 am

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