This Woodchuck is doing what Woodchucks do this time of year – eating fast and furiously, and putting on fat equaling about a third of their weight (granted, an apple has only a tiny fraction of a gram of fat, but every bit helps). Accumulation of fat is essential if they are to survive months of hibernation. It’s not known what stimulates this increase in appetite, but most likely photoperiod (length of day) plays a part.
Soon these rodents will seek shelter in their winter burrows, where their heart rate is reduced from 100 beats per minute to 15 and their temperature drops from 96 F. degrees to 47 F. degrees. During hibernation, they lose roughly 20% to 47% of their body weight. Those Woodchucks not able to accumulate sufficient fat reserves may not survive the three or four months of hibernation that take place in the Northeast. (Photo by Erin Donahue)
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