For those of you with a touch of Groundhog energy, here’s some new info to flesh out your understanding…
Woodchucks aren’t forecasting the weather when they emerge—they’re looking for love
The Truth about Groundhog Day
Stam Zervanos, a biology professor at Pennsylvania State University’s Berks-Lehigh Valley College has made a discovery that could, um, cast a shadow on Groundhog Day. Male woodchucks, as the animals are also known, aren’t checking the weather when they wake up in early February, says Zervanos. They’re scoping for potential mates.
Yes, Groundhog Day is more like Valentine’s Day. When a male groundhog wakes up in February from its three-month-long hibernation, he leaves his burrow and goes for a stroll around the ol’ territory—a tract of about 2 to 3 acres. When he comes to a female’s burrow (there may be several within his territory), he ducks inside and stays the night. The next morning he continues on his tour. “Each male visits two or three females,” says Zervanos.
But he is pretty sure the sleepover parties are tame. “We know they are not mating because no baby groundhogs are born in early March,” he says. (The groundhog gestation period is about 30 days.) After the February cuddlefest, the male goes back to his own pad, rolls up in a ball and sleeps for another month.
So what’s with the rodent sleepovers? “They’re a chance to bond,” Zervanos suggests. The February visits may serve as “getting to know you” sessions—obviating the need to spend lots of time exchanging biological details in March. As far as Zervanos knows, this speed-dating behavior is unique to groundhogs. “I think it’s a major find,” he says.
When the groundhogs wake up for good in March, the males drop in on the females again for a week of wild groundhog mating.
Zervanos still has questions about groundhogs. He wonders if females are ever visited by more than one male