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The groundhog

The groundhog

The groundhog has a stocky body, a broad, flat head and a neck that seems almost absent.The ears are small and round, the limbs short and powerful, and the tail relatively short and bushy.The front legs have 4 toes, in addition to a rudimentary thumb covered with a flat nail. The hind legs end in 5 well-shaped toes, and all toes except the thumb have flat, curved claws.

Latin Name: Marmota monax

Description:The woodchuck has a stocky body, a broad, flat head, and a neck that seems almost absent. The ears are small and round, the limbs short and powerful, and the tail relatively short and bushy. The front legs have 4 fingers, in addition to a rudimentary thumb covered with a flat nail. The hind legs end in 5 well shaped toes. Like other rodents, the marmot has 2 pairs of large incisors placed in front of the mouth. These incisors grow continuously but only their front side is covered with enamel, so that they wear down and become sharp like a chisel.The marmot measures between 45.7 and 65.7 cm long. It weighs, in general, 2.5 to 4.5 kg, its weight reaches its maximum in the fall. The coat, made up of dense and woolly down on the sides and the back, goes from light brown to dark brown. On the belly, where the down is missing, it appears paler or reddish. The feet, as well as the tail sometimes, are black.

Reproduction:Rutting period: March or April- Length of gestation period: 32 days- Number of litters per year: 1- Number of pups per litter: 4 or 5, on average- Calving period: April-MayThe woodchuck mates shortly after coming out of hibernation, either in March or April. During this period, fights between males often break out. After a gestation period of about 32 days, the female gives birth to a litter of between 2 and 9 young, most often 4 or 5. The newborns are naked, blind and helpless. Their skin is pink and wrinkled. They weigh 25 to 30 g and are about 10.5 cm long. At two weeks old, the pups are covered with short black hair. Between the 26th and 28th days, the eyes open. Soon after, they start to eat green plants. At 5 weeks, they are already real miniature marmots. Weaning occurs around the 6th week. Most leave the family home at about 3 months of age. Generally, they reach sexual maturity during the 2nd year.

Habits:The marmot frequents fields, rough terrain, woodland edges, open forests, urban parks and rocky slopes. It also occasionally makes its home on embankments bordering highways. The land it seems to prefer is sandy and well drained. The Woodchuck is primarily a herbivore. It feeds mainly on clover, alfalfa, buttercup, dandelion and plantain. Early in the spring, it must make do with twigs and bark of small shrubs. Later, it may eat fruits and vegetables from the garden. Its diet also includes a few insects and, occasionally, fledglings.The Marmot is sedentary and rather solitary. They signal their presence by the musky smell of their anal glands and cheeks. It lives in a burrow made up of at least 2 chambers connected by a network of galleries that can run over 8 m. She often sits at the entrance of her burrow, or on the promontories nearby, to scan the surroundings. If an intruder comes too close, she dives into her burrow with a shrill whistle. The marmot has excellent eyesight and hearing. They can also climb and swim without difficulty. Being massive, its running speed does not exceed 17 km/h. During the warm season, the marmot is mostly active during the day. It does not gather food but eats a lot. It builds up a reserve of fat representing up to 55% of its body mass in the fall.From October, the marmot enters into lethargy. The temperature of its body passes then from 37 oC to 4,5 oC and its cardiac rhythm of 80 to 4 or 5 pulsations per minute. Breathing becomes almost imperceptible. Until mid-March, this lethargy will however be interspersed with short periods of awakening, every 4 to 6 days, to allow the marmot to urinate or defecate.In the wild, the marmot lives from 4 to 6 years. In addition to humans, its main predators are Red Fox, dogs, Coyote, Red Lynx, Black Bear, mink and some raptor birds.

Prevention:As the marmot does not have many predators, it is difficult to prevent it from coming around our homes if it finds shelter and food there. We can try to scare it away by placing objects that make noise or light reflections near the vegetable gardens, but this does not work all the time.We can also capture it easily with bait and a trap. We recommend that you have the work done by a specialist because these animals, which seem to be very calm, are not very aggressive.

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