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Groundhog Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Diane Sieverson

Diane has taught all subjects at the elementary level, was the principal of a K-8 private school and has a master's degree in Measurement and Evaluation.

Groundhogs are rodents that live in North America. Come learn about these animals, how they live, what they eat, different names for them, and other interesting facts about groundhogs.

What are Groundhogs?

It's a chilly, February day and a crowd is waiting. Several men in fancy black coats and black top hats are standing around waiting for a famous, furry animal to come out of his den. It's Groundhog Day and the groundhog that everyone is watching is Punxsutawney (pronounced PUNKS-uh-TAW-nee) Phil. Everyone is waiting to find out if he sees his shadow. An old legend says that if he sees his shadow, winter will last 6 more weeks. Most people are hoping he won't, even though groundhogs and their shadows can't really predict the weather!

Groundhogs are digging rodents with thick bodies and small, round ears. They can weigh a little over 13 pounds, which is about the same as a medium-sized house cat. Groundhogs can be a little over 26 inches long, which is a little longer than 2 footballs lined up end to end.

Groundhog
Groundhog

They have thick fur that comes in many colors, including dark brown, reddish, and gray. Groundhogs are part of the squirrel family and, like squirrels, are great at climbing trees even though they mostly like to hang out on the ground. They are also good swimmers.

You may have heard groundhogs called woodchucks, which is a mispronunciation of 'wuchak'. 'Wuchak' is the name Native Americans gave these animals and it means 'digger'. Groundhogs are also called whistle pigs because of the noise they sometimes make.

Where do Groundhogs Live?

Groundhogs are native to North America. They can be found in the United States as far south as Louisiana and Georgia and as far north as Alaska and parts of Canada. And although you probably like hanging out with your friends at the park or playground, groundhogs usually like to spend their time alone.

Groundhogs live in places like forests, pastures, fields, and areas where wild shrubs and trees grow near open, grassy areas. Just like you need a home, groundhogs need homes, too. But they usually have a summer home and winter home.

Groundhog popping out of its den
Groundhog popping out of its den

Groundhogs dig tunnels that lead to deep holes in the ground called dens where they hibernate, or stay asleep, during the winter. While they hibernate, their body temperature drops, they may only take 2 breaths a minute, and don't eat for about 150 days.

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