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Are Groundhogs Nocturnal Or Diurnal?

Groundhogs are very common animals in parts of North America. Primarily central-eastern and north-eastern United States, and throughout most of Canada. They are elusive and typically thought of as pests by many people. Especially by gardeners considering groundhogs can eat a half pound of vegetation per day and love getting into gardens.  If you are a gardener you may wonder when exactly it is that they do their work. Are groundhogs nocturnal?

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That’s exactly what this article is about, so let’s get to it.

Are Groundhogs Nocturnal?

Groundhogs are not nocturnal but diurnal which is the opposite of nocturnal meaning they sleep at night and come out during the day.

What time of day are groundhogs most active?

Grounds are most active from spring to fall, in the early morning and evening before sunset. However they can be seen all throughout the day depending on different factors such as time of year, temperature, and food scarcity.

During the hottest days of the summer they may retreat to their cool underground burrows and come out when the temperatures are more tolerable.

Do groundhogs ever come out at night?

Groundhogs sleep at night and are active during the day because they are diurnal. While they are diurnal animals and the large majority of activity is in the day, they may rarely be seen after dark. So it isn’t totally unheard of to see a groundhog out at night, just not common.

About groundhogs

Groundhogs, aka woodchucks, are cousins to squirrels and in the ground squirrel family, Sciuridae. They are most famous for predicting the arrival of an early spring, or an extended winter.

Even though groundhogs do come out of their burrows in early February, the legend that they can predict the weather is just that, a legend. But it’s one that originated in Europe and was brought here by the Germans that settled in Pennsylvania many years ago.

Groundhogs even have their own holiday, Groundhog Day! February 2nd each year is a big deal, especially in Punxsutawney, PA.

Do groundhogs hibernate?

Yes groundhogs do hibernate and go into a state of “true hibernation” from around October through March.  They may hibernate for as little as 3 months and males emerge from hibernation before females. They make a separate winter burrow for hibernation. The further north they are, the longer the groundhog will hibernate.

They reach their maximum body weight preparing for hibernation and their body temperature will drop to as low as 35 degrees Fahrenheit. Like many other animals that hibernate, they will go in and out of torpor during hibernation and by February they have lost a majority of that extra body fat they stored up for the winter.

When a groundhog hibernates, he is regularly going in and out of states of torpor and arousal. Torpor is when they lower their body temperatures and activity is down to pretty much nothing. Arousal is when they wake up briefly for a specific reason such as eliminating (using the bathroom).

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In a study done on the hibernation habits of groundhogs, it was recorded that groundhogs were in an arousal state about 1/3 as much as a state of torpor.  Between mid-November and early March, they noticed average arousal periods of about 41 hours with torpor periods at about 128 hours.

Are groundhogs rodents?

Considering that groundhogs are in the squirrel family, and squirrels are rodents, groundhogs are also in the rodent family. Like squirrels, groundhogs are also very intelligent, much more so than many people give them credit for.

Are groundhogs and woodchucks the same thing?

Yes! Groundhogs are large ground squirrels also known as woodchucks, whistle pigs, grass rats and earth pigs. According to Wikipedia, groundhogs are one of 15 species of marmots.

These species are:

  1. Alaska marmot
  2. Alpine marmot
  3. Black-capped marmot
  4. Bobak marmot
  5. Forest-steppe marmot
  6. Gray marmot or Altai marmot
  7. Groundhog, woodchuck
  8. Himalayan marmot
  9. Long-tailed marmot
  10. Menzbier’s marmot
  11. Tarbagan marmot
  12. Hoary marmot
  13. Olympic marmot
  14. Vancouver Island marmot
  15. Yellow-bellied marmot

Are groundhogs aggressive?

No, groundhogs are not aggressive by nature and generally pose no threat to humans. They will typically retreat underground to their burrow at the first signs of danger.

They will however defend themselves if they feel cornered or if they have no choice. They have large incisors and sharp claws that they can use to defend themselves and they will use them if they must.