What You Can See on Groundhog Day
Submitted by Ted Williams on Thu, 02/02/2006 - 09:06.
From Audubon’s Earth Almanac by Ted Williams and compiled in “Wild Moments,” edited by Connie Isbell, Illustrations by John Burgoyne, Storey Publishing, 174 pages. What Groundhogs Do on Feb. 2 Throughout most of its U.S. range (roughly the eastern half of the nation), it’s unlikely any woodchuck stirring on even a cloudless Groundhog Day could cast a shadow. In the South a few of these portly ground squirrels may have emerged from hibernation by February 2, but most are still curled up in subterranean dens that include a bedroom lined with dried grass, a latrine, and an entrance tunnel up to 45 feet long. A hibernating chuck’s body temperature can drop from 99 degrees Fahrenheit to 41 and its aspiration from 2,100 breaths per hour to 60. Yet hibernation does not mean constant sleep. During warm spells the chuck wakes periodically to urinate. Weasel Writing Written plainly in the snow is the personality of this kielbasa-sized package of energy. Note -- in the rambling trai l -- how curious he is. Frequent bounds betray his eagerness. Recorded also in the snow are the violent struggles of prey that sometimes outweighs him by a factor of five. Long-tailed weasels purr when content, squeak when annoyed, and release malodorous musk when enraged or sexually excited. You're apt to encounter them anywhere in the United States. But in the North, where their brown fur turns white in snowtime, you may glimpse only an ebony muzzle -- or just tracks.