Now that the climate has gotten colder, now we have begun to say goodbye (for now) to a few of our animal pals right here at Woodland Dunes. With the chilly comes hibernation, and certainly one of our hibernating pals is the woodchuck! Woodchucks (Marmota monax) are massive rodents that belong to the squirrel household. On common woodchucks are 16-27 inches from the tip of their nostril to the tip of their tail they usually can weigh roughly round 10 kilos. Woodchucks are diurnal, which means that they’re awake through the day, so when they aren’t hibernating we frequently get to see them across the nature middle buildings. Those right here spend their days sunning themselves on the boardwalk behind the barn, sitting on high of the deck railing to get a greater view, and infrequently climbing into the chicken feeders to munch on seed. And to be sincere, because it occurs occasionally it’s fairly comical watching the spherical rodent attempt to squeeze into the little chicken feeder. Making the three foot climb to the birdfeeder isn’t any hassle for a woodchuck, in truth, they’re really excellent climbers and may even be generally seen sitting up in timber.
Staying inside a number of hundred toes of their dens, woodchucks will solely journey lengthy distances to seek for meals or to discover a mate (mating season for them is March-April). Younger woodchucks will solely keep a brief interval with their mother, and depart the den mid-July. Hibernating October to March, woodchucks need to spend the remainder of the months increase fats reserves to assist them survive sleeping by winter. Opposite to their identify, woodchucks have little or no to do with wooden. They largely feed on quite a lot of fruits and inexperienced crops, with the occasional flower, insect, and tree bark. Their identify doesn’t confer with wooden in any respect, as a substitute it’s derived from the Algonquian phrase for them, wuchak.
Usually folks confer with woodchucks as “pests” however actually they’re simply making an attempt to stay as they usually do in an ever-shrinking habitat. As we people proceed to unfold out we are going to simply need to study and respect coexisting with the wildlife that was already right here.
Woodchucks play an vital half within the native ecosystem. Along with being meals for different animals, they supply farmers and gardeners with some useful issues. After they dig, woodchucks aerate the soil permitting for plant roots to get oxygen. The digging and burrowing additionally helps to combine up the soil so crops can take up vitamins that they wouldn’t have gotten in any other case. Natural matter accumulates on the highest of the soil whereas different vitamins like calcium, iron, and phosphorus typically sink deeper into the soil with rainwater, so by digging, these vitamins can attain the plant roots nearer to the floor and the natural matter can sink deeper for issues like earthworms to munch on. Their burrows additionally present houses for amphibians, reptiles, chipmunks, and different small mammals after the woodchucks have left. One cool factor is that even when woodchucks are nonetheless utilizing their burrows and dens, different hibernating animals will go into one of many burrow rooms for the winter! Which means different animals like possums, raccoons, skunks, and rabbits can all be roommates with woodchucks over winter.
Now, if that isn’t sufficient reasoning for why they’re neat to have round, woodchucks are additionally accountable for two main archeological discoveries! In Ohio on the Ufferman Web site woodchucks unearthed numerous artifacts that had been from a Cole Native American village. In Pennsylvania, a woodchuck unearthed artifacts that helped scientists uncover the 19,000-year-old Meadowcroft Rockshelter web site – which is the oldest proof of people within the Americas ever discovered.
Not solely are woodchucks good for the soil and different animals, however they’ve helped us perceive extra about our historical past. So the following time you see a woodchuck digging round, as a substitute of being upset over it, consider what it’s doing for the soil, and maybe try the realm after it leaves. As you by no means know what cool discoveries these little furry archeologists might dig up.