News & Notes

Marmota monax Madness!

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017
Posted on:

Groundhog (Marmota monax)

Despite all the snow on the ground, the first groundhogs (aka woodchucks, whistle pigs, Marmota monax) will be emerging from their burrows soon. Groundhogs are one of the few “true” hibernating species that we have in Maine. They slow their metabolic rate and drop their body temperatures to wait out winter in the safety and warmth of their underground burrows. There are several families of groundhogs that call Maine Audubon’s Gilsland Farm home that are the subject of ongoing research by Dr. Chris Maher at the University of Southern Maine.

In the spirit of friendly competition, the staff at Maine Audubon is having a contest to guess the date of the first signs of emergence — the naturalist equivalent of the guess-the-birthday ‘Baby Pools’. We invite you, our readers, to join in the fun. Below is the calendar/grid we are using. To participate, all you need to do is email your guess (only pick one day) to [email protected]. We’ll have prizes for all the winners!

Pick your date from the calendar below:


And for your viewing pleasure, here is a photo of the first emergence observed in the spring of 2014 (exact date is being kept a secret) and a photo taken last summer of a baby groundhog about to be tagged for Dr. Maher’s research:

Signs of groundhog emergence from 2014

Baby groundhog – 26 May 2016