March–April 2023

Young Naturalists

Born to Dig

Woodchucks, also known as groundhogs, are chubby mammals that live much of their lives underground.

Kathleen Weflen

Every year on Groundhog Day, February 2, people in the United States and Canada hold events where they look for woodchucks, also called groundhogs, to come out of their underground dens and forecast the beginning of spring. If these furry critters stand up on their hind legs and cast a shadow on sunlit ground, we imagine they go back into their dens to sleep for another six weeks of winter. If the day is cloudy and shadowless, we say it’s a sign of spring.

On Groundhog Day in Minnesota, you won’t see any woodchucks popping out of the ground. They are still in a deep sleep, tucked in their dens below the frost line. In our state’s woods and towns, they hibernate from fall until spring. In March they’ll be waking up and moving about. Let’s learn more about these wild mammals living mostly underground.

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