Groundhogs / Woodchucks are the biggest creatures from the squirrel family found in the eastern and central United States northward across Canada and into Alaska.
They were mostly seen on the ground devouring crops, and they could climb trees when needed. But do you know that they can swim too? Let’s look into it.
Can Groundhogs Swim?
Not only groundhogs are great tree climbers, but also they are good swimmers; they are well-equipped for survival in any condition. As these are terrestrial animals, they do not like water but can swim if needed. And for a relatively large and beefy rodent, they do pretty well.
Groundhogs do not swim for pleasure as they are not water animals, but they do it if needed for their survival!
Why Do We Celebrate Groundhog Day?
Groundhog hibernation gave rise to the popular U.S. custom of Groundhog Day, held on February 2nd every year. It is because, according to tradition, they peek out of their burrow on the second of February and check to see if it has a shadow.
If the weather is sunny enough for a shadow, then the groundhog will return to the comfort of its burrow and continue hibernating for an additional 6 weeks. This shadow-observing lore has no scientific basis.
- Their alternate name, woodchuck, has nothing to do with wood or chucking. The name is derived from the Algonquian ( a Native American language) name for the critters, wuchak.
- Groundhogs sit up and eat nuts almost like squirrels do, but they do not bury them for later like squirrels. They are also not social animals and interact with each other only when it’s mating season.
- Groundhog mating season starts in the early spring, and after only a month-long pregnancy, mother groundhogs typically give birth to a litter of 2-6.
- Baby groundhogs (kits) will disperse from the family in the fall, and the young reach sexual maturity at around two years. Groundhogs typically live 3-6 years in the wild but have been reported to live for up to 14 years in captivity.
- Groundhogs are powerful diggers that make large, complex underground burrows with multiple entrances and rooms, including bathrooms. Some groundhogs even have more than one burrow as a backup. But they are often used by other burrowing animals, such as raccoons, foxes, opossums, and skunks.
Are Groundhogs Good Swimmers?
With their short legs and big belly, they may look like they will have a hard time swimming, but looks can be deceiving. Actually, groundhogs are quite good at it.
Also Read: Can Groundhogs Climb Trees?
Why Would A Groundhog Swim?
Why would they swim if they aren’t fans of water and don’t like to take a bath or cool themselves off on a hot summer day? This question might have come across your mind. Let’s look into the reasons why these swims.
Interesting Fact: According to researchers, groundhogs don’t drink water, but they stay hydrated by eating food plants wet from rain or dew.
To Escape From Predators:
Some Groundhogs live near water bodies like lakes and ponds, which can be a great food source. And also help as a quick escape from less-skilled predators. Its tail is mighty and is used as a defensive device – while attacking or defending an enemy or navigating through the water.
Being smart is the key to survival when you are a relatively small animal, and groundhogs are killing it.
In Search of Food:
Groundhogs do indeed swim to evade predators and also to survey their territory for potential food sources as they are very much food motivated. Even though groundhogs are herbivores, reports say that they even eat small snails, bugs, and some insects like grasshoppers when they get their hands on them.
Their diet changes depending on the food sources in different seasons. As water bodies provide alternate food choices all year round, they may dive into the water to get some aquatic plants and insects. Their sharp claws help them to gather food faster.
Also Read: Can Lions Swim? Are Lions Scared Of Water?
Can Groundhogs Breathe Underwater?
This is a misconception that groundhogs can breathe underwater. They cannot, as no mammals can breathe underwater, but many can hold their breath for extended periods of time. They also have fairly low oxygen requirements, and this is why they can survive in their burrows without much air circulation for months.
Groundhogs also have excellent lung capacity, so they do not tire easily and can hold their breath for a relatively long time. They can take a deep plunge into the water and stay for as long as five minutes.
How Fast Can A Groundhog Swim?
Groundhog swims better than many other animals of that species. They typically move at a speed of 3 kmph (around 1.86 miles per hour). When in water, their webbed feet allow for easy swimming, and their paddle-like tails are used for navigation in the water.
Do Groundhogs Like Water?
Even though they do not like water, they can function normally even in water, and the weather conditions are extremely cold. They also build their burrows in such a way that they won’t be flooded or drowned. Groundhogs prefer to keep themselves dry and like to stay in dry places.
Are Groundhogs People-friendly? Do They bite?
As we already discussed, they are not social animals and may not be suitable as pets. Also, they may ruin your garden with their sharp claws. They won’t normally bite as they are very timid creatures, but they can be aggressive at times, like every animal. We don’t recommend keeping a groundhog as a pet.
Sadly, we humans cause more damage to groundhogs than they do to us. Their lives and homes are much worthier than a few vegetables and holes in the ground. Let’s remember that.