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Wild Woman: Groundhogs in Arkansas

Kirsten Bartlow with the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission tells us about these creatures.
LITTLE ROCK, AR - Kirsten Bartlow with the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission tells us about groundhogs in Arkansas.

We have groundhogs in Arkansas? 
Yes, they are also known as woodchucks, marmots and whistle pigs and are the largest member of the squirrel family. When alarmed, a woodchuck gives a loud, shrill whistle. They weigh around 12-15 pounds. They are mostly found in the interior highlands, so the Arkansas River Valley, the Ouachitas and the Ozarks. Groundhogs are one of the few animals that really hibernate. Hibernation is not just a deep sleep. It is actually a deep coma, where the body temperature drops to a few degrees above freezing, the heart barely beats, the blood scarcely flows, and breathing nearly stops.
 
Where might I see one? 
They like forest edges, open fields, and along brushy fencerows. They are rarely found in dense woodlands. I've got one that lives in my neighborhood here in Little Rock. Look for them along the AR River Trail. They dig extensive burrows (6 feet deep and 20 feet or more long) with multiple entrances, one of which may be concealed as an escape hole. They can only run about 8 mph, so their burrow is where they escape predators. It's common to see them active during the day, especially early morning and late afternoon.
 
What do they eat? 
They eat grasses and plants as well as fruits and tree bark and an occasional insect or snail. Groundhogs are the bane of many a gardener. They can decimate a plot while voraciously feeding during the summer and fall seasons in preparation for winter hibernation.
 

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