The Mating Habits of Groundhogs
Groundhogs are mammals. Their breeding season commences almost at the end of February, just a few days after the animals have come from hibernation. A groundhog’s pregnancy only lasts a short 32 days and then the females give birth to a litter of about 2 to 10 young ones. The young ones are often born on the last days of March or in early April.
At birth, young groundhogs are blind, helpless, weak and naked and measure around 4 inches long. The eyes of a groundhog open a month after birth but they rarely move out of their hiding spots until they are 6-7 weeks old. By this age, they are stronger and less helpless and they can walk and feed by themselves. By the middle of summer, the young groundhogs measure about twenty inches in length and have an average weight of four pounds. By this time, they often leave their parents’ dens and wander around looking for secure spots to build their own dens. As the days go by, they move away from their mothers’ dens and start making their own burrows. Most often, they build a short distance away from their parents and try to avoid territories dominated by aggressive and territorial male groundhogs. After this time, they are now almost fully grown and rarely associate with their parents’ issues.
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Groundhogs are very solitary animals, but these changes during the mating season. As the young groundhogs reach one year, they move further away from their natal dens and this allows them to look for territories of their own. Once they have found a suitable spot without a male to dominate it, they build permanent burrows and live there permanently. By their second year of age, they are ready to breed but some may do so in their first year.
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Although the above scene is almost similar to other animals, there is a unique trait that only groundhogs possess. Male groundhogs are known to wake up before their hibernation period is over to look for mating partners. The males come out of their dens to make preparations for the mating season. The preparations involve surveying their territories and making house calls to the burrows where females live. This is done about one month before the hibernation period is over.
In normal cases, a male must first ensure that his territory of several female groundhogs still stands before their time for waking up has reached. Since male groundhogs are very territorial, they survey their territories for enemies and ensure that each of their female mates is in their burrows. After making sure that all the potential mates are present, the males then go back to sleep in their dens for the remaining one month before the hibernation period is over and the mating period begins.
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