Maybe groundhogs aren’t as solitary as we thought

A groundhog is tagged at Gilsland Farm Audubon Center, where researcher Christine Maher mapped groundhog behavior and relationships. Credit: Heather Paul

On Groundhog Day, all eyes are on one particular groundhog. But groundhogs, it seems, are not so solitary. Researching groundhogs in Maine, Christine Maher, a behavioral ecologist at the University of Southern Maine, has found groundhogs to be more social than people thought.

Maher tagged over 500 groundhogs (Marmota monax) at Gilsland Farm Audubon Center, tracked their behavior, traced their relationships and mapped their territory, noting individuals’ activities and interactions.

She found that about half the juveniles remain in their birth territory, and they stay nearby after they depart, creating a community of related groundhogs in overlapping territories. “This had been hinted at,” she told the New York Times, “but I don’t think people knew just to what extent it was happening.”

Read more in the New York Times.