First to wake up: groundhogs in the Moscow Zoo woke up

April 2
Parks and pedestrian areas

Groundhogs woke up in the Moscow zoo. They are the first to come out of hibernation, while the rest of the zoo's inhabitants are still preparing to wake up. This year, all the animals slept longer than usual due to the cold and snowy winter. For example, groundhogs usually wake up in the first week of March. However, this time they were in no hurry to leave their cozy burrow.

The exposition of the Moscow zoo features three groundhogs - females Sarah and Nagaina, as well as a male Archie. Their enclosure is located on the old territory of the zoo next to the gray seals and crowned cranes. At the end of the summer, the animals began to prepare their burrow for hibernation: they warmed the sleeping area with straw and swept out the excess earth and litter from the underground tunnels.

The rodents went into hibernation with the arrival of the first cold weather, in late September. As in previous years, Archie first put Sarah and Nagaina to bed, and then made regular rounds of the property for another two weeks, snacking on corn and fresh clover. Before settling down next to his family, the male locked the burrow from the inside: he covered the entrance with a homemade plug made of earth and grass; thus, an optimal temperature above zero degrees was maintained in the “bedroom”.

“Thanks to the fat reserves accumulated over the summer, the animals can sleep for about five months. During that time, their metabolism slows down: the heart rate and breathing rate decrease, and the body temperature drops to eight degrees. Groundhogs are very sensitive to the temperature above and come out of the underground dwelling only when it is warm outside. Closer to March, zoo keepers started preparations for the animals awakening: they removed the snow in the enclosure and put fresh straw. Archie woke up before Sarah and Nagaina did. The females come out one or two weeks later than the male, and in the meantime they bask in a warm burrow”, said Svetlana Akulova, the General director of the Moscow Zoo.

The male has already cleared the burrow exit of earth, dry grass and clay. So far, he's being careful. He checks how the world around him has changed, makes short rounds of his possessions and leaves fresh marks on the ground. Soon Archie will start renovating the entrances to the burrow and sweeping litter out of the underground passages.

The groundhog can be seen in the outdoor part of the enclosure in the morning and in the afternoon. He loves to bask in the sun.

Despite the fact that the rodents go without food all winter, they are in no hurry to pounce on treats. Groundhogs continue to consume fat reserves, and show interest in food only five to seven days after waking up. Since the digestive system needs time to resume working, the diet of Archie, Sarah and Nagaina in the spring includes only light products — a fresh salad and a vegetable mix.

In the near future, the Moscow Zoo is also waiting for the awakening of raccoons, chipmunks, raccoon dogs, bears, white-breasted hedgehogs, and dormice. Soon the zoologists will wake up the jerboa. The animals spent more than four months in special cold storage enclosures.


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