Human Journey

Groundhog Day 2017 Celebrated With a Portrait From the National Geographic Photo Ark

February 2, 2017 (Groundhog Day)–By tradition today is when the groundhog (aka woodchuck or whistle-pig) awakes from its winter hibernation to check on the weather. If it sees its shadow it can go back to bed; there will be six more weeks of winter.

A heavy-set rodent weighing as much as 12 pounds, the groundhog fattens up during the summer, quite often feasting on farmer’s crops and residential landscaping, causing it to be regarded by many people as a pest. When the cold weather arrives, groundhogs settle in their burrows to sleep through winter (November to February). During that time their metabolism slows as their pulse and body temperature drop.

You Can Help Make a Difference: Species are disappearing at an alarming rate. But together we can help. The interaction between animals and their environments is the engine that keeps the planet healthy for all of us. But for many species, time is running out. That’s why National Geographic, along with renowned photographer Joel Sartore, is dedicated to finding solutions to save them. The National Geographic Photo Ark is an ambitious project committed to documenting every species in captivity—inspiring people not just to care, but also to help protect these animals for future generations. And, with your support, we’re funding on-the-ground conservation projects focused on those animals in most critical need of protection. Click on the Sartore photograph of a groundhog above to get more information.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) assesses the groundhog, Marmota monax, as a species of Least Concern, meaning there are no major threats to its survival. Some people bothered by groundhogs eating their herbs, shrubs and vegetable gardens do take (sometimes drastic) action to get rid of them.

Females produce their young in spring. A litter of around half a dozen groundhogs remains with the mother until summer.

Groundhogs are the largest members of the Sciuridae, the family of animals that includes squirrels, chipmunks, and prairie dogs.

They are thought to have earned their other common names, woodchuck and whistle-pig, from the American Indian name for the animal (wuchak) and from the high-pitched alarm whistle it makes when warning of approaching danger.

This post was produced in support of the National Geographic Photo Ark, a multi-year project to photograph all species in captivity. The groundhog is one of them. To learn more about the Photo Ark, visit,

Follow the Photo Ark photographer Joel Sartore and the National Geographic Photo Ark on InstagramTwitter, and Facebook, and add your voice using #SaveTogether.

Forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. He has 120,000 followers on social media.

Assignments in 80 countries/territories included visits to a secret rebel base in Angola, Sahrawi camps in Algeria, and Wayana villages in the remote Amazon. Braun traveled with Nelson Mandela on the liberation leader’s Freedom Tour of North America, accompanied President Clinton and Chelsea Clinton to their foundation’s projects in four African countries and Mexico, covered African peace talks chaired by Fidel Castro in Havana and Boutros Boutros-Ghali in Cairo, and collaborated with Angelina Jolie at World Refugee Day events in Washington, D.C. As a member of the National Geographic Expeditions Council, and media representative to the Society’s Committee for Research and Exploration, he joined researchers on field inspections in many parts of the world.

Braun has been a longtime member/executive of journalist guilds, press clubs, and professional groups, including the National Press Club (Washington) and editorial committee of the Online Publishers Association. He served as WMA Magazine of the Year Awards judge (2010-2012), advisory board member of Children’s Eyes On Earth International Youth Photography Contest (2012), and multimedia/communications affiliate of the International League of Conservation Photographers (2015-2017).

David Braun edits National Geographic Voices, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society’s mission and initiatives. Contributors include grantees and Society partners, as well as universities, foundations, interest groups, and individuals dedicated to a sustainable world.

He also directs the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience.

Follow David on Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn

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Researchers, conservationists, and others share stories, insights and ideas about Our Changing Planet, Wildlife & Wild Spaces, and The Human Journey. More than 50,000 comments have been added to 10,000 posts. Explore the list alongside to dive deeper into some of the most popular categories of the National Geographic Society’s conversation platform Voices.

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