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The Groundhog Stirs

by Sandy Beverly

The current warm-up has sure got me thinking of spring. It’s a harbinger of beautiful times to come. But even without this warm-up, many of our animal friends would be thinking of spring already. I used to think that spring made an appearance in March and hit full-on in April. Turns out that many animals change their behavior in February or even January in response to the lengthening days.

In February, we gain about thirteen minutes of sunlight per week. (In March, the gains are even greater.) According to Ken Lassman in Wild Douglas County, the Osage Indians of this area called the February moon the “Light of Day Returns Moon.” Animals respond.A number of mammals are beginning to mate. Lassman writes that January and February are mating seasons for red foxes, beavers, opossums, muskrats, minks, cottontail rabbits, and coyotes. You’ll know the squirrels in your neighborhood are mating if you see a lot of chasing. Females may be chased by as many as ten males at once. Listen for the sound of claws on bark as they race up and down tree trunks and for a vocalization that some have described as a “stifled sneeze.” Cottontail courtship is even more interesting to watch. A male chases a female. Eventually, the female stops running and faces the male. She boxes at the male with her front paws, and then one or both leap straight into the air. Quite a sight out my family room window!

Read the original article at: Lawrence Journal

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