Shedding some light on Groundhog Day

Shedding some light on Groundhog Day

There are 1 comment on the Salt Lake Tribune story from Feb 1, 2009, titled Shedding some light on Groundhog Day. In it, Salt Lake Tribune reports that:

Yellow-bellied marmots are part of the family of rodents known as groundhogs and reside in Utah.

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Since: Jan 09

The Big Apple

#1 Feb 1, 2009
If a woodchuck (/marmot/groundhog) could chuck wood:

Calculated by Weathergal on , February 1, 2009

To “chuck” means to toss aside, throw away….

Woodchucks use their claws to burrow 10-40 feet tunnels in the ground.
The average tunnel depth is 5-10 feet.

In the Eastern United States, where many woodchucks can be found, the top ten feet of soil is often a “silty loam” with an average density of about 1.3 grams per cubic centimeter (calculated by using ‘s American Texture Triangle), or 81 lb/cubic foot ( )

According to a much cited article by Richard Thomas in the Wall Street Journal (can ANYBODY actually furnish this article, because I have found many results on search engines that mention this article, but nobody seems to have read it themselves), a woodchuck should burrow 35 cubic feet of dirt in digging an average tunnel.

Here is where my numbers vary greatly. He has determined about 700 lbs of wood could be chucked if a woodchuck could chuck wood. I did not have his article available to understand his methods to this number, but here are mine for comparison:

Let’s start with Richard’s number: 35 cubic feet of dirt. Okay. Weighin in at 81 lbs per cubic foot, this means the woodchuck digs up 2,835 lbs of dirt! Strong little monster.

What about wood? Woodchucks like to live in areas where there are orchards (Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management ), and there are many apple trees in Eastern US orchards, so let’s say Chuck goes for an apple tree. Apple trees have an average density of 720 kg/cubic meter ( ), or 45 pounds per cubic foot. A woodchuck probably COULDN’T dig straight through a tree, but he COULD dig through woodchips! If we shave the tree into chips, the density becomes about 50% of the solid tree’s value ( ) and so woodchips would have a density of about 23 lbs per cubic foot. The density of dirt is 1.5 times the density of apple wood chips (35 lbs/cubic foot / 23 lbs per cubic foot = 1.5). So, to be fair, we need the same mass of soil as we would wood chips, so 1.5 times the soil weight of 2,835 lbs gives us 4,252 lbs of woodchips! To see how many cubic feet of apple tree this weight of wood chips would give us, divide 4,252 lbs of woodchips by the density of the apple tree, 45 lbs/ cubic foot, and we wood have ground 95 cubic feet of apple tree to make all the woodchips the woodchuck would chuck! Knowing the equation for the volume of cyclinder (shape of a tree) pi x radius squared x height of tree = 95 cubic feet, let’s assume a radius of 1/2 foot, meaning the apple tree is 1 foot across (also a possible diameter of a groundhog tunnel), then the height of the tree would be just a lfew inches above 30 feet tall.

And so, a groundhog, all things considered (and assuming he wanted to if he could, could dig about the same volume of wood as he could burrow in the dirt.

Now WHY have we been wondering this for so long?

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