Groundhog – General Information:
The groundhog also known as a woodchuck, or in some areas as a land-beaver, is a rodent belonging to the group of large ground squirrels known as marmots. Groundhogs are well adapted for digging, with short but powerful limbs and curved, thick claws they use to borrow into the ground where they sleep, raise their young and hibernate during the winter months. Groundhog burrows, which can be 5 feet deep and 30 feet long, usually have two to five entrances, providing groundhogs their primary means of escape from predators. Groundhogs are one of the few species that enter into true hibernation, and often build a separate “winter burrow” for this purpose. This burrow is usually in a wooded or brushy area and is dug below the frost line and remains at a stable temperature well above freezing during the winter months. Woodchucks have the ability to climb trees and swim to avoid predators.
The name woodchuck is said to come from the Cree Indian word wuchak, which was used to describe theses animals.
Woodchucks can be beneficial animals and also problems. Their digging turns over soil helping to aerate and compost. Their den holes can be a hazard and they can do damage to crops.
This is a commonly hunted animal. Hunters take groundhogs with everything from rimfire to high powered rifles. You can eat the meat, although I have never tried woodchuck.
The woodchuck is typically grizzled brown but can range from a reddish to black color variants. Their ears are small as is the tail which is totally covered in fur and feet are short.
They typically measure 16″ to 32″ long and weigh 4 to 14 lbs.
The groundhog prefers open country and the edges of woodland, and it is rarely far from a burrow entrance. In upstate New York, groundhogs are found mostly in agricultural lands and open fields bordered by woods. They are also common in suburban areas that are near open fields and forest. I live in such an area. A small town bordered on all sides by either farms or light forest. I have had resident groundhogs living under my garage in two of the last five. They are not animals of the deep forest.
The woodchuck has a wide range. They can be found as far north as Alaska down to British Columbia east across S. Canada. They can be found in the USA from Kansas and Alabama into the Mid-Atlantic states north to Maine.
Mostly herbivorous, groundhogs primarily eat wild grasses and other vegetation, and berries and agricultural crops when available. I have had groundhogs eat seed at the base of my birdfeeder and find their way into my garden eating leaf vegetables.