Groundhogs are larger and more heavy-bodied in appearance than many species in the rodent family. Here’s how to tell them apart.
Groundhogs can range from light to dark brown or even black, with lighter underbellies.
Their tails are bushy and usually between five to seven inches.
Groundhogs are power chewers thanks to their long incisors, which grow one-sixteenth of an inch each week.
Groundhogs are larger than most other rodents, ranging from 16 to 20 inches and weighing up to 13 pounds.
Ears and eyes:
Because they need to stay concealed while scanning for predators, groundhog ears and eyes are small and located near the top of the head.
Powerful, short limbs make groundhogs efficient burrowers.
Strong, curved claws also help them dig.
Groundhogs share many behaviors with their fellow rodent species, but they’re distinct in other ways. Unlike their subterranean cousin’s moles and voles, for instance, they’re not afraid to venture from their burrows. Notable behavior includes:
- Do not hoard food like other species, but rather, eat as much as possible to build fat reserves for winter
- Usually solitary creatures, although occasionally will share burrows
- Burrows contain separate chambers for depositing waste and nesting
- Spend more time above ground than some burrowers, whether sunbathing or foraging
- Primarily eat herbs but may occasionally branch out to insects or even (very rarely) small animals
- One of the few mammals to hibernate during winter
- Are competent swimmers and climbers, although they prefer to stay on the ground
- Their burrows provide homes for other animals, like foxes, smaller rodents, and other animals
- Have two separate burrows for summer and winter
Groundhogs occupy a vast territory across the Northeast and Canada, encompassing many different landscapes. Here’s where you’re most likely to find them.
- Where wooded areas fade into clearings, often near highways or fields
- Where there’s adequate foliage, particularly if favorites like clover and alfalfa are available
- In dry areas where the soil can support a burrow structure
- Near farmland and pastures
While they’re most famous in the Northeast area of the U.S., groundhogs can range as far North as Alaska and as far South as Alabama.
- Mostly occupy the Western and central parts of the U.S.
- Spread throughout most of Southern Canada
- Largest rodent in its range
Like most rodents, groundhogs only mate once a year. Here’s what you should know about their reproduction cycle.
- Do not mate until their second year of life, except in rare cases
- Litters produce two to six kits
- Male and female groundhogs mate in the spring after waking from hibernation
- Males stay with females for about one month after mating but leave before the kits are born
- Kits are blind and hairless
- Female groundhogs rear young alone
- Young groundhogs leave the nest after six weeks and venture off on their own in the fall
- Groundhogs live from four to six years