Woodchuck (Marmota Monax)


Class: Mammalia
Order: Rodentia
Family:    Sciurdae
Size:    Length: 16 to 27 inches (40 to 69 cm)
Weight: 4 to 14 pounds (1.8 to 6.3 kg)
Diet: Green leaves, bark, twigs, fruit, vegetables and occasionally insects
Distribution: North America
Young:  1 to 9 cubs per year
Animal Predators:  Bobcats, coyotes, foxes, bears and domestic dogs
IUCN Status: No special status
Terms: Young: Cub or Kit
Lifespan: Up to 6 years in the wild and 10 in captivity



·        Woodchucks are also known as groundhogs or whistle-pigs.

·        They belong to the squirrel family.

·        Woodchucks do not actually chuck wood; the name is derived from the Cree word “otcheck.”

·        The scientific name means “digger” (monax); “mountain mouse” (marmota).

·        Famous woodchucks include Punxsutawney Phil (Northern U.S.); Wiarton Willie (Canada); and Beauregard Lee (Southern U.S.).

·        Woodchucks breathe once every five to six minutes during hibernation.



Woodchucks have a heavyset body with short legs. Their coarse fur is dark—usually reddish, yellow or dark brown, with white tips. They have a short tail and small ears. Their hands and feet are black, as are their eyes. Woodchucks’ teeth keep growing and if they do not chew, the teeth will grow out of proportion and become fatal. 



Woodchucks generally have two burrows, a shallow one near foraging areas and a deeper one, usually in a forest, for wintering. They tend to be very clean and their burrows will have several entrances, with the main one having a vertical drop of more than two feet (61 cm) for quick escape from predators. Woodchucks hibernate, storing enough fat during the summer and fall to sustain them throughout the winter. Woodchucks hibernate in a chamber below frost level and their body temperature falls to just above freezing. 


Feeding Habits

They are mostly vegetarians and eat plants (green leaves especially, but also bark and twigs), fruit, vegetables and occasionally insects and birds eggs. 



Mating season occurs immediately after hibernation (February, March or April). During that time, a female will tolerate a male for a brief period in her burrow, but will expel him before she gives birth. In March, April or May, females give birth to as many as nine, but usually three to five cubs. The young are weaned at six weeks, and leave soon after to establish their own territories.   



Woodchucks love the sun and can be seen from dawn to dusk on sunny days. Farmers sometimes consider them pests because they often live in their fields, feeding from the crops that have fallen to the ground and burrowing along the rows. Others consider woodchucks beneficial, as they fertilize the underground (by defecating in their burrows) and they also relax and ventilate the soil with their digging. Although they prefer to stay on the ground, woodchucks can climb trees if necessary, to get food or to escape a predator.



Woodchucks are common through their range and are not a conservation concern at this time. 












Woodchuck Wildlife Fact File, IM Pub, US