||Generally grizzled, brownish gray, but white and black groundhogs have been seen
||compact, chunky bodies covered in fur with a short tail. Their bodies are supported by short, strong legs. In addition, their forefeet have long, curved claws that are well adapted for digging burrows.
||The total length of the head and body averages 16” to 20” (40 cm to 51 cm). The tail is usually 4” to 7” (10 cm to 18 cm) long.
||Northeastern and central United States
The groundhog, also known as a woodchuck or whistle pig, is a
member of the squirrel family. Although groundhogs are slow
runners, they scurry quickly to their dens when they sense danger.
The primary predators of groundhogs are hawks, foxes, coyotes,
bobcats, dogs and humans. However, motorized vehicles kill many
groundhogs each year.
On February 2, people around the United States celebrate
Groundhogs Day, a tradition that centers on the idea of a groundhog
emerging from its hibernation to “predict” the weather. If the
groundhog sees its shadow and returns to its burrow, there will be
six more weeks of winter. But, if the animal does not see its
shadow, then spring is right around the corner.
Groundhogs are primarily active during daylight hours, usually
feeding in the early morning. They are strict herbivores and eat a
variety of vegetables including soybeans, beans, peas, carrot tops,
alfalfa and grasses. When not feeding, they are known to sunbathe
during the warmest periods of the day.
Groundhogs are among the few mammals that enter into true
hibernation, which generally starts in late fall near the end of
October and continues until late February.
In general, groundhogs prefer open areas to create burrow
systems. Specifically, they can be found burrowing in fields and
pastures, along fences and roadsides, and near building foundations
or the bases of trees.
Groundhogs are known as a nuisance pest because they can cause
extensive damage to home gardens, farms, orchards and field crops
as a result of their feeding and burrowing habits. When burrowing,
they have been known to destroy building foundations, create
unwanted holes on lawns and cause electrical outages from gnawing
on underground wires.
Groundhogs rarely come in contact with humans and therefore pose
no major public health hazards; however, they are capable of
carrying fleas, ticks and rabies.