called ground hog, is a small animal that belongs to the squirrel family. The woodchuck is
a kind of marmot. Woodchucks live in Canada and in the Eastern and Midwestern United
States. According to an old superstition, a person can tell when spring will come by
watching what a woodchuck does on Ground-Hog Day, February 2.
Several subspecies of woodchucks live in North America. The woodchuck of Canada and the
Eastern United States is a typical subspecies. This woodchuck is about 2 feet (61
centimeters) long, including its bushy tail, and has a broad, flat head. Its coarse fur is
grayish-brown on the upper parts of its body and yellowish-orange on the under parts.
Woodchucks dig complex burrows or dens that contain several compartments and may have
several entrances. In winter, the woodchuck hibernates in a special den that has only one
When a woodchuck goes to look for food, it first sits up on its haunches at the entrance
to its burrow. There, it looks and listens for any sign of danger. This habit makes the
woodchuck an easy target for hunters. Woodchucks eat such plants as alfalfa and clover.
Some farmers consider woodchucks to be pests because they frequently destroy crops.
Woodchucks eat large amounts of food in the fall before hibernating. The extra food is
changed to fat in their bodies, and the woodchucks live on this fat during their winter
sleep. Female woodchucks give birth to four or five young in the spring.
Scientific classification. The woodchuck belongs to the squirrel family, Sciuridae. Its
scientific name is Marmota monax.
Contributor: Charles A. Long, Ph.D., Prof. of Biology and Curator of Mammals, Univ.
of Wisconsin, Stevens Point.