Groundhog Vs. Woodchuck Separating Factors To Tell Them Apart

Rajnandini Roychoudhury
Feb 22, 2024 By Rajnandini Roychoudhury
Originally Published on Nov 17, 2021
Edited by Lara Simpson
Fact-checked by Shruti Thapa
Groundhog sitting on grass

The groundhog is a rodent-like creature that is quite well known, mainly for its ability to tell when spring will come.

People often get confused between the groundhog and woodchuck. In reality, the two are the same animal, and there is no difference between them, but they are called different things in different parts of the world.

The two animals are the groundhog and the woodchuck, Marmota monax, a wild creature with the same genus and species. Several Native American civilizations termed the animal wejack, wood shaw, and woodchuck. Interestingly, the word 'woodchuck' was derived from the word 'wuchak,' which means critters in the Native American language of Algonquian.

Monax, the species name for the animal, originated from a Native American word meaning digger or a creature that burrows. You might think of a woodchuck vs. groundhog article as a comparison piece, but the truth is that they are both the same animal.

Even though the Woodchuck-Groundhog debate has been happening for a long time, their only difference is in their etymology. Brown fur, a spherical body, and a tiny bushy tail characterize the groundhog.

It has small, circular eyes and ears on the top of a flat head and short, powerful legs with curled claws for digging burrows.

It even has two long and large incisors that are constantly expanding. Some of its predators are animals like coyotes, hawks, dogs, and more.

The creatures are now often referred to as groundhogs in the United States. Despite this, they are known as woodchucks in British English.

Whistle pig and land beaver are two additional frequent names for groundhogs. The 'whistle pig' name was given from its peculiar calling sound, which sounds like a loud whistle, while land-beaver refers to its environment and behavior.

Planning for the hibernation period entails loading up on food supplies for groundhogs. Groundhogs may spend a lot of time chewing their route and can burrow through your yard over the summer and autumn seasons.

Their burrows and some tendencies can create significant difficulties with soil stability, as the holes can cause problems. Groundhogs eat vegetables, grasses, fruit, and tree bark as herbivores.

While excavating a burrow, the groundhog digs and can burrow many feet deep inside before slanting the tunnel upwards for a few feet. Afterward, horizontal digging will take place for 15-25 ft (4.5-7.6 m).

Up to three side entrances are constructed from the primary tunnel, each heading to a different region. The animal wakes from hibernation every year on February 2, Groundhog Day, and if it observes its shadow, wintertime will linger six additional weeks, as per common folklore in the United States.

The woodchucks are slightly dangerous rodents, as they are pretty aggressive. They can cause considerable damage to your beloved garden because they dig away or burrow into the ground.

Because of this, it is not a good idea to have them in your yard or garden. A funny thing about woodchucks is that they don't have anything to do with either wood or chucking!

To learn more about this animal that digs burrows, keep reading! You can also check out groundhog vs.gopher and Indian Giant Flying Squirrel.

Are they part of the squirrel family?

Squirrels are related to woodchucks. A Marmot often called groundhogs or Marmota monax, is a kind of rodent strongly linked to squirrels, giant ground squirrels, to be precise. The groundhog is a species of the family of squirrels, Sciuridae, under the order Rodentia, and is categorized as a Marmot.

The gopher is a creature that is frequently mistaken for a groundhog. The gopher and groundhog are commonly mistaken since they are both tiny brown digging rodents. Although they have similarities, groundhogs and gophers are pretty different.

Gophers and groundhogs or woodchucks are two distinct types of rodents, despite their resemblance. Woodchucks are substantially larger than gophers as well.

Large animals like foxes and bobcats are often predators to such creatures.

When do they go for hibernation?

These animals are characterized as real hibernators. They go into an inactive condition between late autumn to late winter or the beginning of spring, in which their body temperature and heart rate drop drastically. Groundhogs remain to live up until the first real frost of the winter, which is usually around mid - October.

Usually, the animals start to hibernate by crawling deep into their burrows in the ground. This hibernation period can last until the climate heat up, which generally occurs in February or March. While some may hibernate for up to five months, depending on the weather in the location, others only hibernate for two to three months.

A woodchuck's body generates a chemical that helps lead the creature into hibernation until the climate improves and the days start to get lengthier. When the days decrease, temperatures fall, and vegetation starts to deteriorate, they go inactive for the season.

What is their diet?

Woodchucks are herbivores who eat various plants for food, such as those found in people's yards. However, they can devour bugs like grubs, various insects, and snails, which are considered pests.

Additionally, other tiny creatures in the wood, like baby birds, have been eaten by them. A lush yard with many a tree is a groundhog's dream come true. Ferns are also a favorite food of theirs to eat. Groundhogs may devour a lot of vegetation in the spring and summer.

The woodchuck or the marmots feed in specific patterns that change with the seasons. Groundhogs feed in the mid-afternoon in the spring and autumn. During the summertime, they graze in gardens in the mornings and late evenings. A herbivore, the woodchuck prefers sensitive vegetation over rough bark and trees. Hardwood is not something they usually consume.

Are they dangerous?

A woodchuck rarely attacks people. They may still strike if they feel intimidated or if they believe their infants are at risk. There have been a few reports of groundhogs attacking humans, but no significant injuries have been documented.

The woodchuck or the marmots are thought to be a wild pest due to their eating and carrying behaviors, which may create severe damage to gardens, farms, orchards, and horticulture. Several studies have discovered that several marmot species have been described to be hostile and occasionally hazardous.

The groundhog or the woodchuck is a fascinating animal, and no matter what you like to call them, its facts and characteristics are fascinating. Its eating habits and hibernation patterns are very amazing to study and observe.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for the article on the groundhog vs. woodchuck, then why not take a look at flemish giant rabbit lifespan or Hairy-Tailed Mole.

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Written by Rajnandini Roychoudhury

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English, Master of Arts specializing in English

Rajnandini Roychoudhury picture

Rajnandini RoychoudhuryBachelor of Arts specializing in English, Master of Arts specializing in English

With a Master of Arts in English, Rajnandini has pursued her passion for the arts and has become an experienced content writer. She has worked with companies such as Writer's Zone and has had her writing skills recognized by publications such as The Telegraph. Rajnandini is also trilingual and enjoys various hobbies such as music, movies, travel, philanthropy, writing her blog, and reading classic British literature. 

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Fact-checked by Shruti Thapa

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English

Shruti Thapa picture

Shruti ThapaBachelor of Arts specializing in English

With a passion for American, British, and children's literature, Shruti is currently pursuing a Bachelor's degree at Garden City University, Bengaluru. Her fluency in Nepali, Hindi, and Mandarin demonstrates her linguistic abilities and global perspective. In addition to her literary pursuits, she has a keen interest in non-fiction literature, aesthetics, early childhood education, and Egyptian history. Shruti's research paper 'Bringing Art Illustrations In Education And Pop Culture' showcases her proficiency in these areas and her dedication to academic excellence.

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