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Facts about the Groundhog

Family:  Sciuridae
Length:  44 to 65 cm including the tail
Weight:  2.3 to 5.4 kg
Life span:  4 to 6 years in the wild and 8 to 10 years in captivity

  • Excellent eyesight.
  • Excellent hearing.
  • Legs are short and stocky.  Forepaws are equipped with long claws ideal for digging.
  • Dense and woolly pelage can vary from tawny to dark brown.  The stomach fur is lighter in colour. 
  • Tail is quite short and not very thick.

MarmotteThe Groundhog (Marmota monax) is a member of the rodent family known as Sciuridae which also includes the squirrel.  The 5 species of marmots in North America occur throughout most of Canada as well as Eastern and Central United States.

The Groundhog is always very careful before emerging from its den.  Robust and plump, it is the largest rodent in North America after the beaver and the porcupine.  It climbs and swims with ease but can’t run much faster than 17 km/h.

Marks its habitat

The groundhog prefers rolling land that is well-drained and located near woodlots, such as prairies, pastures, cultivated fields and brushwood.   It marks its territory with a ‘musky’ odour that it secretes.  Its range extends over a diameter of about a hundred metres.  When groundhogs abandon their dens, these are then taken over by several other species of mammals. A network of paths links its den to the areas where it forages for food.

Little whistlers

Born blind and naked, baby groundhogs remain in the den for the first four weeks.  The mother nurses them and feeds them fresh grass.  They are weaned when they are about 6 weeks old.  They leave their mother’s den when they are 3 months old and are fully grown by the time they are 2 years old.  Groundhogs are also called woodchucks and whistlers.

The den

The den has a main entrance and several ‘plunge holes’.  It is located at a depth of 120 to 150 cm.  Well-padded with dry grasses, it consists of at least two chambers:  a nesting chamber and an area for waste and garbage.  The groundhog also has a winter den which it burrows deeper in the ground for protection from the frost.

A hearty appetite

MarmotteThe groundhog is an herbivore and feeds primarily on wild vegetation.  It will on occasion eat insects and baby birds.  They love to feast on cultivated fruits and vegetables, and they can wreak havoc in a farmer’s field or a vegetable garden. Instead of storing food, the groundhog stuffs itself to survive the winter without eating.

At the least sign of danger, the Groundhog will emit a series of short shrill whistles to alert other groundhogs in the area.  Because of these calls, groundhogs are also called «whistlers».

Groundhogs are easy to trap.  Their main predators are lynx, coyote and fox.  People also hunt them for their meat. When attacked, groundhogs are relentless in defending themselves.



In spring, following a lengthy period of hibernation, the Groundhog emerges from its den.  Although it is starving, it can only find bark and twigs to feed on until the snow melts to reveal green vegetation. 

Spring is mating time for groundhogs.  2 males will often fight fiercely over the same female. A single male can breed with several females.  Males live alone during the rest of the year.

After a month-long gestation period, the female gives birth to a litter of 4 to 6 babies on average.  Blind and naked, the newborns are about 10 cm long and weigh 25 to 30 g. The female only has one litter a year.  She brings up her young on her own.


During the summer, the Groundhog likes to loll about in the sun when taking a break from its main activity:nbsp; the upkeep of its den.  Although curious by nature, it stays close to its den to be able to dive into it whenever it hears a suspicious sound. 

The young grow very quickly.  By the time they are 2 months old, they weigh 20 to 30 times more than they did at birth.  By the end of the summer, the young are left to fend for themselves and move into their own dens.  Some females, however, will spend the first winter with their mother. 


By the beginning of fall, the Groundhog continues stuffing itself with food to build up its fat supply for the winter.  This is the time when it is fattest and its fur is at its most beautiful. 

It leaves its summer den and begins preparing a winter den.  At the first sign of frost, it retreats underground where it burrows during the cold season.  Once inside, it seals the accesses to its den with sod and grasses.  By mid-October, most groundhogs are already in a state of hibernation.


The groundhog is one of the rare mammals living in the northern regions of the Americas to truly hibernate.  In winter, it could pass for dead because its body temperature is so low and its breathing is dead slow. The heart beat drops from 80 to a mere 4 or 5 beats per minute and the body temperature sinks to 4.5 o C. The groundhog rolls up in a ball and sleeps with its head tucked between its hind legs.

Following a deep sleep lasting four to five months, it emerges from its torpor having lost 30% of its body weight. 

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Par bilel, 2017-02-13, 12h28

sa m'aide beaucoup se genre de truc car j'ai fais 1 exposer sur les marmottes commune j'ai chercher partout j'ai trouver que celui là merci beaucoup pour vos texte sur les marmottes commune


Par BARB, 2016-10-28, 12h28

After the wood chuck is gone permanently is it possible for you lawn to dip in as saturated water closes up the burrows? Would appear like a sinking lawn as ia "sink hole".

marmotte de l'aide

Par oliva faucher, 2015-05-24, 12h28

j'ai trouvé une petite marmotte qui n'a pas encore les yeux ouvert , quand je l'ai trouvé elle etait presque morte, avec quoi je la nourri a part du lait quel bois tres bien . Réponse d'Humanima : Il serait mieux de la confier à un refuge pour animaux sauvages blessés. Ils pourront la soigner.


Par Kubina, 2014-10-09, 12h28

Hi groundhog who made its burrow under our shed three weeks ago I left some carrots for it and they were gone we don't know if it's a male or a female and so I went and bought more carrots and I put them out there and it's been three weeks since the groundhog has not taken them I haven't seen the groundhog I used to see next-door eating the apples etc. We haven't seen it does that mean it's left its den. I would like to fill in the hole but don't want to trap the poor thing, and I don't want any skunks or rats to come either.

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