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About Groundhogs

For immediate release ‐February 01, 2021

Contact:Jon Pishney, 919.707.8083. Images easily accessible upon request

By Lisa J. Gatens, arsenal Manager, Mammalogy

There’s miscellaneous squirrely about groundhogs. They room squirrels, and also sometimes exhibit squirrely behavior. Groundhogs room the largest members of the Sciuridae, or the squirrel family. You space likely familiar with at the very least some various other members the this household in phibìc Carolina: the northern flying squirrel, southerly flying squirrel, red squirrel, east gray squirrel, fox squirrel, or eastern chipmunk. Members the the Sciuridae deserve to be found on all continents except Australia and also Antarctica yet are missing on numerous islands about the world. They display a great range in size and also color patterns as well as habits and also habitats.

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We have the right to divide squirrels by their periods of task into nocturnal squirrels, i m sorry are active at night (like flying squirrels), and diurnal squirrels, i m sorry go around their organization during daylight hours. We can additionally consider whether they invest most of your time in trees or on the ground. Any type of squirrel may spend some time in either tree or ~ above the ground, however chipmunks and groundhogs space the only North Carolina types we consider to be ground squirrels. Squirrels frequently have large eyes and a long, bushy tail. The an ext time that varieties of squirrels spend in trees, the longer and bushier their tails are. The squirrel that is the emphasis of this post has the shortest (relative to in its entirety length) and also least bushy tail of all North Carolina sciurids, the groundhog.


Groundhogs come in miscellaneous shades the brown, gray, or cinnamon. Long, dark safety hairs have actually white tips and give an all at once grizzled figure to your fur. Their tails room well furred, and also are around ¼ the the human body length. They have short, rounded ears, black color noses and black feet. Though they make themselves look larger when was standing on their hind feet, which they carry out often, they room only around the size of a housecat. Females might be a tiny larger than males and weigh as much as 13 pounds.

Our biggest squirrel is well-known by several names including whistle pig, woodchuck and also land beaver. Ns don’t recognize where the name groundhog come from, except that castle are rather chunky and also use secret burrows. The other most often-used usual name because that this pet — woodchuck — likely has Native American origins. Wuchak, wejack or otcheck space names used by indigenous peoples because that the groundhog. The Latin name, Marmota monax, has actually origins in indigenous American languages v monax an interpretation “digger.” The rarer and whimsical name, “whistle pig,” is easy enough to decipher. Groundhogs will certainly emit high-pitched alert calls when they perceive danger. While I’ve never heard anyone describe groundhogs as land beavers, this name additionally has an origin that’s pretty basic to guess. They perform superficially resemble beavers, despite are substantially smaller and also lack the paddle tail, of course. Interesting way enough, groundhogs are an excellent swimmers and also can either take to the water or climb trees come escape predators.


Groundhogs use different dens throughout the summer and also winter. Summer dens are frequently quite huge and have actually multiple openings. This burrows room situated near foraging areas, and also foraging areas are regularly along ecotones, or edges of woods and also fields. Leaf habitat is important for a variety of species as it typically offers both foraging opportunities and cover. Groundhogs largely eat herbaceous plants: grasses, clover, dandelion, and also of course, garden vegetables. They may likewise consume insects, snails, eggs, and also buds that woody plants.

Females provide birth in the feather to four to 6 blind and also naked young. Young flourish quickly and also can begin to eat eco-friendly vegetation lugged into the burrow by the mom at about four mainly of age. Quickly after, they can start to leave the burrow to forage on their own. Since they are not society animals, the young execute not communicate in play, but automatically begin to exhibition adult habits of digging and burrowing – skills that will serve them once they space on their very own in mid-summer.


The summer dens are preserved clean, with loosened soil being brushed up out to the surface. Adults and also young alike bury their feces, one of two people in a discreet place within the burrow device or just exterior an opening. By the end of summer, each groundhog will rise its weight by 1/3. Shortening days cause the onset of hibernation. A chemistry which circulates in their blood signal a fall in interior temperature come just above freezing and a rapid decrease in heartrate. In fact, blood serum taken from a hibernating groundhog can initiate hibernation the end of season once injected into the same individual within three days the injection.

Winter dens space small, have a solitary opening, and also are created in an ext protected locations like woods or brushy areas. Their just purpose is to administer a safe sanctuary for one individual during hibernation. Hibernation lasts 3 or 4 months, or maybe less in ours Piedmont and coastal Plain groundhogs. Males typically emerge prior to females to create their are in ready for feather mating. They commonly do not continue to be out after that initial emergence but return to their den once temperatures space not favorable. It is this habits that is thought to it is in behind the Groundhog job tradition.

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When Europeans first arrived in this country, groundhogs were not so common. But, as woodlands were cleared and also roads to be established, that an important edge habitat enabled for a variety expansion and for populaces to flourish. Their selection expansion in phibìc Carolina is clearly displayed in this map.


Groundhogs room solitary animals, despite a big field may organize dens of several individuals. Males and females just share a den throughout mating season and males are evicted before young are born. They room territorial and also rely greatly on sight, sound and smell. As soon as standing on your hind foot they space watching, surveying your surroundings – vigilant. The high-pitched horn is a warning cry to others that risk is near. And they usage scent markings to establish and maintain territories. One definition I found for words “squirrely” is “nervous, hyper-concerned, protective…,” and also most meanings pointed come nervous or anxious behavior. Vigilance can make a groundhog it seems ~ squirrely, i think. I hope you’ve appreciated reading around our biggest squirrel!

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