Posted September 9, 2020
Written by Kyla Isakson
Woodchucks (Marmota monax), also known as groundhogs, are a member of the burrowing ground squirrel family. They are found mostly in the eastern U.S. with abundant populations in Massachusetts, except for on Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. Woodchucks are generalist herbivores, meaning that they feed on what is available, including clover, grasses, and chickweeds. Their teeth continually grow, and they are worn down while feeding. Woodchucks are diurnal animals, and they are most active mid-morning and late afternoon.
Woodchucks’ weight fluctuates depending on the season. In the winter, before hibernation, woodchucks can weigh up to 14 pounds, and after hibernation in the early spring, they can weigh as little as 5 pounds. During hibernation, from October to March, woodchucks can drop their body temperature from 99°F to 40°F. They also drop their heart rate from 100 beats per minute (bpm) to just 4bpm. Shortly after emerging from hibernation, woodchucks will mate in March and April. About one month later, females will give birth to 3 to 5 pups, which will leave the burrow 6 month after birth.
Woodchucks climb trees and burrow along woodland edges. They have also been found burrowing under sheds and porches. For more information and tips on how to handle woodchucks on your property, visit https://www.mass.gov/service-details/learn-about-woodchucks or https://www.massaudubon.org/learn/nature-wildlife/mammals/woodchucks-groundhogs/about