The head of a woodchuck (groundhog) is broad and flat with small ears and eyes. The coarse fur is usually grizzled grayish brown with a reddish cast. The legs and feet are typically dark brown to black colored and are well suited for digging. Unlike the dark yellow colored incisors of other rodents, the groundhog’s incisors are white to ivory white. Groundhogs must put on a thick layer of fat to survive their hibernation through the winter months. In the early fall, groundhogs begin to ready themselves for hibernation by spending most of their time eating. Hibernation comes to an end as the first warm days of spring arrive. This is when the groundhog will see, or not see, its shadow (according to legend)!
Learn More: ODNR Species Guide Index
Groundhogs often come into conflict with humans when the animal’s burrowing damages building foundation, gardens, fruit trees or ornamental shrubs/grasses. The groundhog’s preferred diet consists of grasses, clover, legumes, peas, lettuce and apples.
The most common locations for burrows are along fence rows, creeks, stone walls, roadsides, building foundations and bases of trees. Burrows have more than one entry point and several passages and rooms. A burrow may be from one foot to twelve feet long with a main entrance point of 10 to 12 inches in diameter. Groundhogs use their burrows for hibernating in winter, mating in spring, and raising their young until they are ready to leave the nest. Other animals such as rabbits, skunks, opossums and foxes may use the burrows as well.
Groundhogs are also good climbers and can climb fences and trees. Placing fences along the bottoms of buildings and around gardens will help deter the groundhogs. Fences should be at least three feet high, and made of heavy, two-inch woven wire. Because of the animals’ burrowing and climbing abilities the bottom edge of the fence should be buried 10 to 12 inches and the top 15 inches should be bent at a 45 degree angle.
The famous groundhog Punxsutawney Phil has been predicting the weather since 1887. The theory is, if Phil sees his shadow, we will have six more weeks of winter. Weather records don’t go back quite that far, but since records have been kept, Phil has predicted the spring weather accurately only about 36% of the time.
Barbara Ray | Nature Education Coordinator | City of Dublin
614.410.4730 | firstname.lastname@example.org