The science of...groundhogs?

Groundhog: A groundhog in a field.

OK, now that we've beaten Groundhog Day into the ground, what about the furry animal that gives the holiday its name?

First of all, groundhogs go by many names. They are also known as ground squirrels, woodchucks, whistle hogs, squeavers and marmots. Their scientific name is Marmot monax.

They are members of the squirrel family that dig holes underground (hence the name "ground squirrel"). In the spring they build dens about 2 to 4 feet deep in grassy areas, often under buildings for protection. The dens may have several chambers. In the fall, they move to dry, wooded areas and dig another den to hibernate in.

Groundhogs generally hibernate from late September or October until March, sometimes April. It would be very unusual for a groundhog to be up and about in early February!

Groundhogs eat wild plants like grass, clover and leaves. They also munch on fruits, vegetables and berries, if they are available. Bears, wolves, foxes, bobcats and other hunters will catch and eat groundhogs.

An adult groundhog can grow up to one-and-a-half to two-feet long, and weigh around 10 pounds. They live to be 8 to 10 years old.

Though cute, groundhogs do not make very good pets. They sleep half the year, and the other half they want to dig. It's best to leave them in the wild.

For more information on groundhogs, you can check out this Wikipedia entry, this page from the Missouri Department of Conservation, or this fun site dedicated to groundhogs. (Check out Groundhog 101 for the basic facts.)

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I have a groundhog in my yard. He appeared last Fall and ate seeds under my birdfeeder (I think). I also have huge rocks near the feeders that I plant annuals around each summer. I am worried now he is up, after hibernating all winter, that he will eat my annuals after I plant them next month. Does anyone know if they eat plants like annuals? He is rather cute but I don't want him to become a problem. I don't have a vegetable garden so that won't be a problem.

posted on Mon, 04/10/2006 - 7:02am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Awwwwwwwwww, that's so cute! I wish i could have one.

posted on Mon, 04/10/2006 - 9:38am
Liza's picture
Liza says:
Kens_nemesisHe ate up as many tomatoes as I did last summer.

This fat and sassy guy (fuzzy, because the photo was taken through my bedroom window screen) has become my husband's nemesis. He lives under an outbuilding in our back yard, and he's got tunnels all over the place. He likes to hang out and eat vegetables in our garden, just as bold as you please. We think he's taunting us. We called St. Paul Animal Control, and they came with a trap, but we laughed when we saw it. He's a behemoth! He's huge! And that trap was SO small. They never got him, and he's still out there...

posted on Mon, 02/06/2006 - 10:04am
Liza's picture
Liza says:

Generally speaking, groundhogs would rather not eat flowers. When other foods are scarce, they will eat some grasses, leaves, or flowers, but they'd much rather eat vegetables.

posted on Wed, 04/12/2006 - 10:44am
michelle's picture
michelle says:

I saw my very first groundhog, on the afternoon of 5/26/07; and I must say it is such an interesting creature, and very cute. My dog actually kept on barking at it not knowing what it was, I went outside to investigate the cause of the barking, and I saw this small creature that looked absolutely pertified(what animal wouldn't be with my dog's big mouth); I immediately was able to get her into the house, with a lot of resistance on her part, the poor creature just continued to lay in the tall grass trying to stay camoflauged, and then, moved further down the fence line into my neighbors yard, so, I went back into the house and left it alone and it just vanished somewhere onto the property of my neighbors yard. But, what an experience I had with that adorable creature. My 3 cats were equally as curious as to what all of the commotion and fuss was over this furry invader of "their" yard, my one cat(Maggie) who fears absolutely nothing, took a swipe of it with her foot and the claws were extended, and the critter immediately turned around and let Maggie know that it did not like that action shown towards it, and Maggie immediately took off! I have lived in my home for 12 years and have never seen one of these; what exactly is their story and what do they do, and why are they so misunderstood?

posted on Sun, 05/27/2007 - 8:28am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

'Smith Lake Jake" groundhog to the south, is just too cute . He wears a hat for each month of the year, and he is the second most famous groundhog in the world, with Punxsutawney PHIL being number 1

posted on Wed, 12/19/2007 - 11:57am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

when is the best time to look for them to come out cause we have 1 in our backyard and were trying to get rid of it?.....please help!!!

posted on Tue, 04/22/2008 - 8:13am
Liza's picture
Liza says:

Groundhogs are diurnal--they're active during the day.

St. Paul animal control will lend or rent you a Havahart live trap, which you can bait (groundhogs are partial to broccoli -- who knew?), catch your intruder, and have animal control come pick up. (Take up the trap at night; if you don't, you run the risk of trapping skunks, opossums, raccoons, or your neighbor's cats.)

At least, that's the theory. In our case, the groundhog was WAY too big for the trap, and way too smart, anyway.

posted on Tue, 04/22/2008 - 8:58am
ARTiFactor's picture
ARTiFactor says:

I, too, have one of these critters hanging out in my back yard. Over at the Japanese Garden at Como Park we co-existed with one for many years, but a couple of years ago they multiplied. Groundhogs can eat a lot. The zoo people used apples for bait - caught about four.

posted on Tue, 04/22/2008 - 1:28pm
Aley's picture
Aley says:

I had one living under my porch for some time we were desperatley trying to trap it but she was huige one day i found her laying in my yard aparently my dogs had gotten a hold of her the next day i found my dog sniffing at another one only this one was a baby they had also caught i am keeping my dogs in but i can't do this for much longer how do i catvh the rest of the babies what are thet attracted too?

posted on Sun, 05/04/2008 - 10:34am
Gene's picture
Gene says:

Your best bet is probably to call an animal control outfit.

posted on Tue, 05/06/2008 - 11:53am
Liza's picture
Liza says:

Animal Control for your city or county might be willing to do the trapping and releasing/disposal for you. That's the recommended route, if it's available to you.

If not, you can use a Havahart trap baited with apples or broccoli. (That's what St. Paul Animal Control told me, anyway.) But once you've caught the little critters, what will you do with them? Is there a Wildlife Rehabilitation Center near you? You can't just release the wee groundhogs somewhere else...

posted on Tue, 05/06/2008 - 12:01pm
JulieCampi's picture
JulieCampi says:

We live next to a wooded area, and have a problem with groundhogs. They've already eaten one of my new knockout roses, a small yellow daisy perrenial, interestingly, it's avoided salvia, and so far a hydrangea. We hired a trapper and set up 6 traps in the woods, hopefully we'll catch them before my entire landscape is mowed down by these varmints. I don't think thier cute at all. Thier costing me too much money!!

posted on Thu, 05/08/2008 - 7:22pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

My husband just purchased for me this weekend three knockout roses, the red and pink were different than the yellow which has shinny leaves. They were all there this morning when we watered them and when we came home the yellow one was gone completely! We found where I'm sure a groundhog is now living under our shed, do you think he is just wanting the one or will the others disappear? Never had this sort of thing happen. We were about to punish our Doberman puppy until we found the hole under the shed without a trace of the rose bush. Any insite would be great!!

posted on Tue, 06/02/2009 - 6:21pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Just a warning. If you call animal control chances are they will kill the groundhog if trapped. We have one in our yard w/babies now and I am worried about my neighbors seeing them as a 'problem'. I have grown to adore her..and her babies have provided great excitement in our yard.

I hope everyone has a 'live and let live' mentality where I live cuz we are gonna have problems if I find anyone trying to catch /harm or shoot them. :-(

posted on Wed, 05/28/2008 - 9:34am
San Jose landscaping's picture

My girlfriend would be crazy to see your website to be honest. She is a pet lover and she's playing this game called World of Warcraft and you can buy pets in it but it's quite hard to do it...but she does not care about how expansive a pet is and he brought all the found so far.

posted on Fri, 09/25/2009 - 7:47pm
farmer's picture
farmer says:

Best bet for ridding your yard of a groundhog is a double-sided live-trap: two spring-loaded doors at either end. Place the trap in a "run" near a burrow entrance. Groundhogs do not like to move in the open if avoidable, so they make paths through any shelter they can find when approaching and leaving a den. You can encourage this by making cover for them, like leaning a large piece of wood against a wall. Place the trap on a pathway, no need for baiting it. The groundhog will accept the trap as just more cover, and will attempt to move through it rather than around it. You may need to encourage this with a bit of funnelling with a strategically placed old tire or piles of yard waste.
Once caught, relocations are said to have a poor survival rate, and are unlawful in some areas. Too short a relocation will certainly result in a "Hi honey I'm home!" outcome as pressure from other groundhogs will cause them to attempt a return to your yard. Best bet is to have animal control pick them up.

posted on Sat, 06/12/2010 - 8:45pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I never knew these things could be vicious. My dogs were going crazy tonight and I went out back and there was one hanging off the face of one of my dogs. I don't believe in killing animals but I just paid $500 to have my dog's face stitched and get antibiotics. These people in here that are saying that these things are "cute", BEWARE. They are mean.

posted on Mon, 07/05/2010 - 6:37pm
culler's picture
culler says:

Hi.They are not mean ,They are a wild animal that was probably attacked by your dog.My dogs chase these annoying animals all the time.I am always trying to get one in my sights with my compound bow.They are destroying my garden.I respect them and at the same time I will not tolerate them stealing my family veggies.I tried traps,feeding them away from garden,with no success.I will not poison because I think that is a slow nasty death.So I use my bow and give them to a friend who loves to eat them.I guess they are better than rabbit.
So he says.They are in the squirrel family and get very nasty when confronted.

posted on Fri, 07/09/2010 - 6:22pm
mar's picture
mar says:

Well, my "pet" groundhog has lived in my yard for 2 years now. Last year she learned to come to my back door for carrots, lettuce and bannas we leave for . She came back this year with a baby. As of oct 1st i haven't seen either . Guess its time to go to sleep for the winter(i hope shes ok) have a good nap,see you in the spring

posted on Fri, 10/01/2010 - 9:12am
Evan 's picture
Evan says:

do groundhogs like peas? we have 2 grounhogs that i always see by our garden thay never go in the garden but i see them in the yard beside the garden.do you think thay will be a problem?

posted on Wed, 05/11/2011 - 8:09am
Jerry's picture
Jerry says:

The best thing to get them out of your garden or yard is, a dog! My dog kills them every chance she gets. Get a hunting dog, they love it.

posted on Tue, 05/17/2011 - 7:11pm
Emilie's picture
Emilie says:

Jerry, that's just not normal. If you love your own pet animal, why do you let it kill other animals? Dogs like that get put down where I live.

posted on Fri, 09/21/2012 - 4:17pm

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