Groundhogs

Marmota monax
At-a-Glance

• Mating: Polygamous

• Breeding period: March – May with the peak in April

• Gestation: 31-32 days

• Birth Period: April – early June peak in May

• Litters per year: 1

• Litter size: 2-7, average of 4-5

• Eyes of young open: 4 weeks

• Young leave nest: 9-11 weeks

• Young weaned: at 6 weeks

• Breeding age: 1 year

• Food: Grasses, clover, alfalfa, soybeans, peas, lettuce, apples, but rarely animal matter such as snails and insects

Description

The head of a woodchuck 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 woodchuck’s incisors are white to ivory white.

Habitat and Habits

Woodchucks live in open grasslands, pastures, and woodlands where it is easy to see predators such as man, hawks, or coyotes coming. Woodchucks prefer sandy, gravely soil perhaps because it is easier to dig in. Burrows can be located in forested areas, along heavy fencerow brush, or along undisturbed stream banks. The entrance to the burrow usually has a large mound of dirt around it. It is usually forked with more than one entrance and several passages or rooms. Some burrows have had over 45 feet on tunnels going five feet beneath the surface. The rooms or chambers of a burrow are used for different purposes. There are usually sleeping, nesting, and excrement chambers.

Reproduction and Care of the Young

Immediately after coming out of hibernation the male seeks a mate. After mating with one female, the male will usually search for other females to copulate with. Some males will stay at the burrow site until the female drives him off shortly before she gives birth to her young.

The naked, pink, and helpless newborn groundhogs weigh about 1.5 ounces. In the following few weeks the young will grow rapidly. By midsummer the den will be overcrowded and the female will drive the young off into nearby burrows, but she will continue to care for them. She will guide them in their development until they leave the territory to create territories of their own.

Comments are closed.