The woodchuck, or groundhog (Marmota monax), is a species of marmot found in the eastern United States and Canada. Despite their name, they do not chuck on wood. The name “woodchuck” comes from the Algonquin Indian word ochak.
Woodchucks are the largest members of the squirrel family in their geographical range, weighing 7-11 pounds. They have dense underfur, slightly obscured by longer guard hairs. They are adaptive for digging with their short powerful limbs and thick claws. They have an annual molt that lasts throughout the summer.
Woodchucks inhabit grasslands, wood logs, brushy fence lines, and forest edges. They inhabit burrows where they sleep, rear young, and hibernate. They rely on body fat, survive the winter during hibernation, which usually lasts from October to March. They are mainly herbivorous, eating grasses, vegetation, and berries. They may occasionally also eat invertebrates.
The woodchuck breeds in April, soon after emerging from hibernation. After a month gestation, a female gives birth to an average of 3-5 young. At six weeks of age, they are weaned, and able to breed at 2 years.
The woodchuck is listed as least concern, due to its steady population levels and wide range. They are relatively common within their range.