THE GROUNDHOG

Marmota monax

Groundhog in Ontario largest member of the squirrel family

The rodent known as the Groundhog or la Marmotte, is known in other parts of North America as the Woodchuck, and is a rodent of the family Sciuridae, and belongs to the group of ground dwelling Squirrels known as Marmots.

They are widely distributed in North America and common in the Northeastern and Central United States.

When I saw my first Groundhog after I arrived here from England, I was surprised to see that they resemble a large Guinea Pig with a tail, or perhaps a Beaver. I thought they were cute creatures and I still enjoy watching them as they wander about the field where we live in the summer time.

These creatures typically measure between 40 to 65 cm (17 to 26 in) long including the tail, and can weigh between 2 to 4 kg (4.5 to 9 pounds).

In areas with fewer natural predators and large quantities of alfalfa, they can grow to 80 cm (32 in) and 14 kg (30 lb) and they are well adapted for digging, with short but powerful limbs and curved, thick claws.

Their lifespan is typically from two to three years, but they can live up to six years in the wild.

young groundhog with long grass, Ontario

There is a tradition which says that Groundhogs can predict the weather! In Ontario, the job goes to Wiarton Willie who if, after he has been disturbed from his deep winter hibernation, sees his shadow on February 2nd, predicts that there will be six more weeks of Winter! Really? In Canada!

If, on the other hand, "Wiarton Willie" does NOT see his shadow, tradition says that Spring will come early.

In captivity, these little creatures may live longer than usual, and one famous albino "Wiarton Willie", one of a long line, was said to have been 22 years old when he died during hibernation in the winter of 1998-99!

In the wild, some of the common predators in Southern Ontario are Wolves and Coyotes, Foxes, large Hawks, and Owls, and their babies are often at risk from snakes, which easily enter their burrow and eat the young.

Being herbivores, they primarily eat wild grasses and other vegetation, and berries and farm crops when available.

Last summer, a family of Ground-hogs moved into our vegetable garden - they ate all the tomatoes , the green beans, strawberries and most of everything else. This year I need to figure out how to deter them without hurting them - is there a way to discourage them from sticking around? If you know of a way, please let me know by using our "Contact Us" form.

However, they also occasionally eat grubs, grasshoppers, insects, snails and other small animals, but are not generally omnivorous.

In the video below, you can see clear footage of Groundhogs, courtesy of Youtube - I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Groundhog Info ...

Hog Haven - Groundhog website
View photos and videos, listen to recordings - check out this great website if you want to learn about these interesting animals

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