Woodchuck vs. Groundhog: What’s the Difference?
More than seven million species of animals inhabit the earth with only twelve percent are properly known to man. With such an abundance of life forms on earth, people tend to confuse certain animals. Some of them look similar.
People often confuse animals with other animals, for example, turtle and tortoise, alligator and crocodile, jaguar and leopard to name a few. One more animal who is often confused because of its name is Groundhog.
This article will help you to clear all such confusions regarding Woodchuck and Groundhog.
Are Woodchuck and Groundhog the same?
Yes, Woodchuck and Groundhog are the same animals with different names. Groundhogs are commonly known as Woodchucks. Their scientific name is Marmota Monax. They are known by many names such as whistle pig, land beaver, chuck, woodshock, whistle pig, whistler, thick wood, groundpig, thick wood badger, Canada marmot, etc.
Although they are often called woodchucks they didn’t get their name from chucking wood, it comes from a Native American name. The Algonquian or Narragansett people called it the wuchak. Groundhog or some people may know them by the name Woodchuck belong to a group of animals called rodents. Other kinds of rodents include squirrels, hamsters and also rats and mice.
How to identify Groundhogs
Groundhogs live in North America and are mammals. Baby groundhogs are called Pups and young groundhogs are called Chucklings.The groundhog looks like a squirrel but is much heavier than a normal squirrel.
They have coarse bristly like fur that tends to shed dirt when they are digging a burrow. They have valvular nostrils and ears to close their nose and ears while digging; hence dirt can’t enter their nose and ears. They have strong and curved claws for burrowing.
The front legs are short and powerful. The tails of groundhog are much smaller and rounded. It has a curved spine for better movement in the burrows.
They are primarily herbivores, meaning they only like to eat plant-based food like grasses, berries, and nuts but they also eat small grubs and snails when they are hungry. All rodents have a pair of sharp front teeth called incisors. Rodents like the groundhog have short incisors that keep growing.
Groundhog or Woodchuck chew or gnaw on things like sticks and trees this wears their teeth and keeps their teeth nice and short. It a common notion that Woodchuck or Groundhog eats wood but it’s just grinding down its front teeth.
Groundhogs can grow up to fifty centimeters long. Their weight varies throughout the year, ranging from five pounds in early spring to fourteen pounds. Groundhogs live in long underground tunnels called burrows. Groundhogs can dig burrows up to twenty meters long. There are several sections are dedicated to sleeping while some section leads to the toilet.
Burrows are also used for hibernation. Hibernation is a deep sleep that some animals settle to make it through the winter. When Groundhog hibernates their heart rate slows down from about eighty beats a minute to five beats a minute and it’s body temperature changes from thirty-seven-degree Celsius to five-degree Celsius.
To prepare for their long hibernation Groundhogs spend most of their time eating as much as they can. This helps them build up a lot of fat in their bodies; they can use this fat for energy while they hibernate.
Every February Second, Groundhog Day is celebrated in the United States. Legend says if a groundhog sees its own shadow he gets scared and gets back in his burrow meaning three more weeks of winter is coming. Punxsutawney Phil is the most famous groundhog who lives in Pennsylvania. People come from various places to see a groundhog predicting the spring.
As if having a holiday named after them wasn’t enough, they even have their tongue twister.
Groundhogs are fascinating creatures and are not on the list of least concern of extinction, but sometimes are considered a pest due to their digging activities that damage gardens and farms.