Groundhog vs Woodchuck: What’s the Difference?

Written by August Buck
Published: February 9, 2022
Image Credit iStock.com/Jean Landry
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You may be wondering what the difference is between a groundhog vs woodchuck. Given that their names are so different, it is only natural to assume that they are different animals. However, groundhogs and woodchucks are the same animal. They are named differently depending on the region, and these animals are found throughout North America and beyond.

In this article, we will discuss some key facts about groundhogs, including their species classification to prove that they are indeed known as both groundhogs and woodchucks. We will also discuss some of these creature’s habits, including their unique ability to hibernate. Let’s get started! 

groundhog vs woodchuck
A woodchuck or groundhog is known as Marmota monax.

iStock.com/mirecca

Woodchuck Species Classification and Names

A woodchuck vs groundhog is known as Marmota monax, member of the marmot family. Marmots are essentially very large squirrels in many ways, capable of reaching over 10 pounds. The same could be said for groundhogs as well, as these rodents do tend to get fairly large. 

This species classification goes for any woodchuck or groundhog around the world. No matter what you choose to call this particular creature, it is a member of the marmot family and can go by many names. 

Some of the most common names include groundhog, woodchuck, whistlepig, land beaver, chuck, and wood-shock. Given just how many names this creature goes by, it’s only natural to experience some confusion when you find out that all of these names refer to the same animal! 

groundhog vs woodchuck
Groundhogs and woodchucks are the same animal.

iStock.com/gilles_oster

Where Do Groundhogs Live?

Groundhogs or woodchucks live throughout North America. They can handle humid summers in the South as well as freezing winters in the North, and live in areas as far north as Canada and Alaska. They can live in so many different places due to their insulating coats as well as their ability to burrow and make tunnels underground. 

Speaking of burrows, groundhogs create intricate pathways and tunnel systems underground. They create rooms for sleeping, eating, and they even make bathrooms in their underground homes! Many groundhogs or woodchucks stick to the same burrow for their entire life, but there are some that belong to multiple burrows.

A woodchuck values its underground home very highly given that it protects them from the outside world and gives them a place where they can sleep away the winter. Speaking of, let’s discuss more about what these creatures do in order to survive harsh and cold climates. 

groundhog vs woodchuck
Some of a groundhog’s most common names include woodchuck, whistlepig, land beaver, chuck, and wood-shock.

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Do Groundhogs Hibernate?

Yes, groundhogs hibernate. They remain active until late fall, usually once the first winter chill sets in the air. They retreat underground, into their intricately designed burrows and tunnels. Then, they sleep away the majority of winter; this process usually takes 3 months.

However, woodchucks often wake when there is still snow on the ground and a chill in the air. This is part of the reason why Groundhog Day exists in North America, as February is likely when many groundhogs begin to emerge from their burrows.

Why is a Groundhog Called a Woodchuck?

Groundhogs are likely called woodchucks due to the indigenous people’s name for this unique creature. The Algonquin people called groundhogs “wuchak”, and this name was likely adapted by the English settlers living in North America at the time. Groundhogs do not chuck wood, as their alternative name suggests, nor do they spend their time eating wood.

groundhog vs woodchuck
Groundhogs vs woodchucks live throughout North America.

iStock.com/Natalia SERDYUK

Are Marmots and Groundhogs the Same?

No, marmots and groundhogs are not the same. However, they belong to the same family of rodents, known as marmots or ground squirrels. Groundhogs could indeed be considered marmots, but marmots cannot be considered groundhogs. There are many key differences between these two rodents, including where in North America they are found. There are also a wide variety of different species of marmots, while there is only one groundhog. 

How Long Do Woodchucks Live?

Woodchucks live an average of 5-6 years in the wild, but they have been known to live even longer in captivity. Some groundhogs have lived over 20 years, if not more, but it is difficult to say exactly how old some of these groundhogs have been. For example, the most famous groundhog around, Puxatawney Phil, has been around for decades. However, it is extremely unlikely that the same groundhog has played this role for all of these years!

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