Groundhog Lifespan: How Long Do Groundhogs Live?

Written by August Buck
Updated: October 25, 2022
© iStock.com/BrianEKushner
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Key Points

  • Groundhogs can live for six years in the wild, but two or three years is the average. In captivity, groundhogs reportedly live up to 12-14 years.
  • Groundhogs are able to breed when they are two years old.
  • Adult groundhogs hibernate in the winter.

While we are most familiar with groundhogs because of the ever-famous Groundhog Day, have you ever stopped to think about the lifespan of the groundhog? How long do groundhogs live? That is the question we will answer today.

Besides coming out of its hole to see its shadow, what else does a groundhog go through in its lifetime? In this article, we will discuss the average groundhog’s life cycle, as well as some of the oldest known groundhogs in existence. Let’s get started. 

How long do groundhogs live?
Adult groundhogs are often up to 20 inches long and can weigh almost 20 pounds, depending on the gender of the groundhog.

©iStock.com/BrianEKushner

How Long Do Groundhogs Live?

Groundhogs live up to 6 years in the wild, though 2-3 is average. This number jumps higher for captive groundhogs, also known as woodchucks or whistle pigs. The average groundhog in captivity can live well over 10 years, if not closer to 15.

There are many captive groundhogs living far longer than wild groundhogs. But we will touch on that later, as it is common for captive animals to live longer than wild ones due to a lack of predators and proper medical care. 

Whether you think groundhogs are adorable or simply a pest digging holes in your backyard, they live very interesting lives. Their ability to whistle through their teeth to alert their fellow groundhogs of predators keeps them safe more often than you think. 

But what else about the woodchuck lifespan is interesting? If you are interested in learning more about the woodchuck life cycle, read on! 

How long do groundhogs live?
Groundhogs live an average of 3-5 years in the wild.

©iStock.com/mirecca

The Average Groundhog Life Cycle

 From newborn groundhog to adulthood, the average groundhog’s life cycle is fascinating. Here’s what life is like for this burrowing marmot species. 

Newborn

It is important to note that the woodchuck does not breed until its second year of life. This can potentially cause excess strain on the species since their average life span is 3-5 years. However, the average litter of groundhogs contains 4-7 babies born at a time, always in the spring. 

These babies, also known as kits, are born without the use of their senses and are completely reliant on their mothers. Father groundhogs do not stick around to take care of their young, and mothers raise their babies on their own entirely. 

Kits gain the use of their eyesight after 4 weeks of life, and their mother expects them to leave the protection of their burrow after six weeks of life. During this portion of their life, they learn how to forage and properly take care of themselves.

Young Groundhogs

Young groundhogs remain in their mother’s burrow until they are approximately 3-6 months of age. Once they have reached this stage, they venture off on their own to create their own burrows and live their own lives.

Young groundhogs are the most at risk when it comes to predators and becoming prey. They are small enough for many carnivores to eat and take down with ease, as most adult woodchucks are too large to consume. 

How long do groundhogs live
The average litter of groundhogs contains 4-7 babies born at a time, always in the spring.

©iStock.com/Jean Landry

Adult Groundhogs

Groundhogs are considered fully grown after 6 months of age. By this point, they are completely independent of one another and have developed powerful short legs for digging and creating their own underground homes. Similarly to many species of rodents, groundhogs need to constantly chew in order to wear down their very powerful teeth. 

Adult groundhogs are often up to 20 inches long and can weigh almost 20 pounds, depending on the gender of the groundhog. This is why it is difficult for many predators to target an adult groundhog. 

Adult groundhogs will also hibernate, making them one of the few animals that truly spend the winter in their burrows. They spend the summer feeding and gaining mass in order to properly and safely hibernate for the entirety of the winter season. 

How long do groundhogs live?
Groundhogs have a squirrel-like face and stand about two feet tall.

©iStock.com/gilles_oster

Some of the Oldest (and Most Famous) Groundhogs Ever

While groundhogs in the wild don’t necessarily live a very long life span, some groundhogs in captivity live much longer. Here is a list of some of the oldest known groundhogs ever recorded. 

  • Perhaps the most famous of all groundhogs, Punxsutawney Phil is said to be over 100 years old. The Pennsylvania Club claims he is closer to 130 years of age, though there is nothing that shows how this is possible. Given the average lifespan of the woodchucks, it seems unlikely that this is true. However, wouldn’t it be awesome if it was!?
  • Dunkirk Dave is a groundhog that was rehabilitated and rescued by a man named Bob Will. Apparently, Bob has used groundhogs for decades to predict the weather, similarly to Punxsutawney Phil. While the website seems to be unclear, Dunkirk Dave may be as old as 58 years of age. 
  • Also known as Charles C. Hogg, Staten Island Chuck is one of the more accurate weather predicting woodchucks around. He lives at the Staten Island Zoo and has been reporting the weather since 1981, making him over 40 years old!
  • While he passed away in 2019 after over a decade, Chattanooga Chuck was extremely popular on his local news channel for predicting the weather. He was well cared for and his community was extremely affected by his passing.
  • Buckeye Chuck is another famous groundhog you should know, and, just like his peers, he is known for predicting the weather. Living in Ohio, Buckeye Chuck is the name of generations of woodchucks, dating back to the 1970s. Ohio has acknowledged that the existing Buckeye Chuck is not the same one from that time period, though every Buckeye Chuck lives their entire life in well-loved captivity.


The Featured Image

groundhog coming out of burrow in the snow
groundhog coming out of burrow in the snow
© iStock.com/BrianEKushner

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About the Author

I am a non-binary freelance writer working full-time in Oregon. Graduating Southern Oregon University with a BFA in Theatre and a specialization in creative writing, I have an invested interest in a variety of topics, particularly Pacific Northwest history. When I'm not writing personally or professionally, you can find me camping along the Oregon coast with my high school sweetheart and Chihuahua mix, or in my home kitchen, perfecting recipes in a gleaming cast iron skillet.

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