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Species Description

Woodchuck

Marmota monax


Species Image

Classification

Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Rodentia
Family: Sciuridae

Description

The coarse fur is brown to yellowish brown, with gray- or yellow-tipped guard hairs that give the animal a frosted appearance. The feet are dark brown or black. The Woodchuck is the largest member of the squirrel family in Georgia, averaging 61 cm (24 in) in total length and weighing up to 4.5 kg (10 lbs). The Woodchuck has a stocky, low-slung body, a broad head, and a relatively short bushy tail. Its ears are small, rounded, and inconspicuous.

Life Cycle

The Woodchuck mates in March and April. After a 31-day gestation period, from 2 - 9 (usually 4 - 5) naked young are born. At about 4 weeks of age, the young have short hair and open eyes. At about 6 weeks, they are weaned and begin foraging outside the female's den. At about 8 weeks, the young are independent and begin life on their own. A Woodchuck attains adult size at 2 years of age.

Natural History

The Woodchuck is a diurnal forager, feeding principally on grasses, green plants, and tree leaves. It also may feed on domestic grain crops. A Woodchuck is a wary animal, retreating to its burrow when disturbed or threatened by humans or other potential predators. The burrow can be from 1.2 - 1.5 m (4 - 5 ft) deep and 6.1 - 9.2 m (20 - 30 ft) in length, with a main entrance and several hidden entrances which are used for rapid entrance or exit when avoiding predators. The main entrance has a mound of excavated soil in front of it, which deflects rain from the burrow opening and serves as platform where the Woodchuck can bask or watch for predators. The main tunnel leads to a nesting chamber lined with dry vegetation. This is used to rear young and to hibernate during winter. However, a Woodchuck does not store food for the winter and can lose from one-third to one-half of its body weight during the winter. A Woodchuck burrow is often also used by other mammals such as rabbits, skunks, weasels, mice, the Opossum, and woodrats. Predators include foxes, the Coyote, the Bobcat, eagles, hawks, and owls. The Woodchuck lives 5 - 6 years.

Range

Woodchuck Region Map The Woodchuck inhabits open forests, forest edges, and brushy rocky outcrops in the mountains and Piedmont Region of northern Georgia. The species ranges throughout the forested regions of the eastern United States except along the Coastal Plain.

Conservation Status

Woodchucks are common in some habitats, and are occasionally hunted by humans.

Similar Species

No other large, stocky, ground - dwelling rodent can be confused with the Woodchuck in Georgia.