Groundhogs—also known as woodchucks—have 21 teeth in total: 18 teeth for chewing and two sets of incisors that are shaped like chisels. A groundhog’s upper incisors will grow continuously during warmer months, making it necessary for the groundhog to spend time chewing on trees, roots, or other wooden structures to wear down these ever-growing teeth!
If you’re interested in discovering more about these furry little creatures, keep reading!
The rest of this article will give more information on the groundhog’s famous teeth, their habits, and more!
How Quickly Do a Groundhog’s Teeth Grow?
According to the National Wildlife Federation, a groundhog’s top two incisors grow at a rate of 1/16 of an inch per week!
Why do they grow so fast?
To keep up with their crazy eating habits, of course!
What Do Groundhogs Eat?
Groundhogs are primarily herbivores.
As far as vegetation goes, groundhogs can eat fruits, various plants, and even tree bark thanks to their chisel-like teeth!
In addition to plants, groundhogs also eat:
- and other pesky insects
Where Do Groundhogs Live?
Groundhogs live in woodland areas inside deep burrows. A typical groundhog burrow is quite large—up to 6 feet deep and 20 feet wide!
Their burrows usually have multiple entrances as well as levels.
The main part of a groundhog’s burrow is for sleeping, raising babies, and hiding from predators.
Burrows are separated into sections with different uses.
For example, groundhogs are very clean animals, changing out the nesting material in their burrow from time to time in addition to keeping their waste separate from their living space.
They do this by digging a small tunnel off of their main burrow, then sealing it when it gets full.
Groundhogs will often have more than one burrow:
- one in the forest to live in during the winter
- and one in a more open, grassy area for the warmer months.
Winter burrows are dug deep below the frost line to maintain a stable temperature above freezing.
How Do Groundhogs Dig?
Groundhogs can dig giant burrows by scooping dirt with their specialized claws.
Using their shovel-like claws, groundhogs can dig efficiently and quickly, with a single groundhog able to move up to 700lbs of earth to make a burrow!
Do Groundhogs Hibernate?
Yes—this is where the Groundhog Day tradition comes from! Groundhogs are true hibernators and spend the winter months dormant in their winter burrows.
Hibernation is the main reason why groundhogs spend nearly all their time eating during the warmer months—groundhogs will be at their maximum weight just before entering hibernation for the winter!
The length of hibernation depends on the climate and latitude the groundhog is living in.
An average hibernation period is between October-March, but groundhogs in more temperate regions may hibernate for as little as three months.
When a groundhog is hibernating, its metabolic rate slows dramatically.
According to the University of Wisconsin, a hibernating groundhog has a heart rate of only 4-10 beats per minute, breathes only once every six minutes, and has a body temperature of 35 degrees Fahrenheit.
By the time groundhogs emerge from hibernation, they’ve lost about half of their body weight but carry enough body fat to live off of before they can find new plants to eat in the spring.
In Addition: Male groundhogs typically emerge from hibernation before females.
Are Groundhogs Considered Pests?
Due to their voracious chewing and effective burrowing, groundhogs are considered pests in some parts of North America. Based on their habitat preferences, it’s not difficult to imagine that a groundhog may seek refuge in someone’s backyard.
Unfortunately, groundhogs can cause all kinds of damage to your home and yard if one decides to burrow there.
A groundhog’s extensive burrowing can cause structural damage to your home and yard.
Additionally, their appetites will likely lead them to eat through your garden.
They can even turn to your deck or parts of your home to file down their teeth!
What Attracts Groundhogs to My Yard?
Food! As mentioned earlier, groundhogs spend most of the spring and summer eating everything they possibly can to prepare for hibernation.
Groundhogs love tearing up gardens and will happily harvest your fruits and veggies for you.
They are also attracted to various plants in your yard, like:
- and wild herbs
How Can I Tell If I Have a Groundhog In My Yard?
- Raised ridges in your grass from groundhog burrows
- Mounds of dirt—these are entrances/exits from the groundhog’s burrow
- Dead or discolored grass in a specific path
- Patches of loose or squishy soil
- Damage to flower beds, gardens, tree roots, and grass
Are Groundhogs Dangerous?
Though groundhogs do not normally attack humans, they can do so if they feel threatened.
Groundhog attacks are rare, and injuries are typically not severe.
However, groundhogs are known carriers of the rabies virus; if a groundhog bites you, it is essential to seek immediate medical attention and be treated with the rabies vaccine.
Did You Know? Groundhogs may also carry fleas and ticks, passing on diseases such as Lyme disease to humans and pets.
What Should I Do If There’s a Groundhog In My Yard?
- Fill in any burrow entrances you find in your yard. Doing this can tell you if groundhogs are currently active in the area.
- Remove vegetation and sources of cover from the surrounding area of the burrow if possible.
- Build a chickenwire fence around your garden to prevent groundhogs from eating your plants. If they no longer have a source of easily accessible food in your yard, they may move on to greener pastures.
- Remove natural cover. Groundhogs like to move and build burrows in covered areas, and they will feel less safe if your yard is very open.
- If the problem persists or the groundhogs are causing extensive damage, contact a local wildlife control professional to remove the groundhogs.
Groundhogs are fascinating little animals with many unique features—such as their continuously-growing teeth—but, as you’ve read in this article, those little things that make them special can make our lives even more difficult!