Woodchuck

Woodchuck.

Name

  • Common name: Woodchuck
  • Scientific name: Marmota monax
  • Order: Rodentia
  • Family: Sciuridae

Also known as

Groundhog, Whistle Pig

Viewing opportunities

  • Woodchucks have only been spotted in the southeastern parts of Yukon around the BC border, near Watson Lake, Labiche River valley and on the South Canol road.

Description

  • Medium sized rodent with short legs, stocky body, small ears.
  • Brownish with grizzled hair appearance.
  • Prominent slightly flattened bushy tail.

Fast facts

  • Length: 55 cm
  • Weight: 4 kg
  • Lifespan: 6 years
  • Predators: Wolves, Coyotes, foxes, bears, large hawks and dogs
  • Habitat: Boreal Forest, South-facing slopes

Conservation status

What is conservation status?

  • Yukon: S2S3 (Imperiled/vulnerable)
  • Global: G5 (Secure)

Yukon population estimate

Not determined.

Behaviour

Woodchucks use powerful digging claws to excavate burrows. When alarmed, they use a high-pitched whistle to warn the rest of the colony, hence the name "whistle-pig." They escape predators by diving into their burrows, but may also swim or climb trees. Woodchucks are fat-storing hibernators, meaning they live off of their fat reserves while sleeping the winter away.

Diet

Grass, leaves, seeds, berries, bark, carrion

Distribution

Woodchuck distribution map.

Sights and sounds

Woodchuck track, hind.
Woodchuck track, hind: 5.4 cm long.

Woodchucks and people

  • Woodchucks are a major hole-digging mammal, providing homes and burrows for other animals.
  • Farmers do not appreciate the hole-digging capabilities of Woodchucks, as it can lead to crop damage and loss of vegetables from the garden.
  • Because they are fat-storing hibernators, Woodchuck are the subjects of a great deal of medical research.
  • On February 2, North Americans observe “Groundhog Day.” Folklore tells us that Woodchucks (Groundhogs) will emerge from their winter sleep and come out of their dens. If it sees its shadow, it will return to its den and we will have 6 more weeks of winter. If not, then spring is coming soon.