Field Guide/Mammals/Woodchuck

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Marmota monax (Woodchuck)
Family: Squirrel (Sciuridae)
Size: Woodchucks weigh anywhere from 4 to 13 lbs (2-6 kg), and range from 16 to 27 inches (415-675 mm) in total length. Their tail length ranges from 4 to 6 inches (100-160 mm) in length. [1]
Description: Woodchucks are stout in appearance. Their fur color varies greatly, but ranges from gray to cinnamon to dark brown. They have white-tipped guard hairs giving them a grizzled appearance. Their paws are typically black to dark down. They have a short bushy tail that is often black or dark brown. The species also has white teeth and rounded ears. [1]
Similar Species: Unlike most rodents, woodchucks have white teeth. Their paws are also black, unlike a subspecies that has pink. [1]

Range: The woodchuck ranges from central Alaska, east through Canada south of the northwest territories; in the eastern United States south to Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, and Arkansas; in the western United States absent from the Great Plains, extending down to northern Idaho. [2]
Habitat: The woodchuck is typically found in farmlands, small woodlots, forests, fields, pastures, and hedgerows. It constructs its dens in well-drained soils. They have separate dens for the winter and summer. Winter dens are located near protective cover, while summer dens are located near food sources. [1][2]
Diet: Woodchucks are primarily herbivores, eating a wide variety of herbs, grasses, leaves, bark, and nuts. They also eat insects and mollusks. [1][2]
Activity: Woodchucks are diurnal. They feed twice daily during the summer, and mate soon after hibernation. Generally, woodchucks hibernate, however in the southern range, they have been known to remain active throughout the entire year due to a warmer climate. [1]

Reproduction: The woodchuck’s breeding season extends from early March to mid-April. gestation lasts 31-32 days. Their litter size varies from 2-6, with an average litter size of 4 per year. The young become independent after two months, and sexually mature in one year. [1][2]
Lifespan: Woodchucks live 4 to 6 years in the wild. [1]

Notes: Woodchucks are non-social animals. They have a high tendency to be territorial, and use secretions from their facial and anal glands to designate territorial boundaries. Their sight is used to spot predators and make visual threats to other species. Woodchucks avoid predators by staying elevated in trees and constantly checking their surroundings while feeding. They often use their teeth to defend themselves. Known predators include hawks, snakes, bobcats, black bears, lynx, foxes, wolves, and coyotes. [1]

Woodchucks have both positive and negative economic importance for Humans. The positive economic importance for humans is that they have been used in biomedical research to investigate hepatitis B, obesity, energy balance, the endocrine system, reproduction, cardiovascular disease, cerebrovascular disease, and neoplastic disease. The negative economic importance for humans is that they are known to destroy farmlands, garden, and pastures.[1]

There are currently no major threats to this species according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.[2]
Woodchuck

  1. a b c d e f g h i j Tobias, C. (2011), [http://animaldi versity.ummz.umich.edu/accounts/Marmota_monax/ ADW: Marmota monax: INFORMATION], http://animaldi versity.ummz.umich.edu/accounts/Marmota_monax/, retrieved October 7, 2012 
  2. a b c d e Linzey, A.V.; Cannings, S. (2008), Marmota monax (Woodchuck), http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/42458/0, retrieved October 7, 2012