Woodchuck (Marmota monax)
Photo Credit: Miroslav Halama
Woodchucks or “groundhogs” are the largest member of the squirrel family in Kansas where they live in shrublands, woodlands, and even uncultivated croplands. Their senses of vision, olfaction and hearing are acute. Their fur has two types of hair: a layer of short softer hair and longer guard hairs that protrude above these. They can both swim and climb trees. During the summer they eat wild forbs, bark and tree buds but may also eat alfalfa and grain crops if available. Their incisors grow continuously as they wear down from gnawing. Woodchucks dig extensive burrows with their flat raccoon like paws. The burrow includes a grass-lined nesting chamber where they hibernate in the winter with reduced heart rates (four beats/minute) and body temperatures close to the ambient temperature of the underground den. A litter of 4-5 kits is born in April or May.