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"A groundhog whistles to alert others around that a predator is in the area"

The marmot is a medium-sized rodent with brown fur on the head and back and yellow fur on the belly. This animal is a herbivore and eats nuts, leaves, seeds, flowers, grasses and grains. They live in Europe, Asia and North America. Groups of groundhogs are called colonies. Groundhogs are animals that can live 13 to 15 years in the wild.

5 Incredible Groundhog Animal Facts!

  • This rodent is sometimes called a whistle pig
  • These animals spend their time basking on rocks to keep warm
  • A groundhog's territory can sometimes include up to 7 acres
  • Groundhogs can't see very far in front of them
  • The cave system of their colony has several entrances and exits


scientific name

Alpine Marmot - (4 years old) in front of white background
Groundhogs are also known as whistle pigs, rock chucks and woodchucks

© Eric Isselee/

The yellow-bellied marmot's zoological name is Marmota flaviventris . The word marmot means mountain rat in Latin, and the word flaviventris translates to yellow-bellied rat. It goes by several other names, including whistling pig, groundhog, ground squirrel, and rock chuck.

This animal belongs to the family Sciuridae and the class Mammalia.


Groundhogs belong to the larger family of ground squirrels, collectively known as Marmotini. While no one can quite agree on their origin, it's worth noting that the oldest fossils date back to the early Oligocene, more than 30 million years ago.

Early versions of chipmunks and groundhogs were found in North America by the late Oligocene, leading to the belief that genetic divergence had occurred by the middle of that epoch. By the middle Miocene, marmots and marmots emerged and occupied ranges similar to those covered by their modern descendants, as evidenced by fossil evidence.


yellow-bellied marmot
Certain species of groundhogs are able to live at high altitudes, while others prefer to live near bodies of water

© Undefined

There are 15 species of this ground squirrel. They include:

  • Alpine Marmot (Marmota marmota) : Believed to be the largest marmot in this subfamily, weighing about 18 pounds and reaching a length of 30 inches. This chubby rodent lives in the mountains of central and southern Europe. It lives at elevations between 2,600 and 10,500 feet and seems to be doing fairly well on its own in terms of population numbers.
  • Alaskan groundhog (Marmota broweri): Like living in large families, these rounded mammals are easily recognizable by their gray fur, love water and tend to settle close to lakes.
  • Black-crowned Marmot (Marmota camtschatica): Found in Siberia, these rodents can grow up to 2 feet long and weigh 12 pounds. They can also live at different altitudes and have even been found as high as 6,000 feet.
  • Forest Steppe Dog (Marmota kastschenkoi): Named for its forest steppe habitat, this marmot ranges in weight from 6.6 – 20 lbs. It also hibernates for half a year and can be found in southeastern Russia.
  • Long-tailed Marmot (Marmota caudata): This chubby rodent is usually found in Central Asia and typically weighs between 16 and 20 pounds. Also known as the golden marmot, it is known for having a tail that can grow up to 11 inches, longer than that of its other close relatives.

appearance and behavior

Alpine marmot showing teeth on mountain
Groundhogs are known for their ability to whistle loudly to signal the presence of danger

©Astrid Gast/

The yellow-bellied marmot has short brown hairs on the back and head, and yellow fur on the abdomen. They have small ears, black noses, and claws strong enough to dig deep holes. In terms of size, these rodents are 18.5 inches to 27.5 inches long. Its bushy tail can reach a length of 8 inches. The rodent spins and lifts its tail while running. This animal ranges in weight from 3.5 lbs to 24 lbs. Thirteen golf tees connected end to end on the ground are the length of a 27-inch animal. Or, an 11-pound groundhog weighs as much as a gallon paint can.

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The largest species is the Olympic marmot. This animal weighs up to 18 lbs. Although this animal is not a pet, it weighs almost as much as an adult dachshund!

One of the animal's defensive features is its voice. A groundhog "stands guard" while a colony of groundhogs is looking for food on the ground. If it spots a predator, it whistles loudly. When other animals hear the news, they run into their burrows and tunnels to escape the danger. They make other sounds like chattering and clicking. They even make a sound similar to screaming. All of these sounds are a unique form of communication among these ground squirrels.

Groundhogs are animals that make their homes in small spaces or areas that are difficult to access. This could be a crevice in the rock, or a cave under a boulder pile. These burrows and tunnels are inaccessible to many of their predators. This is another way for them to escape from enemies or stay out of sight while scanning an area.

These animals are active during the day. Many of them lay on the rocks in the morning to bask in the sun and then forage for food. Most of them are social animals, living with 10 to 20 other animals. However, some species live alone or only with other groundhogs. It is a shy animal with many predators. Most of the time it prefers to stay underground, out of sight.


Amazing Mountain Animals: The Himalayan Marmot
Some species of groundhog prefer warm, dry habitats, while others have adapted to thrive in colder climates

©Kamal Hari Menon/

These animals live in Asia, Europe and North America. These animals make their homes in mountains, meadows, tundra, forest edges, grasslands, and grasslands.

Himalayan marmots live in the mountains of Nepal, India and Tibet. Alpine marmots live in the Alps, Carpathians, Pyrenees and other mountain ranges in Europe. Long-tailed marmots live in the Tenjin Mountains in Central Asia.

In North America, yellow-bellied prairie dogs live in the Rocky Mountains, Sierra Nevada and other places in the western United States. Olympic marmots live in Washington state.

Yellow-bellied marmots live in dry, warm climates. Alternatively, Alpine marmots that live in the Alps are able to live in very cold climates. In fact, the animal hibernates for about 9 months a year. Their strong claws allow them to dig in partially frozen ground to expand their burrow systems in preparation for hibernation.

Hibernation is these animals' way of coping with the cold winter temperatures in their habitat. They eat a lot in summer to store fat for the hibernation period that starts in September and ends in May. During hibernation, animals huddle together in a burrow to keep warm. Interestingly, in full hibernation mode, woodchucks breathe only 2 to 3 times per minute.

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Some of these animals migrate from the location of their winter nests to their summer nests. They dig winter nests at lower elevations than summer nests.

Males are territorial. They mark their territory with their scent to warn other animals to stay away from the area. Groundhog animals from the same group get along well. However, if an animal from another group enters an unfamiliar burrow, a fight will ensue between the males. They chase each other territorially and bite violently.

Predators and Threats

coyote standing under tree
Coyotes are just one of many predators that groundhogs have to beware of

©Sam Carrera/

What Do Groundhogs Eat?

This ground squirrel has a variety of predators, including coyotes, foxes, eagles and badgers. Sometimes coyotes and foxes search their burrows to catch the animals when they come out looking for food. Eagles can swoop down quickly and focus on catching them venturing outside their tunnels to feed.

Babies are also vulnerable to these predators. They have to come out of their burrows and learn how to find plants, leaves and other food.

What Do Groundhogs Eat?

what do groundhogs eat
While groundhogs prefer a herbivorous diet, they also prefer insects and even bird eggs


These animals are herbivores, eating flowers, nuts, grains and plants. During spring and summer, they will eat the most abundant food in their habitat.

Alpine marmots can eat plants in their environment that are poisonous to other mammals. The same goes for other species of rodents.

These rodents are heavier in fall than in spring. This is because they eat a lot in the summer to store fat that they can live on while hibernating for over 9 months. Animals may gain 4 or 5 pounds in preparation for hibernation. When spring comes out, it uses up its stored fat and becomes lighter.

Fortunately, the yellow-bellied prairie dog and many other species of this animal do not face any major threats. Sometimes Alpine marmots are hunted for sport and food. There is also an idea that their fat, also known as "mankei" fat, can treat arthritis. Therefore, these rodents are sometimes caught for this purpose.

The conservation status of the yellow-bellied prairie dog and most other animals is of least concern, with stable populations.

Reproduction and Life Cycle

Olympic marmot (Marmota olympus)
Groundhog mother nurses her pups for three weeks before weaning them

©Danita Delimont/

The yellow-bellied marmot's breeding season is from May to June. These animals reproduce only once a year. Olympic marmots breed every other year.

During this time, the male groundhog will mate with several females. This breeding system is known as harem polygamy. A male mates with several females and protects them from other male groundhogs.

The gestation period of a female woodchuck is about 30 days. They can have litters of 3 to 8 babies, also called pups. However, on average, they can give birth to 4 live cubs. The cubs are born with their eyes closed and without any fur. Each newborn puppy weighs just one ounce.

The mother nurses her pups for about three weeks, then begins feeding them grass and plants. At about 4 weeks of age, pups begin to venture out of the burrow to explore and find food. They are fully weaned at 7 weeks of age. Although the females continue to care for the cubs, they are growing rapidly and becoming more self-sufficient. Groundhog pups are completely independent by 7 weeks of age, but they may still be part of the pack. In some cases, parents of 7-week-old pups drive them out of the group, forcing them to find new burrow systems to live in.

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Groundhog pups become sexually mature at about 2 years of age. Marmots have a lifespan of 13-15 years. These animals are susceptible to various intestinal parasites.


olympic marmot
Some species of marmot do fairly well in terms of populations, such as the alpine marmot

© Virginie Merckaert/

The exact number of yellow-bellied prairie dogs is unknown. But its conservation status is No Concern, and its population is stable.
The alpine marmot population is estimated to be over 100,000 individuals, 1,500 of which live in the Carpathians.

Fortunately, the United States has many national parks that are home to prairie dogs. Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, Sequoia and Kings Canyon in California, Olympic National Park in Washington State, Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska, and more!

Complete Species List

  • alaskan groundhog
  • alpine marmot
  • black-capped marmot
  • marmot
  • forest prairie dog
  • gray marmot
  • marmot
  • himalayan marmot
  • white marmot
  • marmot
  • Menzbier's groundhog
  • olympic marmot
  • marmot
  • Vancouver Island Marmot
  • yellow-bellied marmot

See all 161 animals that start with M

Groundhogs are medium-sized rodents that live in cold, dry climates. Its furry body and cute face make it seem like the perfect pet. But the groundhog is a wild animal that prefers to live in groups with other groundhogs.

A marmot is a type of groundhog. There are 15 species of groundhogs. So, when you think about it, you can call February 2nd Groundhog Day or Groundhog Day!

Learning the correct pronunciation of marmot is easy when you remember that marmot sounds like marmet.

Groundhogs are herbivores. They eat plants, seeds, flowers, leaves, nuts and grains. Some biologists also call them leaf eaters and granivores. Leaf eaters eat lots of leaves while herbivores eat the seeds of plants.

Groundhogs live in Europe, Asia and North America. They live in states such as Colorado, Utah, California, Washington, and Alaska in the western United States.

They live in various mountain ranges in central and southern Europe. They also live in China and north-central Asia, including Siberia.

Marmots look similar to large squirrels, or even larger versions of marmots. They share the same small ears, black nose, and protruding teeth. They can sit on their rear end and look out over their roost. Marmots are classified as ground squirrels, which are a close relative of the woodchuck.

Groundhogs are not dangerous. Of course, any wild animal and even pets can become aggressive when they feel their safety is threatened. But groundhogs are most likely to run for cover in their burrows at the first sign of a threat or upon hearing that memorable whistle.

Groundhogs belong to the animal kingdom.

Groundhogs can travel as fast as 3 miles per hour.

The key differences between prairie dogs and beavers are their habitat and shelter types, winter activity levels, diet, and physical characteristics of size, fur, and tail. They also communicate differently because they respond differently to threats.

The biggest differences between groundhogs and woodchucks include their size, location, and degree of socialization. Marmots are social or solitary herbivores found in Asia, North America and Europe and can reach weights of 24 pounds and lengths of up to 29 inches. The prairie dog is a highly social animal from North and Central America, weighing between 1 and 4 pounds and growing to 16 inches including the tail.