Scientific Name: Marmota monax​
Classification: Nongame
Abundance: Locally abundant

Groundhog Range Expansion Map (1985-2010)

Species Profile (PDF)

Photo: Wikimedia



The groundhog is the largest member of the squirrel family. It has a broad rounded body with short powerful legs and a short, flat, bushy tail. The face has a blunt nose, small rounded ears, and medium sized eyes. White incisors protrude from the mouth. It is generally a grizzled brown, grayish-brown, or reddish-brown in color. The feet, top of the head and tail are darker and the stomach is lighter than the rest of the body. Adult body size is from 16-32 inches long and the tail is from 3-10 inches long. Weights vary from 4-14 pounds.

The groundhog is a terrestrial mammal that prefers to seek cover in its underground burrow. However it is a good swimmer and can also climb trees to escape danger.

The groundhog is often referred to as a woodchuck, a name derived from the Indian word "wuchak." Its most common claim to fame is "groundhog day." According to legend, the groundhog emerges from hibernation each year on February 2. If the sun is out, it sees its shadow, becomes frightened, and re-enters the burrow for another six weeks of hibernation, thus forecasting six more weeks of winter weather. If the day is cloudy, it emerges from hibernation to enjoy an early spring.

Learn more by reading the Groundhog species profile.

The groundhog is considered a nongame species with an open season for hunting; however, it can only be trapped during the regulated trapping season. No bag limits for either season.

Hunting regulations (PDF)

Trapping regulations (PDF)

Groundhogs have adapted well to human activities such as agriculture and urban development and are often seen as a nuisance because they forage on crops and gardens and burrow on people’s properties. Visit our Have a Wildlife Problem page for more information. 


North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission biologists monitor trends in the groundhog population from several sources, most of which rely on cooperation from trappers. These sources include annual surveys to licensed trappers, reports from Wildlife Damage Control Agents, and observations provided by the public.

If you have seen a groundhog outside the current range in North Carolina, please report this observation to the NC Wildlife Helpline: 866-318-2401.