Do Groundhogs Climb Trees? Yes & More (Reason to Get Rid Of Them)

Georgette Kilgore headshot, wearing 8 Billion Trees shirt with forest in the background.Written by Georgette Kilgore

Animals | February 27, 2024

Man sitting next to a groundhog looking at a tree wonder, do groundhogs climb trees and what do groundhogs eat, is there a groundhog vs gopher chart and do woodchucks chuck wood, and where can he find groundhog facts.

Do Groundhogs climb trees? As their name suggests, Groundhogs, also called woodchucks, stay in burrows under the ground.

However, they also climb trees to escape predators and find food, such as fruits and leaves. They are good climbers thanks to their sharp and strong claws.

Although they can climb all trees, they usually prefer trees with softer barks and those located near water (wood breaks) and streams where other animals and livestock feed.

While that’s fine for the groundhog, they also build extensive burrows which might extend near homes and can be dangerous for people and animals living in the area. Additionally, Groundhogs can damage trees by clawing the bark.

If you’re wondering do groundhogs climb trees and you want to keep your trees healthy, this guide outlines how to get rid of them ethically.

Why Do Groundhogs Climb Trees?

Groundhogs do climb trees, but you’ll usually notice them on the ground.

Interestingly, the terms groundhog and woodchuck indicate the same animal (marmot).

For Food

Groundhog eats many plants, such as grass, dandelion, and garden crops. But they will also climb trees in search of fruits and nuts. When the vegetation is scarce, they climb trees to eat twigs, leaves, and bark or prey on insects such as grasshoppers.

In fact, they can damage or kill a tree chewing and marking territory. In such a case, you may want to wait for the cheapest time of year for tree removal to remove the tree.

To Take a Look Around

Groundhogs are super intelligent and will climb trees to view their environment since it’s impossible to do that on the ground due to their small size.

They do this to plan where to create a burrow, identify where they can escape, and look out for predators

For Safety (To Escape)

Groundhogs will also scale trees when in danger. Although their burrows are complex, they are only partially safe.

Animals like coyotes, foxes, and dogs can dig the burrow and kill the Woodchuck.

Fortunately, these predators cannot climb trees. So when under attack, the Woodchuck will flee and scale the nearest tree.

Interesting Groundhog Facts (Do Groundhogs Climb Trees?)

Probably the much you know about Groundhogs is just Groundhog day. Here are interesting Groundhog facts you should know.

  • During hibernation, the Groundhog’s heart rate will slow from 80 BPM to 4 BPM
  • Groundhogs are the largest in the squirrel family
  • Groundhogs are good climbers and swimmers

Disadvantages of Groundhogs in Your Yard

Many people want to remove groundhogs if they find one (or more) in their yards. This is because the burrows can damage plants and trees in the area.

Groundhogs love fruits and veggies. In a recent internet video, a groundhog is videoed eating the veggies that a homeowner is growing in their garden.

But, they don’t only target vegetables, they’ll also consume a variety of flowers and can damage trees when climbing.

Advantages of Having Groundhogs in Your Yard

On the flip side, having a groundhog occupy the same ground space as your home can bring advantages too.

The same burrows that are carefully constructed by the little marmots (and which have separate compartments for nests and waste) provide aeration for deeply compacted soil, which fosters plant growth.

Woodchuck Vs Groundhog

What kind of animal is a Groundhog? The Groundhog (Marmota monax) is a marmot species in the ground squirrels group.

But unlike other marmots, which prefer rocky, mountainous habitats, the Groundhog prefers the lowlands.

A Groundhog on dirt with rocks and grass in the background showing its habitat.

(Image: liggraphy6)

They are the most solitary among their species because they don’t form long-term pair bonds, as most opposite-gender interactions only happen during mating season. The Groundhog has several names depending on the region.

But the most common are Woodchuck, Ground Pig, Whistle Pig, and Whistler.4

Groundhog vs Gopher

Groundhogs and Gophers are burrowing rodents with many similarities. They are both brown and furry, eat vegetation, and dig burrows.

Graphics of Groundhog vs Gopher showing the two animals' difference in length, weight, teeth, tail, family taxonomy, and way of living.

See the table below for differences between Groundhogs and Gophers.

Groundhogs are bigger and stockier than gophers and can be as long as 68.5 cm and as heavy as 6.3 kg.Gophers are shorter and lighter. Their average length is 15 – 26 cm, and weighs around 200g.
A few species might weigh close to 1 kg.
Woodchuck teeth are white and cannot be seen unless it opens its mouth.Gopher teeth are usually yellow or brown and protrude from their mouth. They also have pocket-like cheeks they use to store food.
Groundhog tail has bushy and thick hair.Gophers have hairless tails.
Groundhogs are members of the Sciuridae family.Gophers belong to the Geomyidae family.
Groundhogs burrow only at night and during winter to hibernate.Gophers usually live below ground. They store food in their burrow and cheeks but do not hibernate during winter.

Where Do Woodchucks Live?

Where do Groundhogs live? Do Groundhogs climb trees to live there?

Woodchucks live underground by digging tunnels called burrows but rarely live in trees.

The little animal is a magnificent excavator as it can excavate more than 700 pounds of dirt when building a burrow which can be 1.8 meters deep and 6 meters wide.

Interestingly, the Woodchuck will build two types of borrows; one for summer and one for winter. The burrows have several nests (chambers) linked together, and each area has a specific function.

The summer burrow has various openings about 10 to 12 inches in diameter and 20 feet apart. The winter burrow has one well-hidden opening to ensure security during hibernation.

Woodchucks prefer to build their burrows in an open area close to woodlands to feed on vegetation.

The burrow usually has one entry and various exits. The main nest is located at the end of the burrow.

How Long Do Groundhogs Live?

Groundhogs have an average lifespan of 3-6 years but can live up to 15 years in captivity because of lack of predators and medical care.1

However, some famous Groundhogs listed below are said to have lived far longer than this.

But given the average lifespan of the animal, it’s unlikely:

  • The famous Punxsutawney Phil is said to be 130 years old
  • Dunkirk Dave, a woodchuck rescued and rehabilitated by Bob Will and has been predicting the weather for decades, is said to be 58 years old
  • Charles C. Hogg, a woodchuck living in Staten Island Zoo, is said to be over 40 years old

Because we can’t know the actual age of these famous Groundhogs, we can only assume the owners are telling the truth and not faking the ages for publicity.

For instance, Buckeye Chuck, the famous Groundhog from Ohio that has predicted weather since the 70s, is actually not one Groundhog.

It is a generational name for Woodchucks. Back to ordinary woodchucks, they start breeding in their second year.

The breeding season starts right after hibernation and extends from March to April. The pair remains in the same burrow throughout the gestation period (30 – 32 days) but the male leaves as the birth approaches in April or May.

Woodchuck has a single fertile period per year and can deliver around 5 kits at a time.5

From birth to one month, the kits have no eyesight and depend solely on their mother. They begin to forage from six weeks but remain in their mother’s burrow until they are about 6 months old.

Afterward, they go on their own to build their burrow as they are fully grown.

Groundhogs have many predators, such as coyotes, foxes, dogs and bobcats and hence their short life in the wild. Kits are also likely to fall prey to eagles, hawks and owls.

What Do Groundhogs Eat?

Like most rodent species, Groundhogs must constantly chew to wear down their strong teeth. They spend their time feeding and gaining mass in preparation for hibernation in winter.

Primarily, Woodchucks are herbivorous. They eat various plants, bark, and fruits, including garden plants.

An image of a Groundhog eating a tree bark showing what do Groundhogs eat.

(Image: Cothni38)

They also feed on small animals and pests such as snails, grubs, insects, and small birds.

Groundhogs do not travel more than 150 feet from their burrow to look for food. This is because going far makes them susceptible to predators.

Instead, they will build their burrow close to the food source. So, the more food you have in your garden, the more likely they will dig burrows nearby.

Groundhogs have interesting eating patterns. During spring and fall, they feed during mid-afternoon and morning and late afternoon during summer.

They eat heavily to build up a fat reserve to nourish them during winter (hibernation time), so don’t be surprised if they eat up your entire garden.

But by the end of hibernation, they will have lost 50% of their weight and are ready to start eating again (one of the weird Groundhog behavior).

Here are examples of some favorite food for Groundhogs.

  • Plants: Alfalfa, Clovers, chicken weed, grass, daisies
  • Garden crops: Corn, peas, Celery, Squash, Broccoli, Spinach, Cabbage, and Lettuce
  • Fruits: Berries, Apples, and pears
  • Nuts: Acorns, Hickory, and Shagbark
  • Flowering plants: Sunflowers, Asters, and Marigolds

Do Groundhogs eat trees? In absence of flowers and plants, Groundhogs will also eat twigs, roots, barks, and tree leaves.

However, Groundhogs hate plants with strong fragrances and will avoid them unless they are starving. They include thyme, rosemary, lavender, garlic, cayenne pepper, and sweet alyssum.

Related Reading: Lavender Tree Care

Do Woodchucks Climb Trees?

Do Groundhogs climb trees? Contrary to their name, Groundhogs can also climb trees; they are very good.

Thanks to their claws, they can climb trees and dig burrows easily. Their powerful claws will puncture a tree bark to aid them in climbing.

A young Groundhog on a piece of log showing its long claws.

(Image: James LeVos7)

Groundhog claws expand at least 2 mm per week when actively feeding. Additionally, they can equally distribute their weight to help them ascend faster.

So, what is the hardest wood in the world and can Groundhogs climb it? Interestingly, Groundhogs are quite intelligent and will choose a tree with soft bark (like the Basswood Tree) to scale up faster.

However, they can climb any type of wood or tree.

Related Reading: 28 Types of Trees by Location, Species, Leaves, Colors (Pictures)

Do Woodchucks Chuck Wood? How Much Wood Could a Woodchuck Chuck…

Woodchucks don’t chuck wood. The name originates from the mispronunciation of its Native American name by English settlers.

The closest the English Settlers would get to pronouncing “Wuchak” was Woodchuck.

Again because of the famous tongue twister, “How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?” But the truth is a Woodchuck doesn’t chuck wood.

However, it chucks dirt while creating a burrow.

Although Woodchucks do not usually chuck wood,2 wildlife expert Richard Thomas did a study to determine how much wood it would chuck. He found that a Woodchuck usually chucks about 700 pounds of dirt when digging the burrow.

If it could chuck wood, it could chuck 700 pounds of wood.

How To Get Rid of Groundhogs

Groundhogs in Georgia and most parts of the world are considered pests because of the havoc they wreak on gardens.

Their burrows are also dangerous to both people and animals.

A Woodchuck surveying a home garden to look for a place to create a burrow.

(Image: Camerauthor Photos9)

While getting rid of them should be a priority, you should do it as humanely as possible. Most importantly, you should prevent them from burrowing in your yard.

Keep a Clean Yard

Groundhogs will use yard debris, such as grasses and leaves to make a nest. Keeping a clean yard can help you prevent these rodents from nesting in the first place.

Groundhogs may also burrow underneath the house or trees. If there is already a Groundhog burrow somewhere in the yard, you will want to cover it with soil or stones to prevent them from returning.

Scare the Groundhog Out of Its Burrow

Making a Groundhog’s home uninhabitable can drive it out. You can do this by flooding the burrow with water, which will make the woodchuck look for a drier area. (See the movie, Caddyshack)

Additionally, you can fill the Groundhog burrow with dirt or rocks.

Set a Trap: Catch and Relocate the Woodchuck

Trapping the woodchuck is one of the most effective ways to get rid of them off your property. However, before trapping Groundhogs or other wildlife, follow local, state and federal regulations.

If allowed, you’ll need to set up a trap near the burrow entrance and use a fruit such as an apple as bait.

Prevent Woodchucks From Returning by Electing a Fence

Ordinary fences can keep most animals out, but not woodchucks because they can burrow underneath or climb. Use chicken wire to elect a 3 feet high and bury 12 inches underground.

Bend the top 15 inches at a 45 degrees angle to prevent them from climbing.

Call a Wildlife Removal Professional

Although Groundhogs seem cute, they don’t always act predictably, especially when startled. They have a forceful bite, and you risk getting infected with rabies.3

Hiring a professional exterminator or wildlife removal expert can save you energy and time.

Woodchuck and Whistle Pig are other names for the Groundhog. While it doesn’t chuck wood, it can climb trees to find food, survey its environment, or for safety.

When removing Groundhogs from your property, use humane methods or get a professional. So to answer the question, “do Groundhogs climb trees?” the answer is yes, very well, and they can be both a bother or an advantage, depending on the situation.

Frequently Asked Questions About Do Groundhogs Climb Trees

What's the Difference Between Groundhogs and Woodchucks?

Both names are used to refer to the same mammal. It is also called a Whistle Pig.

What Do Groundhogs Eat?

Groundhogs can eat various food such as garden plants, weeds, fruits, grass and insects.

Can Woodchuck Chuck Wood?

No, Woodchuck cannot chuck wood, but it can chuck dirt.

Why Are Groundhogs Climbing Trees? How High Can They Get?

There are no recorded studies on the height woodchuck can climb. But they can scale trees of any height based on how they climb and their claws’ strength to look for food or seek for safety.

Did the Groundhog See His Shadow on Groundhog Day 2023?

The famous Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow predicting six more weeks of winter, but Staten Island Chuck didn’t. However, Lady Edwina of Turtleback Zoo in West Orange sided with Phil.


1Ferraro, D. (2023). Groundhog or Woodchucks. University of Nebraska–Lincoln | Horticulture, Landscape, and Environmental Systems. Retrieved April 5, 2023, from <>

2State of North Dakota. (2019). How much wood can a woodchuck chuck. North Dakota Game and Fish. Retrieved April 5, 2023, from <>

3Fitzpatrick, J. L., Dyer, J. L., Blanton, J. D., Kuzmin, I. V., & Rupprecht, C. E. (2014). Rabies in rodents and lagomorphs in the United States, 1995-2010. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 245(3), 333–337. <https://www>

4Thurston, S. N., Brittingham, M. C., & Williams, L. M. (2006, December 8). Woodchucks. PennState Extension. Retrieved April 5, 2023, from <>

5Connecticut’s Official State Website. (2023). Woodchuck. Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection. Retrieved April 5, 2023, from <>

6liggraphy. Pixabay, Retrieved from: <>

7James LeVos. Pixabay, Retrieved from: <>

8Cothni3. Pixabay, Retrieved from: <>

9Camerauthor Photos. Unsplash, Retrieved from: <>