Groundhog pups leave their mom and head out on their own when they're about two months old.
Groundhog pups leave their mom and head out on their own when they're about two months old.
Photograph by Mircea Costina / Alamy


Common Name:
Scientific Name:
Marmota monax
Head and body: 17.75 to 24 inches; tail: 7 to 9.75 inches
13 pounds

Phil the groundhog is a star! Well, at least on February 2 he is. Phil lives in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, where every Groundhog Day people wait for him to come out of his burrow. Legend has it that if Phil sees his shadow, six more weeks of winter will follow. 

Also known as woodchucks, groundhogs spend much of their days alone, foraging for plants and grasses and digging burrows up to 66 feet long. So though Phil might be a celebrity once a year, the rest of the time he probably prefers his me-time.

Look out below!

Groundhogs often burrow under open areas such as meadows and farmlands, which can make the critter a nuisance to farmers. But burrows are super important to groundhogs—and their ecosystem.

Burrows are where the rodents sleep, raise their babies, and even poop. (They actually have separate bathrooms!) Burrows also provide protection from predators such as coyotes, hawks, and black bears.

(Check out a galley of more animals that burrow.)

And it's not just the groundhog that uses its burrow—animals like rabbits, chipmunks, and snakes move in once a groundhog has moved out. Plus, burrowing is good for habitats: Digging aerates, or provides oxygen to, the soil, which helps plants better absorb nutrients that help them grow.

Deep sleep

So can groundhogs really predict when spring is coming? Nope. The rodents enter their burrows to hibernate in the winter and come back out around the same time every year. Males poke their heads out in early February—not to forecast more winter weather, but to claim their territory.

In the spring, females give birth in their dens to about three to five pups. But they don't hang out for long. By around two months old, they’re off on their own—whether they see their shadows or not.