What do groundhogs eat?

Groundhogs are animals classified within the order Rodentia and the family Sciuridae, so they are closely related to squirrels. They have terrestrial habits, and although they are active in summer, they can spend several hours sleeping. In winter, they experience long periods of hibernation in their underground burrows. 15 species and several subspecies have been identified, and depending on the type they are distributed in North America, Asia and Europe.

What do groundhogs eat?

Groundhog feeding type.

Groundhogs are quite large rodents, with mainly light brown fur colors in those species that live in open areas and darker in those that live in wooded areas. The weight and size vary from one type to another. Thus, they can measure between 0.4 and 0.7 meters and weigh from 2 to 8 kilograms, although some can reach 12 kilos!

Being related to squirrels, groundhogs have a fairly similar diet in terms of the type of food that is mainly herbivorous. However, because they live in habitats with difficult climatic conditions at certain times of the year, some species may occasionally include some type of animal in their diet to meet their nutritional needs.

If you want to learn more about the different types of rodents, we recommend you consult this other article: «Types of rodents and their characteristics» ;.

What do groundhogs eat? - Type of feeding of marmots

What do baby groundhogs eat?

The gestation period for groundhogs lasts 30 to 40 days, depending on the type of groundhog it is. After this time, they give birth to at least two young, but they can have up to six! Small marmots are born altricial, that is, blind, with little mobility and fur, so they require the care of their mother. In some cases, parents can provide support, mainly when the little ones begin to emerge from the burrows, which occurs around two months.

These rodents, like others, are mammals, so the females breastfeed their young when they are born. mother’s milk is essential for the proper development of baby marmots. Weaning occurs at about 40 days. Until then, baby marmots only feed on their mother’s milk. During weaning, they begin to gradually introduce plant matter into their diet, following the example of their parents. As they grow, they learn to look for their own food to be completely independent.

What do adult groundhogs eat?

We already know that adult marmots are mainly herbivorous and, in certain cases, omnivorous. Their plant diet may include a variety of plant parts such as bark, leaves, flowers, seeds, roots and tubers. They can also consume lichens and fungi. However, the diet can vary depending on the species.

Let’s look at some particular examples of what adult groundhogs eat:

Feeding of the bobak marmot (Bobak marmot)

Marmots of this species feed mainly on steppe grasses, which include:

  • Avena silvestre (Avena sativa)
  • Brushed wheat pasture (Agropyrum cristatum)
  • Achicoria (Cichorium intybus)
  • Clover (Trifolium repens)
  • Lesser creeper (Convolvulus arvensis)

Although it has a predilection for wild vegetation, this species eventually includes field plants such as sunflowers or sweet potatoes.

Feeding the gray marmot (Marmota baibacina)

The gray marmot has a preference for grasses and herbaceous vegetation but may also include fringed sagebrush in its diet (). In a minimal proportion, if necessary, it consumes other small mammals, reptiles or amphibians.Artemisia frigida

Alimentación de la marmota americana (Marmota monax)

The diet of this species is mainly composed of:

  • Alfalfa (Medicago sativa)
  • Trébol (Trifolium spp.)
  • Diente de león (Taraxacum officinale)

It also includes tree bark, bird eggs, mollusks and insects.

Olympic marmot feeding (Olympus marmot)

It is mainly folivorous and, in addition to the species we will mention below, the Olympic marmot, when food is scarce, includes flowers, roots and dead animals, such as Townsend’s chipmunks (Tamias townsendii):

  • Avalancha lilies (Erythronium montainum)
  • Altramuz subalpine (Lupinus subalpinus)
  • Mountain buckwheat (Polygonum bistortoides)
  • Bluebells (Campanula rotundifolia)

Feeding of the Alaskan marmot (Marmota broweri)

This species mainly consumes, and depending on availability, the following foods:

  • Pastures
  • Herbs
  • Cereals
  • Legumes
  • Fruits

To a lesser extent, it even eats some insects when necessary.

Feeding of the Vancouver marmot (Marmota vancouverensis)

The diet of this species is very varied depending on the time of year. Thus, among the plants that this groundhog eats we find the following:

  • Fresh fern leaves (Pteridium aquilinum)
  • Avena (Dantonia intermedia)
  • Junco (Luzula ssp.)
  • Juncos (Carex spp.)
  • Phlox esparcidor (Phlox diffusa)
  • Lupine herbs (Lupinus spp.)
  • Pradera (Thalictrum spp.)
  • Pincel (Haemanthus spp.)
  • Chirivía (Heracleum maxima)
  • Girasol lanudo (Eriophyllum lanatum)

Feeding of the black-headed marmot (Marmota camtschatica)

Due to the extreme conditions where it lives, getting food becomes complicated, especially for pregnant females. For this reason, the species has a fairly broad diet, closely related to the availability of food. In this sense, this type of marmot eats grasses, herbs, fruits, berries, seeds, shrubs, insects, small mammals, carrion and bird eggs.

In relation to some particular species present in its habitat, it consumes:

  • Siberian Dwarf Pines (Pumila Pinus)
  • Arctic herbs (Anemone sibirica)
  • Grandma’s hats (Aquilegia glandulosa)
  • Flores de Doronicum (Doronicum bargusinense)
  • Asian globe flowers (Trollius asiaticus)
  • Cranes (Geranium albiflorum)

All of these elements highlight how diverse their diet can be and how it adapts to environmental conditions.

What do groundhogs eat? - What do adult groundhogs eat?

How much does a groundhog eat per day?

We have revealed what groundhogs eat according to the species, but how much do they eat per day? Groundhogs are animals that have hibernation periods, which in some cases can last up to about 8 months. In this sense, when they come out of this state of torpor, groundhogs need to recover from so much time without consuming food, which is why they eat large amounts of food. Likewise, groundhogs prepare to hibernate by gaining weight before entering a period of inactivity. It’s like they are storing food in their bodies. Before sleeping during hibernation, they eat quite a bit, even up to a third of their weight. Thus, they have reserves to spend time without feeding.

It is common for these animals to spend several hours a day feeding, which they can do in groups outside their burrows. When environmental conditions are not yet completely favorable, groundhogs usually eat near their burrow, with the food they have available.

As we see, groundhogs have very particular habits and a great capacity to adapt to the environment. If you are interested in learning more about their behavior, don’t miss this other article: «How much do groundhogs sleep?«.

If you want to read more articles similar to What do groundhogs eat?, we recommend that you enter our < section. a i=3>Balanced diets.

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