In honor of Groundhog Day, we wanted to take a close look at the oral health and teeth of groundhogs. Groundhogs, also called woodchucks, whistle-pigs or land beavers, are rodents belonging to the group of large ground squirrels called marmots living in the lowland regions of parts of North America, United States, Canada and Alaska.
When not actively feeding, groundhogs stand erect on the lookout for danger, and when alarmed they let out a high-pitched whistle to warn the rest of the clan, earning them the name of whistle-pig. Other sounds they make are low barks, as well as sounds produced by grinding or chattering their teeth.
Groundhog Day, celebrated on February 2, has popularized the critter. Folklore has it that if the groundhog emerges from hibernation on a cloudy day then spring will come early, but if it is able to see its shadow, then there will be six more weeks of winter. The festivities begin early morning to witness the emergence of the groundhog from its burrow after hibernation.
Groundhogs have four incisors, shaped like chisels, two upper and two lower of which the upper two continue to grow at the rate of 1/16 of an inch every week! To keep the growth of the front teeth in check the groundhogs have to constantly chew or gnaw on leaves or grass. They also spend a good amount of time nibbling at trees or roots so that the teeth can be worn down. The groundhog defends itself from predators by using its two large incisors and claws.
Groundhogs chew their way through anything, from trees and roots to your patio and decks! Keeping an eye on your pets around a groundhog is a good idea as they carry a hard bite.
Groundhogs are sometimes confused with gophers whose appearance is very similar to that of the groundhog. However, the easiest identifying feature between the two is that, whereas the gopher’s front teeth stick out of its mouth when closed, the groundhog’s do not. And guess what? Groundhogs have white teeth!