What are woodchucks? — Kelli’s student essay

What Are Woodchucks?

It’s one of the best tongue twisters of all time and a perpetual question that rarely has an answer. How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? One might start by asking what in the world is a woodchuck?

Unfortunately, it’s not a miniature lumberjack but a rodent. This rodent was originally called “wuchak” among the Native America Algonquin tribe and mispronounced later by English settlers as a woodchuck. 

They find their home in the eastern United States, Canada and Alaska. Woodchucks are famous among literary lovers but their other names have never made it into the tongue twister hall of fame. They have however made it to Hollywood. Bill Murray would have certainly recognized this rodent as his pal the groundhog.

In addition to being called groundhogs, woodchucks are also known around North America as whistling pigs and land beavers. Whatever you call them, this is a rodent of the Sciuridae family. Certainly Woodchuck is easier to pronounce. Does anything even rhyme with Sciuridae? Rodent pie?

The woodchuck/groundhog/whistling pig/land beaver has more names than a double-named southern girl and is the largest of the Sciurids. These chunky hogs can weigh up to 14 pounds. Woodchucks are very territorial and will attack when threatened so don’t expect an invitation to visit…even if it is February 2 and the government has named the day after them.

Groundhog popping out of his hole

They live in burrows in the ground which you could say they hog all to themselves as they retreat under the earth for protection or maybe just privacy. They don’t claim to be meteorologists so why all the attention when predicting a short winter?

 Groundhogs pop their heads out of hibernation in early February to begin scouting for a mate. Mating season is in March so they are just swiping right at all of their potential mates. It seems to be a wise idea to snag a good one before they retreat to their holes to wait out the winter. Surely no one is more looking forward to spring than the groundhog and their future mate.

So, can they chuck wood and if so how much wood would they chuck? Research in this area is a little depressing because in fact a woodchuck does not actually chuck, throw, or toss wood. Their primary habits are swimming and climbing trees but they are best at digging in the ground to make their burrows. Some researchers with too much time on their hands have calculated that if a woodchuck’s 25-foot-long burrow was filled with wood instead of dirt then a woodchuck could in fact chuck the equivalent of 700 pounds. Unless of course you think of chucking wood as the same as upchucking wood in which case a woodchuck could vomit 22 cubic inches of wood. Hope his future mate didn’t see that one.

Sometimes reality can really ruin things. It’s more fun to assume that there really is a tiny lumberjack in buffalo plaid sweating the day away chucking wood into a giant pile for winter. Maybe there can be a new rhyme for the whistling pig. A rodent who whistles while he digs is loved and adored yet still called a pig. It’s better than a land beaver who upheaves.

Author: Kelli Riverai

Kennesaw State University

Student Scholarships

Every year Thrive Pest Control hosts an essay contest and the reward is a 1-year scholarship at a 4-year university in the United States. This blog post is one of those scholarships.