What Is the Difference Between a Gopher and a Groundhog: A Guide to Their Key Differences

If you are wondering what is the difference between a gopher and a groundhog, this guide will tell you how to distinguish them, what lifestyle they lead, and what areas they inhabit. I will give you the information you need to differentiate them, which will help you determine who you see in front of you at a glance.

Gophers vs. Groundhog: How to Differ Them?

These rodents are easy to distinguish by their appearance. Gophers are much smaller than groundhogs, while marmots stand out for their height and mass. Besides, they have different types of tails. Gophers are native to North and Central America, while groundhogs are from the United States.

How to Externally Distinguish Gophers From Woodchuck?

Before practicing to differentiate a gopher and a marmot, here are a few of their key features to remember.

Groundhog in the grass in the field

What does a gopher look like?

  • Gophers can grow up to about 5-7 inches in length, making them small and light. They weigh only 0.5 pounds.
  • Gophers have brown coats and pink legs, hairless tails like rats, brown to yellow teeth, and large incisors protruding from their mouths that can be seen even when the mouth is closed.
  • The front paws allow them to dig holes and even hold some objects.
  • They have cheek pockets in which they store food.
  • Gophers can make a couple of litters a year.

What does a groundhog look like?

  • Groundhogs look bigger and heavier; they can grow up to 16-20 inches in length and weigh 4—8 pounds.
  • Groundhogs have brown fur and a thick undercoat of a gray color. Unlike a ground squirrel, its tail is short and covered with fur. And the teeth are white and are not visible when the mouth is closed.
  • They climb trees well. Groundhogs have a stocky build and strong black or dark brown legs that allow them to move for long periods.
  • Woodchucks have only one litter per year.

If you’re wondering, are woodchucks and groundhogs the same thing? Then, you should know that woodchucks are just one of their names.

How Different Is Their Lifestyle?

A gopher woodchuck lives differently. For example, gophers native to North and Central America belong to the Geomyidae family. There are approximately 35 species, such as pocket mice, kangaroo mice, and many other family members. Most of the time, they sit in their holes; their main feature is to store food in their cheek pouches. Although they are herbivores, their main food is the roots and tubers they store in their burrows. They have different holes for their needs — in some, they keep food; in others, they relieve needs; and there are also holes for food and nesting.

Gophers and marmots often live in the same area but in different places. The preferred places for gophers to live are sandy soil, or rather those that allow them to dig holes and conduct tunnels. Their burrow system is quite complex, but other animals can use it. The entrance to their burrow is about 10 cm, so the groundhog would crawl there, but no more. Gophers try to close the access to their holes so that the temperature and the humidity level are suitable for living and prevent other animals from climbing into their homes.

Marmots are native to North America. They belong to the Sciuridae family, that is, to such rodents as squirrels, chipmunks, and others. They love wooded areas with open ground, spend most of their time in open areas, sleep in burrows and tunnels that they build, but do not store food there like ground squirrels. The burrow entrances are about 20 cm, and they leave their homes open to moving freely along them. Marmots are omnivores; they are satiated, gain weight, and store enough fat to wait out before winter. But there are periods when they are active in winter, eating fish, snails, and insects.

FAQ About Gophers and Groundhogs

gopher eats straw

In this guide, I told you the difference between a gopher and a groundhog, where they live, and where they spend most of their time. If you have some more questions, check the answers below.

What’s the size difference between a gopher and a groundhog?

Gophers are small in size. They are about 5-7 inches long and weigh only 0.5 pounds. While groundhogs look bigger, they can grow from 16-20 inches in length and weigh between 4—8 pounds.

What’s the difference between a gopher and a marmot?

Ground squirrels are part of a small rodent family, which includes small rats and mice, while marmots belong to the groundhog family. There are only 10-15 types of marmots. Different families show the difference between them.

Know How to Differ Gophers From Groundhogs

In this guide, I told you the difference between a ground squirrel and a marmot and gave you the necessary information to help you recognize them. Now, when you see a rodent, you will surely know whether you see a gopher or a groundhog.

Have you ever had cases when you could not recognize these rodents? Let me know if this article helped you, and tell me exactly how you kicked them out.

Also read:

References:

  • Pocket Gophers (U.S. Department of the Interior)
    https://www.nps.gov/whsa/learn/nature/pocket-gophers.htm
  • Five Things You Didn’t Know about Groundhogs (Tufts University) https://now.tufts.edu/2019/01/28/five-things-you-didnt-know-about-groundhogs
  • Can a groundhog’s shadow really predict if there will be six more weeks of winter? (Library of Congress)
    https://www.loc.gov/everyday-mysteries/meteorology-climatology/item/groundhog-shadow/

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Nicholas Martin

Nicholas Martin

I am Nicholas Martin, and I am an entomologist. I combine the insect survey work with the consultation for private pest control agencies. My narrow specializations are both urban pests and agricultural pests. I studied their control over the previous 25 years. More about Nick

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