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Beaver Vs Groundhog (11 Differences)

Beavers and groundhogs are both rodents, but that doesn’t mean these creatures are exactly the same. While these animals have some things in common, they’re also different in many ways. When you compare a beaver vs groundhog, you’ll discover all kinds of distinct traits.

Beaver vs Groundhog – 11 Differences

Beavers have thick fur, webbed feet, and broad, flat tails. Groundhogs, on the other hand, have brown fur, short legs, round bodies, and bushy tails. Read on to learn more about what makes these two rodents different!

1. They Have Different Habitats

beaver in nature
Beaver in nature | image by Deborah Freeman via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

The beaver makes its home in freshwater habitats. This animal has the incredible ability to build dams and create ponds in the water! Beavers use these dams to protect the lodges that they live in, which are made from materials like branches, twigs, grass, and rocks that are held together by mud.

Groundhogs are typically found in meadows and in open fields. They live in burrows and spend most of their time underground. These burrows can be very large and usually contain several different rooms!

2. Beavers Are Stronger Swimmers

Beaver swims in the river
Beaver swims in the river | image by Tara Schmidt via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Groundhogs spend most of their time on land, but they sometimes swim if they need to get away from predators or want to get a better look at their surroundings. While you might see a groundhog in the water from time to time, beavers are semiaquatic mammals and much stronger swimmers overall.

Beavers have special translucent eyelids that essentially function as goggles. Even when these eyelids are closed, beavers can see underwater.

It can also close its nostrils and ears when it’s swimming. A beaver can swim at speeds as fast as five miles per hour and can hold their breath underwater for up to 15 minutes.

3. Groundhogs Are Only Found In North America

Groundhogs are native to North America and can’t be found in any other part of the world. In contrast, beavers live in North America, Europe, and in Asia. While beaver populations have declined in some parts of Eurasia, they can be found in Great Britain, Central Europe, Scandinavia, Spain, Mongolia, and China.

While groundhogs only live on one continent, they live all across Canada and the United States. You can find groundhogs as far north as Alaska and down south in Alabama! The groundhog can even be found in states that don’t have beavers at all, like California and Nevada.

4. They Eat Different Foods

Groundhogs
Image by Sonia Fiset from Pixabay

The beaver is known for munching on wood, but it actually has a varied diet that includes fruit and aquatic plants. Many of the foods that beavers eat are the same materials that they use to build their lodges and homes. Groundhogs mostly feed on wild grass and berries and can eat up to a pound of vegetation a day!

Beavers are strictly herbivores, but groundhogs occasionally eat insects, snails, and other small animals like baby birds. Since groundhogs hibernate during the winter, they need to eat lots of food during warmer months. Groundhogs are considered to be opportunistic eaters and will usually spend around two hours eating per day.

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5. Beavers Have Orange Teeth

Beaver showing its orange teeth
Beaver showing its orange teeth | image by born1945 via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Groundhogs and beavers both have long incisor teeth that help them to chew through tough plants. While groundhog teeth are white, beavers have teeth that are bright orange! Beaver teeth are protected by enamel that’s high in iron, which is what gives them their unusual color.

A beaver’s teeth never stop growing, which is also true of groundhogs. Both animals are able to keep their teeth trim by gnawing on hard materials, like tree bark. Unfortunately, since groundhogs spend less time chewing wood than groundhogs do, they can sometimes wind up with teeth that are overgrown.

6. Groundhogs Hibernate

During warmer months, groundhogs eat lots of food to build up fat stores for the winter. When the first frost hits, groundhogs head into their burrows and hibernate until temperatures rise. A groundhog can hibernate for up to five months, but animals in more moderate climates may only hibernate for two to three months.

It’s rare to see beavers during the winter, but these rodents don’t hibernate. Instead, beavers spend the colder months inside their lodges, living off the food they’ve stored there. If a beaver is low on food, it will leave its lodge and swim under the ice in order to get more.

7. There’s Just One Type of Groundhog

There are two different beaver species: the North American beaver and the Eurasian beaver. While these species look very similar, the Eurasian beaver has a bigger head and a longer muzzle. North American beavers have slightly darker fur and thicker tails.

Groundhogs are marmots, which are a type of ground squirrel. There are 14 marmot species in total, but only one type of groundhog! Even though groundhogs are sometimes called other names, like woodchucks and groundpigs, they’re all part of the same species.

8. Beavers are Bigger

Beaver in the grass
Beaver in the grass | Image by Steve Raubenstine from Pixabay

The beaver is the largest rodent in North America and the second-largest rodent in the world! Beavers are typically somewhere between 2.4 and 3 feet long, with a tail that adds anywhere from 7.5 to 12 inches to its total length. They usually weigh between 35 and 65 pounds, but the heaviest beaver on record weighed a whopping 110 pounds!

The groundhog is much smaller in comparison. It’s usually around 16 to 20 inches long, with a tail that measures between 4 and 7 inches. Groundhogs generally weigh around 5 to 10 pounds, while the heaviest recorded groundhog weighed 16 pounds.

9. Groundhogs Can Climb Trees

Groundhog in tree branch
Groundhog in tree branch | image by ~Sage~ via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

While beavers will use their sharp teeth to chop down trees, they aren’t really capable of climbing those trees. Beavers have heavy bottoms and webbed feet, which makes it difficult for them to climb. Groundhogs, on the other hand, have strong upper bodies and sharp claws that make them excellent climbers.

Even though groundhogs can climb trees, that’s not where they spend most of their time. Groundhogs usually avoid heights and stay underground in their burrows. However, if a groundhog needs food or is trying to get away from a predator, it may dart into the nearest tree.

10. They Don’t Have the Same Lifespan

In the wild, beavers usually live for 10 to 12 years. Groundhogs have a much shorter lifespan. While they can live for up to 6 years, most groundhogs have a lifespan of 2 to 3 years.

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Groundhogs in captivity have a lifespan that’s comparable to beavers, with some groundhogs living as long as 14 years. However, beavers in captivity also live for longer. Beavers kept in human care can live for more than 20 years, and the oldest beaver on record lived to be 30!

11. Groundhogs Prefer to be Alone

Groundhog alone in grass field
Groundhog alone in grass field | image by Heckrodt Wetland Reserve via Flickr | CC BY-ND 2.0

Beavers are extremely social mammals that mate for life! A beaver lodge is usually home to a monogamous pair and its offspring. When young beavers are around two, they leave the lodge, make their own home, and search for a mate.

While beavers spend most of their lives around families, groundhogs spend the bulk of their time alone. Groundhog babies are weaned very quickly and can dig burrows when they’re as young as 6 weeks. Typically, groundhog pups will leave their mother’s burrow when they’re around 2 to 3 months old.