Beaver vs. Woodchuck

What's the Difference?

Beavers and woodchucks are both small mammals that are commonly found in North America. However, they have distinct differences in their physical characteristics and behaviors. Beavers are known for their large size, with adults weighing up to 60 pounds, while woodchucks are much smaller, typically weighing around 10 pounds. Beavers have webbed hind feet and a flat tail, which they use for swimming and building dams, while woodchucks have short legs and a bushy tail. Additionally, beavers are primarily herbivores, feeding on tree bark and aquatic plants, while woodchucks are herbivores that primarily eat grasses and other vegetation. Overall, while both animals are fascinating in their own ways, their contrasting features and habits make them unique in the animal kingdom.


Photo by Tim Umphreys on Unsplash
Scientific NameCastor canadensisMarmota monax
HabitatAquatic environments, such as rivers and lakesTerrestrial environments, such as fields and forests
DietHerbivorous, primarily consuming tree bark and aquatic plantsHerbivorous, primarily consuming grasses, plants, and fruits
SizeLarge, typically weighing 35-70 poundsSmaller, typically weighing 4-14 pounds
Physical FeaturesLarge, flat tail; webbed hind feet; sharp incisorsShort legs; small ears; rounded body
BehaviorBuilds dams and lodges; highly skilled swimmersExcavates burrows; good climbers
Photo by Abigail Lynn on Unsplash

Further Detail


Beavers and woodchucks are both fascinating creatures that belong to the rodent family. While they may share some similarities, they also have distinct attributes that set them apart. In this article, we will explore the characteristics of beavers and woodchucks, including their physical appearance, habitat, behavior, diet, and ecological impact.

Physical Appearance

Beavers are known for their large size, typically measuring around 3 to 4 feet in length and weighing between 35 to 70 pounds. They have a stocky build with short legs and a broad, flat tail. Their fur is dense and waterproof, ranging in color from dark brown to black. Beavers also possess webbed hind feet, which aid in swimming and diving.

On the other hand, woodchucks, also known as groundhogs, are smaller in size compared to beavers. They typically measure around 16 to 26 inches in length and weigh between 4 to 14 pounds. Woodchucks have a stout body with short legs and a bushy tail. Their fur varies in color, ranging from reddish-brown to grayish-brown. Unlike beavers, woodchucks have non-webbed feet, which are adapted for digging burrows.


Beavers are primarily found in North America, Europe, and Asia. They are well-known for their ability to construct dams and lodges using branches, mud, and rocks. These structures create ponds that serve as their habitat. Beavers prefer areas with slow-moving or still water, such as rivers, streams, and lakes. Their lodges provide shelter and protection from predators.

Woodchucks, on the other hand, are native to North America and are commonly found in open grasslands, fields, and wooded areas. They are excellent diggers and create extensive burrow systems with multiple entrances. These burrows serve as their homes, providing protection from predators and extreme weather conditions.


Beavers are highly social animals that live in family groups known as colonies. A typical beaver colony consists of a monogamous pair, their offspring, and sometimes other unrelated beavers. They are primarily nocturnal, meaning they are most active during the night. Beavers are known for their engineering skills, constructing dams to create deep ponds that provide protection and easy access to food sources.

Woodchucks, on the other hand, are solitary creatures that prefer a more independent lifestyle. They are diurnal, meaning they are most active during the day. Woodchucks are excellent climbers and swimmers, but they spend a significant amount of time on land, foraging for food and maintaining their burrows. They are also known for their ability to predict the weather, as celebrated on Groundhog Day.


Beavers are herbivores with a primarily vegetarian diet. They feed on the bark, twigs, leaves, and buds of various trees and shrubs. Their strong incisor teeth allow them to gnaw through wood easily. Beavers are particularly fond of aspen, willow, and birch trees. They also store food underwater near their lodges to sustain them during the winter months when food sources are scarce.

Woodchucks, on the other hand, are true hibernators and need to accumulate fat reserves before winter. They have a diverse diet that includes grasses, clover, dandelions, fruits, vegetables, and even the occasional insect. Woodchucks are known to forage in fields and gardens, sometimes causing damage to crops and vegetation.

Ecological Impact

Beavers play a crucial role in shaping their environment. By building dams, they create wetlands that provide habitat for various aquatic species, including fish, amphibians, and waterfowl. These wetlands also help to filter water, reduce erosion, and recharge groundwater. However, their activities can sometimes lead to conflicts with human infrastructure, such as flooding roads and agricultural lands.

Woodchucks, on the other hand, have a more limited ecological impact. Their burrowing activities can aerate the soil and create habitat for other small animals. However, their feeding habits can sometimes result in damage to gardens and crops, leading to conflicts with farmers and gardeners.


In conclusion, while beavers and woodchucks are both rodents, they have distinct attributes that differentiate them. Beavers are larger, aquatic creatures known for their engineering skills and ability to create complex habitats. Woodchucks, on the other hand, are smaller, terrestrial animals that excel in digging burrows and foraging for food. Understanding the unique characteristics of these animals helps us appreciate their ecological roles and coexist with them in their respective habitats.

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