The Groundhog’s Paws, Feet, And Claws

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Published on June 9, 2022
Last Updated on October 14, 2023

Groundhogs, sometimes called woodchucks, are a type of large rodent. They are specifically a part of the Marmot or ground squirrel family. They actually are the largest member of the squirrel family. They can be found all over North America, which happens to be the only continent on which they are found.

One of the most unique aspects of the groundhog’s body is its paws and claws. Groundhogs have front paws that almost look like human hands, but their claws are razor-like sharp, and incredibly strong. These paws allow the groundhog to dig complex burrows, hold food, and defend itself if need be.

To learn more about the groundhog’s paws and claws, keep reading. This article tells you all you need to know about the groundhog paws and claws, including what groundhog paw prints look like for identification purposes. Let’s get started.

What Do A Groundhog’s Paws Look Like?

A groundhog’s paw is small with five toes and long nails. The paw itself is typically dark brown to black, whereas its leg has more of a brown or reddish-brown color. Much like other animals, the groundhog has pads at the bottom of its paws so it can walk barefoot safely.

In many ways, the groundhog’s paw looks a little bit like human hands. Groundhogs can actually hold items in their paws, which causes their toes to almost replicate the movement of fingers. You can even find pictures of groundhogs holding up their paws, almost looking like they’re looking at their nails after a day at the salon.

How Does A Groundhog Use Its Paws?

The groundhog has two main purposes for its paws. The first is to hold items with their movable fingers or toes. The second is to use the paws to dig burrows into the ground. The sharp nails are what is responsible for the digging purposes of the paws.

The paws play an important role in the groundhog’s eating habits. Groundhogs are known to eat plants, fruits, vegetables, insects, grubs, and sometimes small animals. Groundhogs are actually able to pick up the item they are eating and hold the food much like a monkey or a human would.

More so, groundhogs can claw or dig burrows with their paws, much like a dog. However, groundhogs are much more efficient at digging than dogs because they have extra long claws, which we will look at shortly.

How Many Toes Do Groundhogs Have?

Groundhogs have five toes on their front feet but only four on their back. The front two feet almost look like hands in that they have four main toes and a fifth toe that almost resembles a thumb. The back paws lack this fifth thumb-like toe.

Do Groundhogs Have Claws?

Yes. Groundhogs have claws that are incredibly long and sharp. There is one claw on every toe of the groundhog’s paw. These claws are mainly used for burrowing purposes, but they can also be used as a form of defense if the groundhog is being attacked.

How Many Claws Do Groundhogs Have On Each Paw?

Groundhogs have one claw per toe. As a result, there are five claws on each of the front paws, but there are only four claws on each of the back paws. In total, there are 18 claws on the groundhog.

What Do Groundhogs Use Their Claws For?

Groundhogs mainly use their claws for digging purposes. Groundhogs dig impressive burrows that they use for shelter and hibernation. They also dig holes in order to reach grubs, insects, and other creatures that are within the soil. Occasionally, groundhogs use their claws for protection.

In many areas, groundhogs are considered a nuisance because of their extensive multi-chamber burrows. In order to dig these complex burrows, groundhogs have incredibly sharp and strong nails or claws. These burrows can often run underneath gardens and lawns, where they become a nuisance.

Inside these chambers, groundhogs often nest and hibernate for safety. They also hoard food and try to access grubs and other food sources.

If a groundhog suspects danger, its first response is to run away and hide. If it gets caught, the groundhog will fight back and defend themselves using their teeth and their sharp claws.

The good news is that humans don’t have to worry about being on the fighting end of groundhogs. Most groundhogs will just run away from you once you are spotted.

Are a Groundhog’s Claws Sharp?

In order for groundhogs to dig complex burrows through soil, rock, and roots, their claws are incredibly sharp and strong. Their claws are much stronger and sharper than a dog’s claw, and they are certainly sharper than a human nail. Groundhogs’ claws are razor-like as a result.

How Do I Recognize A Groundhog’s Paw Print?

It’s not at all common for a groundhog to actually leave tracks or a paw print. Groundhogs spend much of their time underground, they don’t come out when there is snow, and their paws are often too small to leave an impression, except for in very fine-grained mud.

That being said, if you’re lucky enough to find the right kind of small prints, groundhogs pawprints are relatively easy to distinguish. They look notably different than other animals’ paw prints. Groundhog paw prints are most recognizable by the long claws, as well as the alternating sets of four toes and five toes.

Starting with the claws, all groundhog tracks have notable claw marks due to how long and sharp the claws are. There should be claw marks on both the front set and back set of paws. Additionally, the number of toes will alternate. The front paws will have five toes, whereas the back paws will have four toes. The number of claws corresponds too.

Something else to note is that the front and back paws look very similar. The main difference is in size and number of toes. The front and back paw prints are typically laid in a relatively straight line. In other words, the paw prints don’t look zigzag or awkward. Instead, they are truly back to back. You won’t see drag marks either.

As for size, groundhogs paw prints are typically about 2 inches. They’re most similar looking to chipmunk paw prints, but chipmunk prints are much smaller. Likewise, groundhog paw prints look similar to raccoon paw prints, but the raccoon prints are notably bigger and the back paws specifically have a different shape.


  • Tommy

    Hi, I'm Tommy! I'm the founder of I am an animal enthusiast and self-proclaimed wildlife expert as well as a dog trainer and breeder of the breed Löwchen. Since I was a kid, I’ve been wildly fascinated by animals, both from growing up in a rural area where there were always animals around, but especially from seeing them in the wild.

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