Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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woodchuck Marmota monax, also known as groundhog (and, sometimes, incorrectly as ‘prairie dog’). This animal of N. America is something like a squirrel and belongs to the same family, Sciuridae, but is larger than most squirrels with a head-plus-body length of 40–50 cm (16–20"). It has been well described by Ashbrook and Sater (1945), who remark that it is ‘the legendary harbinger of spring weather calculations’ and cite other interesting information.

Paul C. Estey, in The Woodchuck Hunter, writes:

There is no reason why woodchuck should not be splendid eating because they are one of the cleanest animals. People who have once eaten them invariably like them and stick to such a diet when they can.

Woodchucks are considered as a sport animal and can be hunted almost any time of the day, if the weather is good. They are sun worshippers and prefer a vegetarian diet. It is said a woodchuck can eat in one day as much clover as a full-grown sheep.

‘The flesh of the young “chuck”,’ according to an article by Francis X. Lueth in the spring 1943 issue of Illinois Conservation, ‘is delicious if the little red kernels or glands which are found in each foreleg, high up near the body, are cut out.’ …

Young ones may be cooked in the same manner as cotton-tail rabbits … The muscles of the woodchuck are dark and thick, but the meat is mild in flavour.