A woodchuck, also commonly known as a groundhog (Marmota monax) is one of 14 species of marmots. A woodchuck is basically considered a very large North American ground squirrel. Other names woodchucks have been called include: marmot, grass rat, ground beaver, and earth pig. It is believed that "monax" was derived from a Native American name for an animal, which roughly translates into the words, "the digger." Since woodchucks never stop digging, this is a very appropriate name. Another appropriate nickname is "whistle pig" which came about because of the high-pitched scream woodchucks emit when there is danger present.
This stout-bodied rodent, which lives approximately 6 to 8 years, can grow up to around 25 inches long, and weighs between 5 and 15 pounds, being at their heaviest at the end of the summer season, just before going into hibernation. Thick fur on their upper parts ranges from yellowish-brown to reddish-brown to nearly black. Their underbelly is more of a buff color. Their thick coats have 2 types of hairs: an under-fur which is wooly and short, and guard hairs which protrude up through the under-fur. The fur on the underbelly is sparse. The feet on a woodchuck are darker in color (black to dark brown) and come equipped with thick claws for digging. Their feet are flat (or plantigrade) like the feet of a bear or raccoon. Their forefeet have four toes while the hind feet have five. The tail of this animal is short, black and bushy.
A woodchuck's eyes, ears and nose are all close to the top of its head. This design enables the woodchuck to easily use its vision, hearing and olfaction to examine its surroundings with only minimal exposure above ground.
HABITAT AND BURROWING HABITS:
These large rodents are found in western and eastern parts of North America, and they live in a wide variety of habitats from fields, open pastures and meadows, to forest edges and even deep inside forests. While widely distributed, individual woodchucks rarely travel more than a half-mile from their burrow, which is typically found in sloped, well-drained areas. These burrows can be as deep as 5 feet and over 30 feet long and have multiple entry and exit holes. A woodchuck's den is usually found in the central tunnel and includes an excrement chamber as well as a nest which functions as a sleeping chamber, brood chamber and a place for hibernation. This nest is comfortably lined with soft grasses for warmth and comfort, which is important since woodchucks hibernate each winter for 3 to 6 months. They do this by slowing their metabolism and lowering their body temperature to just a little warmer than the place where they are hibernating. In doing this, a woodchuck is able to survive body temperatures as low as around 30 degrees Fahrenheit.
Male woodchucks typically emerge from their burrows in early February, but it isn't to look for their shadow. They are actually looking for a mate. This is a time when they come out in search of a female, while females allow themselves to be found. Once found, both males and females go back to sleep until March when mating occurs. When the male wakes again, he knows exactly where to find his mate.
PROBLEMS WOODCHUCKS CAUSE FOR HOME AND BUSINESS OWNERS:
While woodchucks in the wild are cute and fun to watch, if they get into yards or onto business properties, they can be very destructive. These animals are famous for eating and destroying vegetation. There is nothing more frustrating than to put in hours of work in your garden only to find your vegetables eaten, your ornamentals disturbed, or your sunflowers cut off at the stalk. And the damage doesn't stop there. Woodchucks have been known to do damage, for weeks or months, undetected, before they are discovered. They may cause decks, patios, or outbuildings to sink and warp when they tunnel underneath. And they are also known to damage sprinkler systems with their incessant digging.
When woodchucks come onto your property, they rarely come alone. Wild animals are common carriers of parasites such as fleas, mites, and ticks. And with the ever-present threat of Lyme disease and other illnesses parasites help to spread, it is never a good idea to allow wild animals to remain on your property.
If you need help removing destructive woodchucks from your property, reach out to the wildlife professionals as Adam's Pest Control today.