Woodchucks AKA Groundhog Information
Woodchucks or groundhog (Marmota monax)
Size: 20–27″ long, excluding tail; 5–12 pounds.
Signs of their presence:
- Adults are often seen basking in the sun, in a grassy area, on a fence post, stone wall, large rock, or fallen log—always near its burrow.
- Sounds: Occasional sharp whistles and low churrs, given at times of danger.
- Odor is distinctive. Will often see flies around an active burrow. In other words, Groundhogs are STINKY! That is some Groundhog Information you can totally get to know firsthand.
- Scat: Rarely seen (woodchucks excavate a privy off their main burrow).
- Evidence of their feeding: Chewed wood. Chewing on fresh plants similar to that of rabbits; difficult to pin on woodchucks without supporting evidence.
- Dens: Will see a large mound of dirt and stones by the main entrance to their burrow; the secondary entrances, which were dug from the inside, generally don’t have a dirt mound by their opening. Well-worn trail from entrance to entrance, or to the garden.
Herbivore. Woodchucks eat succulent grasses, weeds, clover, fruits (apples, cherries, pears), berries, field and garden crops (cabbage, lettuce, beans, peas, carrots, alfalfa, soybeans), and ornamental plants (they love phlox). They’ll climb trees to take fruits such as cherries, apples, and pears.
Typical activity patterns:
Social style: Generally solitary.
Daily activity: Diurnal, most active in the early morning and evening. They rely on dew as their water source. Woodchucks have good eyesight and are good swimmers. They’ll climb trees up to a height of about 20 ft, although more usually, they keep to 8–12 ft.
Hibernator? Yes. Hibernates deeply from the time of the first heavy frost through early spring. Occasionally hibernates in small groups.
Groundhog Information On Locations
Distribution in NY and the Northeast: Everywhere.
Habitat: Meadows, woodlots, hayfields, pastures, hedgerows, idle fields, parks, suburbs. Dens usually found in open fields; near fence rows or woodland edges; under barns, sheds, porches, decks, stone walls, and woodpiles.
Territory and home range: Territorial. Woodchucks may skirmish to establish dominance. Subordinate woodchucks avoid dominant ones. Home ranges overlap and are usually small. Woodchucks rarely travel more than 50 yards from their den, even to feed. Their burrows can be 2–5 feet deep and as much as 60 feet long. There are usually 2 or 3 (but perhaps as many as 5) entrances, possibly including a well-hidden, straight-down “plunge hole”.
Pair bonding style: Polygamous. Females raise young alone.
Breeding dates: Late February through March.
Birthing period: Late March to early May. Gestation takes about 31 days.
Litter size: 3–4.
Weaning dates: at 5–6 weeks.
Amount of time young remain with parents beyond weaning date: Young stray from burrow alone at 6–7 weeks, mid-June to early July. Mother drives young from her burrow by July.
Groundhog Information on Common nuisance situations:
Time of year: Calls peak in July and August, although their damage may begin in spring and last into the fall.
What are they doing?
- Feeding, or just filing down their front teeth, which never stop growing. Woodchucks raid gardens, fields, lawns, orchards, nurseries, and may gnaw or claw on shrubs and fruit trees. Occasionally chew on outdoor furniture, decks, and siding while scent-marking or filing their teeth.
- Marking their territories: They may strip off the bark at the base of a tree that’s near their burrow entrance.
- Burrowing. Look for burrow entrances among shrubs near vegetable and ornamental gardens; under woodpiles, brush piles, and stone walls; under sheds, porches, decks, and crawl spaces. Burrows in fields may damage agricultural equipment, while those in pastures may trip livestock, resulting in injuries.
- Disease risks: Low. Mange, rabies (rarely), raccoon roundworm.