Have a look at our new Woodchuck Food Habits page, and the latest photos and videos. Explore the news and information page. And on Amazon check out our 2018 paperback book, The Amazing Groundhogs of Woodchuck Wonderland.
In March of 2003, a woodchuck (groundhog) appeared in our yard. We named her Wilhelmina. Ignorant, but curious, about this animal I began photographing her and then her seven babies (chucklings). Eventually, the mate of Wilhelmina was identified and named Gregory. His teeth were unmistakable!
As our interest grew, it become clear that photographs were insufficient in capturing the activities of these intriguing marmots. We purchased our first camcorder and began videotaping Wilhelmina, Gregory, and their 9 babies in 2005.
After groundhog babies are brought above ground from the natal burrow they begin to wander, exploring areas surrounding our home. Watching, photographing, and videotaping through our home windows, we captured their natural activities including eating, sleeping, playing, climbing trees and more. (See Link to YouTube videos) We also observed other mammals, birds, and insects that shared the woodchuck’s territory.
Over the years, Wilhelmina had six litters with two of her three mates, Gregory and Woodrow. Woodchucks usually breed at two years old. Assuming Wilhelmina was two years old in 2003, we estimate she was about ten years old when last seen in 2011. Wild woodchucks are thought to live up to about 6 years though the average is about 2-3 years.
2012 marked a new beginning with a female we named Trudy. She had seven offspring. In 2015 our mated pair, Heidi and Luke, were woodchuck parents of seven (see 2015 Photos). Heidi remained our female in 2016. With Raggedy as her mate, Heidi was mom to eight chucklings! The 2017 season began with five groundhogs, all from 2016, emerging from hibernation. It was an unusual and confusing groundhog season! For more of our groundhog soap opera, check out the 2018 Photos and Review page and 2020 Photos and Review page.
The woodchuck is called by other names including groundhog, whistle pig, wuchak, and Marmota monax. Monax is an American Indian name meaning “the digger”.
The groundhog contributes to soil improvement when digging their home by bringing subsoil to the surface and exposing it to weathering action.
Their burrows are used for hibernating, mating, raising their young and as an escape from predators. Besides the nest, the burrow also has a toilet chamber! Groundhogs don’t leave droppings outside their burrow. Abandoned burrows are used by other animals including red fox, opossums, rabbits and skunks. Some animals may use a portion of the burrow while the groundhog is hibernating. As a prey animal, the groundhog is an important food source for foxes, coyotes, hawks, bobcats and others.
Groundhogs are considered essential to medical researchers studying human liver disease, hepatitis B, and liver cancer. Their hibernating abilities are of significant research interest in the space and medical industries. The groundhog is the only animal we have set aside a special day for on our calendar.
The two primary complaints about groundhogs are with their food needs and digging. So what can be done to minimize these problems?
An adult groundhog may eat 1 to 1½ pounds of food per day though their food intake decreases as hibernation nears. They survive on their body fat while hibernating during which time they may lose up to ½ of their body weight. So in the spring and early summer, gardens planted near their burrows are especially vulnerable to groundhogs. There are a number of repellents that can be used to discourage them and minimize loss such as; Epsom salts, ammonia-soaked rags, mixture of water, pepper, garlic, and liquid soap, blood meal, human urine, noise, and electronic motion repellents. Use of fencing, including electrified fences, may also be effective deterrents. We use pepper, some fencing, and noise as deterrents. Groundhogs prefer hiding places around their burrow entrances and exits so limit possible hiding spots.
If groundhogs dig holes in a problem area, like next to your home foundation, fill in the holes at an appropriate time. We have used a combination of old bricks, larger rocks, dirt, urine and sometimes used kitty litter to successfully fill in burrow holes in problem areas. Other burrow holes are not disturbed. The Humane Society offers suggestions to prevent groundhogs and other animals from making their homes under sheds and decks.
We hope visitors to this website will gain a better understanding and appreciation for these animals and that these suggestions will help with problems encountered in coexisting with them.
Many myths and stories have been told about woodchucks. For example, in 1883, the legislature of one state passed a bill authorizing a bounty of 10 cents for every woodchuck killed in the state. In part, they stated “The Woodchuck is not only a nuisance, but a bore. It burrows beneath the soil and then chuckles to see a mowing machine, man and all, slump into one of these holes and disappear.”
Numerous publications have reported that the male woodchuck has no part in the raising of or caring for the young. Our observations tell a different story. It’s also been reported that woodchucks don’t drink, instead getting their liquids from the juices of plants. We’ve documented them drinking from our birth bath and lapping water in puddles and off plant leaves. Our goal is to sort myth from reality and share what we see about wild groundhogs being groundhogs. More about that behavior…
Schoonmaker, WJ, Terres, JK, ed. The World of the Woodchuck, Philadelphia & New York, Living World Books, 1966