March-May This year we have added three trail cameras in the barn and one outside the barn to capture activity we are unable to see. This has proven to be very helpful in documenting the presence of our male, Raggedy, in the barn during the mating period, during Heidi’s pregnancy, after the birth of babies, and after their eight babies came above ground from the natal burrow. The first baby images above ground were captured with the trail camera on May 15th.
Within days of being brought outside the barn, the babies begin exploring. Like others before them, they have found the special area in the Rock Garden. The rocks there provide camouflage, there is a small drain tube they can duck into, and there is plenty of vegetation to eat and hide in. By May’s end, babies have explored further, going down to the shed and even venturing as far away as the Burrow #5 area which is about 175 feet from the barn.
June This month the juveniles have been seen at all burrows: decks, shed, barn and Burrow 5. Heidi has been documented leading some juveniles to Burrow 5 and then, on June 23rd, leading three of eight to the front deck burrow. Raggedy has been watching over the burrows and juveniles closer to the house, with Heidi spending more time at the Burrow 5 location with juveniles in that area.Time spent with Raggedy assists Heidi in the weaning process as the young are forced to eat vegetation and become more independent when they are under his guidance.
In June confirmation of the presence of another male, Fred, was made. He is identifiable by the patchy pattern of his fur. He also has an intermittent stumbling issue with his back legs. He is, however, capable of climbing trees, an activity we believe Raggedy cannot perform. Fred’s role in the family is not known. It is possible he is a helper to the family. He has been seen inside the barn and at the other burrow
With tens of thousand of trail camera images, we have obtained additional insight into groundhog behavior, documenting activity that we did not personally observe. A surprising activity captured via trail camera is chuck activity after midnight, such as around 1:00 am. It is not known how often this behavior occurs.
July-November After bringing three offspring from Burrow 5 to the front deck burrow, Heidi’s presence around the house burrows: barn, decks and shed were infrequent. Our last documented sighting of Heidi was at the end of August. Our resident female since 2014, she was our longest resident female since Wilhelmina (2003-2011).
Raggedy and Fred continued to be seen regularly and were documented into October at which time we also had two juveniles, Ira and Reggie. Raggedy’s presence has been consistent. He has regularly been seen around the front and back deck burrow areas, shed and barn.
It remains unclear why Fred was here, but it is clear he had a role in activities, assisting in burrow maintenance as well as documented playful behavior with at least one juvenile. We considered the possibility that Fred was a second mate to Heidi but believe this is highly unlikely as his presence was not seen prior to Heidi giving birth. Sightings of Raggedy and Ira ceased in October, with Fred and Reggie remaining. On October 18th and 19th, Fred spent hours bringing in leaves for one of two barn burrows.
November leaves us with just one chuck, Reggie who we have identified as a female. She was last documented on November 8th making numerous trips to the barn with leaves for the burrow. The barn burrow used by Heidi, and others, no longer appears to be used. The burrow Reggie has been using is the second barn burrow, the same one Fred brought leaves in for. We assume she is now hibernating in this burrow. December Update: On Christmas Eve, we were totally surprised to see Fred on our back deck! Review of trail camera photos in the barn give strong evidence there was a burrow problem which Fred attended to on the 23rd and 24th. It appears he has resumed hibernating. Early awakening is potentially harmful for groundhogs as it requires a lot of energy. They use stored fat over winter to survive. When fat is gone, their muscles are used for fuel which is harmful. An additional concern for early awakening is predators. Groundhogs are more visible in snow and the holes they use in escaping are covered over.