2017 was an unusual and confusing year of woodchuck activity! The season began with the emergence of 5 groundhogs from hibernation! First were males Fred and Raggedy in February, followed by Reggie, Heidi, and Ira in March.
We had no question about identities for Fred, Raggedy, and Heidi. Reggie and Ira, who were thought to be Heidi’s offspring from 2016, required more investigation. Before entering hibernation in 2016 Reggie was identified by a patchy area of fur. This patchy area was still present in 2017. Comparison of photos of Reggie and Ira from 2016 was made. We determined they were most likely the chucks from 2016.
Additionally, the order of emergence of our 5 woodchucks from hibernation is consistent with research by Gary G. Kwiecinski . He reported that adult males emerge in February with females and subadults, or yearlings, emerging in March. Though not entirely sure, observations and trail camera photos suggest all 5 woodchucks hibernated in our barn.
In mid-March, Fred was observed limping and sightings of him ceased. Raggedy continued to be seen until late March. Then, on April 2, Ira chased Heidi, and they engaged in a fight. After this event, Heidi moved to a new location though she returned briefly on a few occasions. An April 22nd sighting of Heidi strongly indicated she was a mom again. The question of why Ira ran Heidi off remained unanswered until May when it became evident that Ira was also a mom, and a young one! Females usually breed in their second year. Seemingly, Ira wanted her birth home to raise her babies.
Now the question arose, who was the father of Ira’s 5 babies? Reggie was believed to be Ira’s sibling. We hadn’t been able to confirm that Reggie was a male. Even if he was, we thought that as a yearling it was not biologically possible for Reggie to be a candidate for father. However, researcher Gary G. Kwiencinski  reported that though most woodchuck males mature as two-year-olds, an increasing number of yearling males may possibly engage in breeding activity. Suggestive, too, was that Reggie remained with Ira and interacted with the juveniles before they dispersed. In June, we confirmed that Reggie is a male. While we can’t be entirely sure Reggie is a father of Ira’s offspring, he is a likely candidate.
Reggie and Ira re-designed the barn by digging an unprecedented number of holes with tunnels. Fill in of some was necessary for use of our barn. We waited until October and then filled in seven, leaving the main burrows, and holes used by the possums. Holes and tunnels were tested for occupancy before filling in. The last sighting of Ira was on September 30th. It’s unknown if she, or any other woodchuck, is hibernating in the barn. One trail camera will remain in operation over winter, focused on an entrance hole and view of the main burrow hole.
Our narrated video “Groundhogs 2017” can be seen on the Video page of this website.
 Published 4 December 1998, American Society of Mammologists, link
February – April
July – September