2017 Photos

Woodchuck Year In Review


2017 was an unusual and confusing year of woodchuck activity, beginning with emergence of Fred and Raggedy in February followed by Reggie, Heidi, and Ira in March. Identification for Fred, Raggedy, and Heidi were solid. Reggie and Ira were believed to be 2016 offspring of Heidi, our resident female since 2014. Prior to hibernation in 2016, Reggie was seen into November and identified, in part, by a left side patch. Ira was observed into October. Comparison of photos of Reggie and Ira from 2016 were made in an effort to confirm identification and considered to most likely be the same chucks. Additionally, the order of emergence of our 5 woodchucks from hibernation is consistent with research by Gary G. Kwiecinski [1]. Adult males emerge in February with females and sub adults, or yearlings, emerging in March. Though not absolutely certain, observations and trail camera photos suggest all 5 woodchucks hibernated in our barn.

WOODCHUCK CHASE

In mid-March, Fred was observed limping and sightings of him ceased. Raggedy continued to be observed until late March. 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.

WHO’S THE FATHER?

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 he was a male, and even if he was, we believed that as a yearling it was not biologically possible for Reggie to be a candidate for father. However, researcher Gary G. Kwiencinski [1] reported that though most woodchuck males mature as two-year-olds, an increasing number of yearling males may possibly engage in breeding activity. In June, we were able to confirm that Reggie is a male. While it’s not certain Reggie is father of Ira’s offspring, he is a more likely candidate. Suggestive, too, was that Reggie remained with Ira and interacted with the juveniles before they dispersed.

END OF WOODCHUCK SEASON

Reggie and Ira re-designed the barn by digging an unprecedented number of holes with tunnels. Seven were filled in October leaving the main burrows, and holes used by possum. Holes and tunnels were tested for occupancy prior to fill 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.

[1] Published 4 December 1998, American Society of Mammologists, link

February – April

May

June

July – September