Facts, Identification & Control
What do they look like?
Woodchucks are stout, ranging in weight from 4 to 14 lbs. They have short, powerful legs with four clawed toes on the front feet and five toes on the hind ones. Small ears and a short, bushy tail with long, coarse body hair are all noticeable characteristics of this subterranean dweller.
The name “groundhog” came about because of the woodchuck’s short legs and appearance of crouching close to the ground.
How Did I Get Woodchucks?
Woodchucks, also known as groundhogs or whistle pigs in search of food and shelter often end up in residential areas. The ground underneath homes, sheds, porches, lumber piles, rock piles and large piles of dirt provides the ideal location for these pests to dig burrows. Nearby gardens and flower beds offer plenty of food for woodchucks, making lawns and backyards an inviting place to live.
How Serious Are Woodchucks?
These animals cause problems because they dig up turf and eat plants and the burrows they construct create holes in the ground or under storage sheds that are unsightly and may be hazardous to people, pets, or livestock walking in the yard. Woodchuck burrows are especially problematic for running horses that accidentally step into a woodchuck burrow and seriously injure themselves. Woodchucks can also damage driveways and foundations with their burrowing activities.
How Can You Get Rid of Them?
Any control of wildlife may have restrictions under wildlife control and game laws. This should only be done by a professionally licensed wildlife specialist.
One of the most effective ways to manage woodchucks is to humanely trap them. However, while woodchucks are usually not very aggressive when out of their dens, they will become quite aggressive when inside a trap, so be cautious of avoid bites when dealing with a trapped woodchuck. There are some states that designate woodchucks as game animals, so be sure to contact your local Orkin office for advice about the best methods to use for woodchuck damage control.
Signs of a Woodchuck Problem
The three main signs include sightings of woodchucks, their burrows and their feeding damage.
Behavior, Diet & Habits
Woodchuck vs Groundhog
The woodchuck is known by different names depending on where one lives. Marmota monax is also known as a groundhog through much of the eastern United States, and members of its genus are commonly referred to as marmots in the western United States. For the purpose of consistency, we have referred to them as woodchucks.
What do they eat?
These stocky animals are herbivorous (vegetarians). A woodchuck or two can lay ruin to a small-sized garden overnight. Their preferred diet consists of various grasses, plantains, alfalfa, clover and other green succulents. An adult will consume between 1 and 1.5 lbs. of vegetation daily.
Where do they live?
In residential areas, woodchucks are typically found to burrow under homes, garages, patios or anything that can provide overhead security. The burrowing can become so extensive that these burrows have been known to weaken and cause the collapse of slabs and retaining walls.
In the wild, woodchucks prefer to make their home along embankments, at roadsides, in fields and open pastures. The greater part of their day is spent in the burrow. Feeding periods vary, based on conditions and season.
Woodchucks aren’t particularly fond of either high heat or the very cold, so they tend to stay underground during extreme temperatures. Woodchucks do hibernate and typically do so from mid-October to February.
The burrow system of the woodchuck isn’t nearly as extensive as the gopher’s. It’s located between two and four feet below the ground and extends about 15 to 20 feet. A woodchuck’s main nesting chamber is located at the end of the burrow. The main entrance is identifiable by a mound of earth around the above-ground opening.
Reproduction & Life Cycle
Mating occurs shortly after emerging from hibernation, and a single litter is born to the female each year.