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GROUNDHOG

IDENTIFICATION

The woodchuck, a member of the squirrel family, is also known as the ground hog or whistle pig. It is closely related to other species of North American marmots. It is usually grizzled brownish gray, but white (albino) and black (melanistic) individuals can occasionally be found. The woodchuck’s compact, chunky body is supported by short strong legs. Its forefeet have long, curved claws that are well adapted for digging burrows. Its tail is short, well furred, and dark brown.

Groundhogs are excellent swimmers and expert tree climbers when they want to survey their surroundings.

Both sexes are similar in appearance, but the male is slightly larger, weighing an average of 5 to 10 pounds (2.2 to 4.5 kg). The total length of the head and body averages 16 to 20 inches (40 to 51 cm). The tail is usually 4 to 7 inches (10 to 18 cm) long. Like other rodents, woodchucks have white or yellowish-white, chisel-like incisor teeth. Their eyes, ears, and nose are located toward the top of the head, which allows them to remain concealed in their burrows while they check for danger over the rim or edge. Although they are slow runners, woodchucks are alert and scurry quickly to their dens when they sense danger.

DAMAGE

On occasion, the woodchuck’s feeding and burrowing habits conflict with human interests. Damage often occurs on farms, in home gardens, orchards, nurseries, around buildings, and sometimes around dikes. Damage to crops such as alfalfa, soybeans, beans, squash, and peas can be costly and extensive. Fruit trees and ornamental shrubs are damaged by woodchucks as they gnaw or claw woody vegetation. Gnawing on underground power cables has caused electrical outages. Damage to rubber hoses in vehicles, such as those used for vacuum and fuel lines, has also been documented. Mounds of earth from the excavated burrow systems and holes formed at burrow entrances present a hazard to farm equipment, horses, and riders. On occasion, burrowing can weaken dikes and foundations.

Source: ICWDM – PREVENTION AND CONTROL OF WILDLIFE DAMAGE © 1994