Groundhog Facts

Groundhogs, also called woodchucks, are large rodents. They are also one of the 14 species of marmot, or ground squirrels, and they are the largest members of the squirrel family.

From head to rump, groundhogs are 17.75 to 24 inches (45 to 61 centimeters) long. They weigh around 13 lbs. (6 kilograms), which is about twice the average weight of a newborn human baby. Like other squirrels, groundhogs have long tails that grow around 7 to 9.75 in (18 to 25 cm) long. 

Groundhogs also have sharp claws that they use to dig impressive burrows in the ground. During the warm months, a groundhog's incisors grow about a sixteenth of an inch (1.6 millimeters) each week to keep up with their frenzied eating schedule. 

Signs

These rodents are herbivores, which means they eat vegetation. A groundhog's diet can include fruit, plants, tree bark and grasses. They are known for damaging crops and gardens and many consider them pests.

Groundhog Tracks

Pest Tips

Groundhogs are found only in North America, from Canada down to the southern United States. They like woodland areas that bump up against more open areas. They dig burrows that can be 6 feet (1.8 meters) deep, and 20 feet (6 m) wide. These underground homes can also have two to a dozen entrances. Typically, they have a burrow in the woods for the winter and a burrow in grassy areas for the warmer months. Groundhogs keep their burrows tidy by changing out the nesting found inside from time to time.

Groundhogs are solitary creatures and they spend their summers and falls stuffing themselves and taking naps in the sun. They can eat about a pound of food per sitting.

In the winter, they hibernate. While hibernating, the groundhog's heartbeat slows from 80 beats per minute to 5 beat per minute; their respiration reduces from 16 breaths per minute to as few as 2 breaths per minute; and their body temperature drops from about 99 degrees Fahrenheit (37.2 Celsius) to as low as 37 degrees F (2.77 C), according to the National Wildlife Federation.

A groundhog typically sticks close to home. They usually don't wander farther than 50 to 150 feet (15 to 30 m) from their den during the daytime.

Groundhogs don't eat during hibernation. They use fat that they built up over the summer and winter month.

Control

Groundhogs rarely come in contact with humans and therefore pose no major public health hazards; however, they are capable of carrying fleas, ticks and rabies. Groundhogs can be trapped using our Kage-All®Live Animal Traps.

Positioning And Baiting A Groundhog Trap

Choosing the location for a groundhog trap is one of the most important things, and this will generally be near the burrow of the animal or the area of your garden that it is using to get in. For those who have a groundhog on their property, placing the trap very close to the entrance of the burrow will usually be best, and because of the amount of soil that is moved it will often be quite obvious where the animal is dwelling. 

Using the right bait is also important, otherwise it's possible that you may trap another animal instead of the groundhog. There are commercial products available, but many people have had great success using sunflower seeds, peanut butter and corn, however cantaloupe is the bait of choice preferred by many people. Once the trap has been placed near the usual path or the burrow of the groundhog, spread some bait on the floor in front of the trap, before putting more of the bait inside the trap to encourage the animal to enter. Avoid transferring your scent to the trap by wearing gloves when baiting and handling it. Groundhogs avoid humans and may avoid your trap if it carries your scent.

Once you have trapped a live groundhog, throw a blanket over the trap as this will help to calm the animal. Some regulations will ask that you take your groundhog to an authorized location, but if there is no such scheme in your state drive the animal at least 10 miles away from your home before releasing the groundhog. 

Trivia

In February, males will come out of hibernation and search for females' burrows. When he finds one, he heads on in. It is believed that males do this to introduce themselves to possible mates. In the spring, mating season progresses and the females give birth to two to six young after a gestation period of around 32 days.

The babies are blind and hairless, but quickly become mature in just three months or so. When they are mature, they typically leave their mother to dig their own homes. Groundhogs live around three to six years.

Available from Kness

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