The groundhog is also known as the woodchuck and the whistle pig in some areas. Groundhogs are stocky greyish-brown animals of the rodent family with a furry tail and short legs. They have thick curved claws for digging and two pairs of strong front teeth for gnawing. Groundhogs can swim and climb, although they prefer to spend their time on and below ground. Their excellent sight and hearing allow them to detect predators from far away, which is helpful considering they can’t run very fast on those short legs.
In a local range groundhogs are found throughout the entire state of Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and even Washington DC. Groundhogs are rather common in Maryland and you can often see them catching some sun or foraging on summer afternoons. Groundhogs build dens by digging up to 15 feet below the ground. The dens may have multiple entrances, allowing the groundhog to retreat back to its shelter quickly if a predator appears. These entrance tunnels can measure up to 50 feet long, giving the animal a good range around its burrow where it can roam safely.
In rural areas, groundhogs usually have their burrows in open fields, pastures, farming fields, along fence lines and stone walls. However, their burrows and main den chamber are always close to grassy areas, which provide plenty of food sources. In suburban and urban communities, groundhogs will often burrow next to or directly against the foundation of a home or building, because the concrete foundation provides great support for the den. Occasionally they will also burrow in wooded areas or at the base of a tree, but usually choose open fields or grounds that are not cluttered with tree roots.
Groundhogs will have between 2 to 5 entry points leading to their den that measure around 10 to 13 inches in diameter. The first entry hole that the ground hog digs will have dirt surrounding it, but the rest might not have any dirt at all. Marylanders often find that they have groundhogs by discovering the large mounds of dirt excavated from a hole. Some burrow entry points are not so easy to find because they are located under decks, under bushes or shrubs, and under sheds. Groundhogs use their burrows throughout the entire year for raising their young, hibernating during the winter months and mating.
Groundhogs are herbivores, which means they eat mostly grass, vegetables, legumes, beans and other “vegetarian” foods. Soybeans, peas, clover and carrots are some of their favorites, while they won’t pass on broccoli, chard, tomatoes and whatever they can find in your garden. In their quest for food, groundhogs have been known to climb fences, rip open trash bags and even go up the deck stairs.
Mating and Reproduction
Groundhogs breed around March or April after they emerge from hibernation. Males may travel long distances looking for a mate, sometimes at night. They will have somewhere between 2 to 6 young that are born hairless and stay with their mother until June-July. Then they leave to find their own homes, either by digging or occupying abandoned dens. Groundhogs can use the same den for several seasons—they maintain it and keep it clean all this time.
Do you have a nuisance groundhog on your Maryland property? Contact Mid-Atlantic Wildlife Control today for a swift and humane resolution to your problem.