Woodchucks, also called marmots or groundhogs, are one of the main critters in gardens and yards. The adult woodchuck’s body is 24 to 33 inches long inclusive of a 6 inch-long tail, and weighs 14 pounds. The creature’s heavy and furry body, short legs and protruding front teeth used for gnawing are typical characteristics of the rodent family. Their average lifespan in the wild is between 5 and 6 years.
Woodchucks are usually found in open fields, rocky areas and woodland clearings, as well as near dams and green embankments along highways. They excel at digging burrows to live in; these go two to six feet underground and up to 40 feet long. Remarkably, woodchuck burrows are compartmentalized for nesting, sleeping and secreting waste, and have multiple exits in case the woodchuck needs to make a hasty retreat during a predator attack. Gardeners can locate the main entrance of these burrows by the telltale dirt mounds nearby.
Woodchucks utilize two separate burrows in a year. They dig their summer burrows in gardens and yards close to their source of food. Their winter burrows are usually found in wooded or brush covered areas, and go to depths that are well below the frost line. During winter season, they hibernate underground and lower their breathing rate, heart rate and body temperature to conserve energy.
A woodchuck reaches mating age two years from birth. Thought they generally live alone; in late February or March the male woodchuck visits the female’s burrow to mate and then leaves. Around a month later, the female gives birth to a litter of four to six young ones called kits. She raises them by herself inside the burrow for the first six weeks, after which they are ready to accompany her outside on food forages. By the time they are two months old, they separate from the mother and survive independently.
Woodchucks are primarily vegetarian; they love grass and fresh vegetables like peas, beans, lettuce, squash and broccoli. They also feed on various berries, ferns, fruits, flowers, nuts and the bark of maple and hickory trees. They forage for food quickly to minimize the chance of running into predators and are capable of destroying an entire yard in mere hours; this huge appetite makes them one of a gardener’s top enemy. Woodchucks go in search of food during the early morning and late afternoon to avoid the harsh midday sun. As winter approaches, they feed more heavily in preparation for hibernation.
Reaction to Predators and Defensive Behavior
When a woodchuck encounters the threat of predators such as coyotes, bobcats, foxes, owls, hawks and eagles, it may let out a shrill whistle to warn other woodchucks of impending danger. A woodchuck is sometimes nicknamed whistle-pig because of that unique sound it produces. Although this creature is not a very fast runner, it is an adept swimmer and can manage to climb trees with the help of its sharp claws. When ever possible, it retreats to its burrow after an attack. However, if the burrow is invaded, the woodchuck will bravely defend itself using its large pair of incisors and front claws. This territorial rodent also puts up a fight to gain dominance over others in the same species.
Using Natural Behavior To Get Rid of Woodchucks
A woodchuck has a deep-set fear of its predators, an inherent characteristic that can be used to keep this harmful creature away from gardens and vegetable patches. The critter repellent Shake-Away contains granules having the urine scent of a coyote or fox. When these granules are sprinkled around the area to be protected, the scent frightens the woodchucks away from the garden and deters them from returning. Shake-Away is a chemical-free repellent that is safe and inoffensive to humans. You can rely on the Shake-Away woodchuck repellent to enjoy a woodchuck-free garden.