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Woodchucks

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Rodentia
Family: Sciuridae
Species: Marmota Monax

Woodchuck Information    Order: Rodentia   How much wood,...   Picture of Woodchuck Resting
Punxsutawney Phil    Woodchuck Damage    Woodchuck Control

Woodchuck Tongue Twister  (how much wood would a woodchuck...)

The woodchuck inspired the tongue twister “How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?”  The typical answer would be “A woodchuck would chuck as much wood as a woodchuck could chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood.”  In all actuality, the name “woodchuck” has nothing to do with wood, the phonetic sound of its given name led to the tongue twister.  As we will see later in this article, this animal's name originally was used as a blanket term for many animals that were of the same size and color before we adopted the name "woodchuck" for the species Marmota Monax.

The name given to the Woodchuck was originally an Algonquian name taken from the word “wuchak” which was used to describe different animals of similar size and color.  They are largest member of the squirrel family and part of the Order Rodentia, which includes rats, mice, squirrels, prairie dogs, chipmunks, beavers and porcupines.  Out of these animals, only the beaver and porcupine is larger than the woodchuck.  Also known as the groundhog or whistle-pig, its closest relative is the yellow bellied marmot and the hoary marmot. 

The woodchuck inhabits farm fields, open land and suburban neighborhoods in Canada and the Northeast and Northwest United States.  Identified by its blackish brown fur, stout body, short legs, brown feet, short bristly tail and flat head, the woodchuck has four clawed toes on its front feet and five clawed toes on its hind feet.  They have small ears, large black eyes and a white patch around its nose. 

The burrow of a woodchuck is often found near a major source of food in open fields, meadows, pastures, fences and woodland edges.  They are also found under barns, sheds and porches.  Woodchucks can move about 700 pounds of dirt when digging their burrows, made up of an entrance, a spy hole, a nesting area, and an excretion area.  The main entrance is usually found with a pile of dirt near it at the base of a tree that is stripped of bark near the bottom of the tree; this is the result from the woodchuck marking it territory.  Burrows reach five feet below ground and length-wise extend for thirty feet. Woodchuck picture

The woodchuck is often seen on warm days basking in the sun.  They sleep on fence posts, stone walls, large rocks, fallen logs and grassy areas close to their burrows.  The woodchuck enters hibernation in early October and seals the entrance to its burrow with dirt.  They come out of hibernation in March and even later in the north.  During the winter, while the woodchuck is hibernating under ground, rabbits will sometimes use a portion of the burrow as a nest. 
Come summertime when the burrow is vacant, it is used by cottontail rabbits, opossums, raccoons, skunks and foxes who sometimes enlarge it to create a nursery den. 
The woodchuck emerges from its burrow in the early morning and late evening (dawn and dusk) to eat.  They do this in order to get their intake of water from the dew and plant moister contained in their preferred foods.  Woodchucks love home grown vegetables such as lettuce, spinach, green beans, peas, squash, zucchini, cucumbers and berries.  These animals have been known to damage vegetable and flower gardens, crops, orchards, nurseries and around buildings. 
Male woodchucks have been known to travel long distances to find a mate.  Once together, the male and female remain a couple until their young are born.  The female gives birth to four naked, blind and helpless pups in April or May. 
The number of woodchucks has grown since the clearing of forests for farmland. Woodchucks have a series of squeals, grunts and other sounds when caught, when fighting or injured or defending its territory and family.  Preyed upon by foxes, hawks, coyotes, and dogs, they will defend their burrow when it is invaded by skunks and weasels.  When escaping from predators, the woodchuck will run into its burrow quickly and escape using one of its other entrances.  They can also swim and climb trees when escaping. 

Punxsutawney Phil 

The most famous woodchuck or ground hog is Punxsutawney Phil who emerges from his burrow in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania on February 2 to predict whether the country will have six more weeks of winter.  Phil eats dog food and ice cream and lives in at the Punxsutawney Library.  On February 2, he is taken to Gobbler’s Knob and put in a heated burrow under a fake tree stump.  From here he is pulled out at 7:25 am where he predicts the weather speaking in ‘Groundhogese’ to the Groundhog Pope. 
Punxsutawney Phil has been predicting the weather for 120 years now.

Woodchuck Damage

Due to its burrowing habits and choice of foods, the woodchuck can sometimes cause enough damage for it to be considered a pest or nuisance animal.  Burrows will sometimes cause porches or small buildings to have structural integrity.
The foods preferred by this animal often get the woodchuck in trouble with its human neighbors.  Damage to small trees and ornamental plants as well as destruction of food crops are often reported.  Not every woodchuck that lives in close proximity with humans is a pest.  Only when property is destroyed or crops ruined are control measures required.

Woodchuck Control

The control of nuisance woodchucks can be achieved through the use of several techniques; the best control usually comes about by combining two or more deterrents or with trapping the animal for relocation.  As with all nuisance wildlife, check with local, county or state officials for laws which might dictate what control measures are allowed. 
Trapping Woodchucks    Non-trapping Techniques 
Sound deterrents have not proven very effective with this animal.  On non-crop plants (flowers, shrubs, etc.) a taste deterrent can be very effective - unless you are dealing with a stubborn creature that gets great joy from bothering you!  Ropel Liquid is a good taste deterrent that can be used on any plant not intended for use as food for humans or animals.  This liquid contains a vile tasting substance that usually stops animals from chewing or gnawing on an object after experiencing just one or two bites of the material.  As mentioned earlier, some animals or more stubborn than others and require more time to deter.
Combining Ropel Liquid Deterrent with a simple motion deterrent will often do the trick - and without causing any harm to the targeted animal such as a nuisance woodchuck.  One of the best deterrents is the Scarecrow motion activated device.  The Scarecrow connects to your garden hose and is strategically placed in your garden or flower bed.  As an unwanted animal (such as woodchuck, deer, stray dogs and cats) come into range, the motion detector triggers the Scarecrow to release a quick, short and harmless burst of water.
The Scarecrow can be adjusted to cover a wide or narrow area; using multiple units increases the effectiveness against garden pests such as woodchucks and deer.
Use motion deterrent and taste deterrent in combination for maxim results.  This will give the animal the idea that it is not wanted in given areas!

Trapping Woodchucks

There are two traps which are of suitable size for trapping woodchucks: Cat Trap and Universal Trap.  Using a cat trap can be effective but the Universal Trap gives you more options for a successful trapping program.  With the Universal, the trap can be set to capture nuisance wildlife in a conventional manner or by setting over exit holes of burrows; you have the options of allowing woodchucks (or other animals of similar size) to enter trap through one end or from the bottom side of trap.  Using the Universal Trap, you have more options for trapping a variety of animals in any nuisance wildlife control program.
When trapping woodchucks, use their preferred food as your bait.  Many people report having success with broccoli or other fruit or vegetable that the woodchuck seems to have a weakness for.

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Wildlife Control    Woodchuck Trap   Woodchucks