Arrg! There’s a Groundhog in my Yard!
We really dig woodchucks at the Philadelphia Metro Wildlife Center, no pun intended. It’s our job to heal them when they’re hurt or displaced, and also to educate the public to coexist with them and leave them a place in the world. It’s the job of environmental educators to give you factoids about woodchucks, and that’s fine, but it’s the job of wildlife rehabilitators to get you to love them, because you won’t protect what you don’t love. Certainly, we could tell you that Marmota monax, commonly called the groundhog, woodchuck or whistle pig, is actually a type of large ground squirrel, that it’s a harmless vegetarian, that it gorges on plant matter through the spring, summer, and autumn and then goes down in a burrow to hibernate until spring. Most of us know that. What you may not know is that for all their bulk, they’re also quite agile climbers and swimmers when the need arises. They’re also comical, industrious, peaceful animals that deserve our respect.
Some people do call us at the wildlife center and complain bitterly about them. Arrg! They’ve dug under my shed! Arrg! They chewed my garden! (to which I think, if your biggest problem in the world is wildlife living their lives outdoors, please contact me and I will show you some people with real problems…).
However, there are definite positive steps to take to deal with these problems. First, realize that architecturally, woodchuck burrows do not undermine structures, not even sheds….they’re no danger in that regard. Second, it’s actually illegal to trap and relocate woodchucks. But even if you did, you wouldn’t be doing them a favor: a trapped and relocated woodchuck will just quickly find its way back home (if it’s not too far) or die a slow starving death (if it is too far).
Additionally, you’ve just put up a big “vacancy” sign for other woodchucks to move in, and therefore done yourself no good. There will always be woodchucks and humans, neither of us is going anywhere, so we need to learn to get along. So how can we solve problems?
Well, every situation is unique, and solutions abound and are too numerous to list here, but a good start is to call us at the Wildlife Center at 267-416-9453 – our wildlife rehabilitators have decades of experience. Also, a good resource is the Humane Society of the United States, whose website lists all sorts of great ideas for exclusion and problem solving. We really dig woodchucks! We hope you do too!