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Groundhog — (Marmota monax)

The age-old question: How much wood could a woodchuck (or a groundhog, if you prefer) chuck, if a woodchuck could chuck wood? Sure, it’s a charming childhood tongue-twister, but it’s no laughing matter where these grizzled, brownish-gray mammals are concerned. Equipped with long, curved claws ideal for digging and climbing, these burly 5- to 10-pound, 20-inch long rodents are very capable of causing extensive damage through their feeding and burrowing habits.

Ornamental shrubs, fruit trees, garden vegetables and other vegetation are all popular dinner choices for the strictly-vegetarian woodchucks, found throughout virtually the entire eastern United States. Active during the day, their claws and yellowish-white incisor teeth can rapidly undermine long hours of landscaping efforts.

Preferring to live in open farmland and surrounding wooded areas, woodchucks inhabit extensive underground burrows, with tunnel systems as deep as five feet extending up to nearly 70 feet in length. The primary burrow entrance is usually marked by a large mound of earth, although secondary entrances — dug from underground — may be virtually unnoticeable. These woodchuck entrances pose a real tripping injury threat to horses, riders and walkers alike. Additionally, old burrows may become the new home for other nuisance animals.

One of the few mammals that enter into true hibernation in the colder areas of the country, woodchuck activity generally ends in November, and resumes in March. A single litter of up to six pups are born each season, with an average woodchuck’s lifespan reaching from three to six years.

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