The groundhog or "woodchuck" as they are commonly referred to, are one of the most abundant mammals in Missouri and are part of the rodent family. They are vegetarians that create extensive burrows underground.
Adult groundhogs have a short stout body that ranges in length from 16-27 inches including their tail. Adults weigh between 4-14 pounds and have short strong legs, small ears, and a flattened bushy tail. Like all other rodent species they have a pair of large front teeth. Their fur is a grayish-brown color and can have yellow or red highlights in it.
Groundhogs hibernate underground in their burrows during the winter months from late October to February. After emerging they mate and after 31-33 days a litter of 2-9 young are born. Each female gives birth to one litter per year.
The young are born helpless, hairless, and blind. At about 4 weeks of age they open their eyes for the first time and about 2-3 weeks later they venture outside of the burrow for the first time. During the middle of summer the young leave their family and create their own burrows to live and hibernate in.
Groundhogs live in areas that include fields, lawns, and along fence lines and roadsides. They live in burrows that they create 4-5 feet underneath of the ground. The groundhogs mound a pile of dirt next to their burrow entrance that can be 10-12 inches in diameter. The burrows can run as long as 25-30 feet and they generally have two entrances as a means of escape. If they create their extensive burrows underneath of the foundations of homes or other buildings they can significantly weaken the structural integrity of those buildings.
Groundhogs are vegetarians and are most active in the early morning and early evening hours. They feed on a wide range of plant materials that include: dandelions, broad-leaf weeds, grasses, and vegetables.
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The best way to protect your property against groundhogs is to use fencing to keep them out of gardens and out from underneath of sheds or other outbuildings. The fencing needs to be buried into the ground at least 18 inches to keep them from digging underneath of it. It can also be beneficial to fasten mesh hardware skirting around the bottom of decks, sheds, and other outbuildings.
The most effective way to control groundhogs on your property is to get help from a professional wildlife removal company. At Rottler Pest & Lawn Solutions, our specially trained wildlife technicians can help to control groundhogs safely and humanely on your property.