What are woodchucks? — Hannah’s student essay

What Are Woodchucks?

How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a wood chuck could chuck wood? The answer, 700 pounds. Unfortunately, woodchucks, more commonly known as groundhogs, do not chuck wood. Woodchucks are very famous for their burrowing skills. That is how biologist estimated that if a woodchuck could chuck wood, it would be equivalent to the amount of dirt they chuck which is around 700 pounds.

If woodchucks do not chuck wood, why are they known by this name? It is said that the original name was “wejack” which is an Algonquian word meaning “fisher”. At some point the word became anglicized incorrectly and that is why groundhogs are also known as woodchucks.

If you are unfamiliar with woodchucks, consider yourself lucky. Woodchucks are lowland animals found mostly across the eastern United States. They are most known for causing costly damage to people’s properties. They do this by eating vegetable gardens and any other landscaping plants that they find tasty. 

They can also cause damage to homes by burrowing under the foundation. Other common issues relating to the presents of woodchucks are, farm machinery being harmed in the running over of mounds caused by burrows.

There is also a concern from horse owners if woodchucks burrow on their property, the horses may injure themselves on the mounds. Therefore, most people view woodchucks as “vermin” except when we need them to tell us if we will have and early spring or six weeks more of winter.

Groundhog popping out of his hole

Considering the amount of damage these creatures can do, you are probably wondering what they look like. Woodchucks do look very similar to a beaver however they have short stubby tails unlike the beaver. They are about the size of a large house cat but can weigh up to 15 pounds. They are brownish gray in color and have short powerful limbs for digging. 

Woodchucks are not aggressive animals, like most animals they do have the ability to scratch and bite if cornered but rarely ever do. Overall, they look like a cuddly creature despite the damage to property.

If you spot one of these animals around your home, what should you do? Well you have a few options, the first is to call a wildlife professional. Wildlife professionals are common in all areas and are trained experts in removing woodchucks (and other animals) humanely from your property. If you prefer to get rid of the woodchucks yourself, you could irritate them into leaving by doing a couple different things.

You can partially dig around the entrances, put something with a strong scent near the entrances or dig out all the vegetation near the entrances. If you are successful, you can also decide to close the burrow if you believe there are no longer woodchucks residing there. Before you do this, you should confirm by loosely covering the burrow entrances with things like grass clippings or newspaper. Make sure this action takes place in the summer because woodchucks do hibernate in the winter. 

Then you should check the entrances in a few days and if grass clippings or newspaper is undisturbed, then you will know the burrow is unoccupied. You will need heavy gauge fencing wire (no larger than three-inch squares) to cover the entrances. Cut the wire in three by three feet sections burying the wire one foot deep. This should keep your visitors from returning. If a woodchuck happens to reside on your property, know that they are not dangerous animals. They can do some harm to the property but there are many humane ways to remove them.

Author: Hannah Latham

Student Scholarships

Every year Thrive Pest Control hosts an essay contest and the reward is a 1-year scholarship at a 4-year university in the United States. This blog post is one of those scholarships.