Groundhogs or woodchucks (Marmota monax) are a large rodent species weighing 5 to 10 pounds, measure 16 to 20 inches in length, and have a short tail 4 to 8 inches long with fur on it. They can vary in coat color from light to dark brown and are widely distributed in every municipality throughout Gloucester County. These animals can live in suburban yards and gardens and as herbivores, they eat many types of grasses and other types of vegetation. Woodchucks breed in March and April and typically have four to six young about a month after mating. They are able to dig extensive burrows that can form complex, multi-chambered systems that can exceed 30 feet in length.
In addition to the primary entrance, there are often multiple secondary entrances all of which are usually 6 to 8 inches in diameter and often have excavated dirt mounded around the opening. Woodchucks are not considered to be a significant source for infectious diseases that are contagious to humans but are able to contract the rabies virus. During the final stages of rabies, groundhogs may become boldly aggressive and lose their fear of humans or domestic animals to the point they will sometimes attack.
What You Can Do About Them
Consider trying to tolerate their heightened activity in spring and summer. Unless cornered, groundhogs are non-threatening in nature and have a flight response as a first instinct. Once the young are born and reared, they will disperse and the population will stabilize at normal levels. In late fall, the animals will go dormant for the winter and won't reappear until the weather dramatically warms up.
Habitat Modification & Non-Lethal Exclusion Methods
Try habitat modification and non-lethal exclusion methods to convince the groundhogs to live elsewhere, or at least scale back their territory to avoid the affected property. Mothballs and ammonia-soaked rags placed in burrow openings and frequently refreshed will cause a potent smell that is said to help repel animals from the underground passages. Clearing any cover or vegetation away from the burrow entrances will also discourage their use. Loosely filling in the burrow opening is another form of mild harassment that will cause the groundhog to have to re-excavate.
If a resident obtains their own trap and plans on catching the offending animals, it is highly recommended that they first familiarize themselves with the information for guidelines on relocating wildlife (PDF).
Unless a resident wants to greatly increase their chances of inadvertently catching skunks, the best practice is to close the trap overnight and reset it first thing in the morning as groundhogs are active during daylight hours.
Woodchuck Winter Dormancy
Take advantage during the woodchuck winter dormancy to properly secure the bottom of any sheds or raised decks on your property using rolls heavy-duty welded wire that is partially buried under the ground to prevent them from digging.
Animal Control Services in Regard to Groundhogs
Unfortunately, groundhogs are so widespread and numerous that Animal Control wound never be able to remove all of the problem animals from resident's property without redistributing the issue somewhere else.
Sick or Injured Groundhogs
We will promptly respond to reports of sick or injured groundhogs (or any other animal) on public and private properties and roadways throughout the twenty-four municipalities in Gloucester County during our regular business hours. After hour responses require a local police department to verify the location and condition of the animal.
Animal Control will respond 24 hours a day for reports of groundhogs in the living portion of Gloucester County resident's homes. Yes, this can sometimes happen.
Animal Control should be contacted right away if your pet comes in direct contact with a groundhog. We will attempt to capture the animal as it will require testing for rabies at the state lab. Please have the information available for your pet's most recent rabies vaccine. It is also recommended that you contact your veterinarian in regard to getting your pet a rabies booster shot.
Animal Control will not relocate an animal that is caught in a resident's trap. The relocation is the responsibility of the resident who set the trap.