Tuesday, July 24, 2012

We Live Here: Groundhogs

An entrance to a groundhog den

This post continues a series I am calling We Live Here to raise awareness about wildlife habitat and how you can help maintain and preserve it. 

To some people this is just a hole in the ground. To a groundhog or woodchuck it is the front door to the den or den pipe. (Click on the photo.) According to writer Patrick Burns, "The den pipe of a groundhog den may plunge straight down as much as two or three feet. It is very common for a groundhog pipe to have at least one or two right angles in it locations from which the groundhog can slash at foxes and dogs that might try to pursue them underground."

I like groundhogs and enjoy observing them as they raise their young. Several generations of groundhogs have built a network of dens here and seeing them out and about in early spring is a sign that the ecosystem is healthy. 

I don't grow vegetables, so groundhogs and I have no "issues." I've learned to plant what they won't eat and they help me out by consuming a lot of weeds. 

However, you absolutely can grow vegetables if groundhogs live on your land. The key is fencing and installing it correctly. Learn more at this link.

By digging their burrows groundhogs help improve the soil, breaking it down to create better topsoil. Their abandoned dens provide homes for other animals such as foxes and skunks, and they live here too. 

Groundhogs are also an important food source for foxes, hawks and coyotes, and while it saddens me to see so many of them end up as road kill, their carcasses provide substantial meals for many wildlife families.

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