Can you help identify a critter? Looks like giant gopher.

blitzdes(z9 ETX)July 17, 2005

Last year we had rabbits in the neigborhood. This year we have something that's been called a gopher, a woodchuck, and a groundhog, but I looked those up, and it doesn't seem to quite fit the descriptions. Sorry no pic is available; I just saw it for the first time this morning, and just for a few minutes.

It has markings much like a gopher, I think: kind of gray-brown salt & pepper fur, dark nose and snout with the dark color fading into the head; dark long tail, sits up on its hind legs to eat. However, I think it's bigger than a gopher - the body is maybe 15" long, with the tail adding another 10"-12". The size is more like a beaver, but I don't think the tail is flat.

It doesn't seem to be doing extensive (visible) tunneling in the yards (some neighbors have found a few tunnels, but there are also other burrowers around), and when I saw it, it was on top of the ground doing some weeding for me, rather than going after roots or digging. It wasn't eating any of my good plants, as far as I could tell. However, I am in the process of naturalizing, so there are plenty of weed-type plants for it to opt for.

Any guesses about what our neighborhood critter is?

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It sounds like a woodchuck to me. I have had ones much bigger than my cat in my backyard, and have seen them eat sitting up like this. Try googling wood chuck and check out the photos.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2005 at 9:40AM
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blitzdes(z9 ETX)

Why, I do believe you're right! I also learned that "woodchuck" and "groundhog" are the same animal, so that explains a lot. Thanks much for the quick ID!

It sure is cute, but should I worry about this creature? Will it continue to do my weeding for me, or will it start going after the hostas and ligularias? Something tells me it's not going to be as discriminate as I'd like it to be...however, I'm willing to share as long as it doesn't wipe things out. Not much sense in naturalizing if the wildlife aren't welcome, in my opinion.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2005 at 10:07AM
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jackied164(z6 MA)

I think if a groundhog is hungry everything is fair game but they can be selective. I have not seen my little friend touch hostas but he sure likes a lot of things I would rather he did not. I wish he was fond of weeds but other than Queen Ann's Lace he apparently prefers things I cultivate. Groundhogs really make a mess of the plants they like and when they start to grow back they return and chew them back again. I keep trying to think of my groundhog as just part of the local wildlife but its hard when he keeps destroying my garden.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2005 at 11:35AM
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blitzdes(z9 ETX)

Yeah...I've never really heard of a herbivore that only eats weeds (but wouldn't that be cool? tee hee!). I'll keep an eye out to see if the woodchuck/groundhogcontinues to help with my weeding, or moves on to the planted stuff.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2005 at 9:48PM
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lori_holder(z5 MA)

Heh heh heh...

Had a very similar question to this on the forum this spring, got a very similar answer. Had a goundhog (yes, groundhog=woodchuck) chowing down on my perennial sunflowers. I chased it off & hoped it was gone for good.


I found out on the web that sunflowers and campanula (the two plants in that bed) are E-ticket rides where groundhogs are concerned. It became clear that the groundhog could eat the sunflowers faster than they could grow, so I had the landscaper (young men, strong backs) come out to till the bed under and plant some shrubs. I specifically asked him for things that were NOT highly prized by the critters.

He planted fothergillia and rose of sharon. They have, so far, turned out to be unappealing to groundhogs, which is a jolly good thing as I discovered later that week that the groundhogs had moved in permanently. The little buggers had made a nice big burrow under a tree close to the salad bar (digging under a wooden fence, six inches of fresh mulch, AND chewing through a big piece of weed-cloth do to so. nothing like persistence, eh??).

There's a couple of little ones in there - either the offspring of the monster hog I ran off early in the spring, or completely unrelated family. They come out and pick weeds out of the lawn. I've also seen them on our patio (makes the cat go simply WILD when he sees them through the window) and they get there by going through my daylily bed, but they don't bother that, the shrubs, or the perennials in the front. Either they haven't discovered the lush piles of campanula, or the front is too exposed. I'm hoping that it's the latter!!

They are cute, aren't they? They're even cuter when they're not molesting your investment in landscaping...

    Bookmark   July 18, 2005 at 7:26AM
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One of my friends hated the groundhog that lived under her shed but she didn't want to interfere with nature to get rid of morning she looks out the kitchen window and sees a coyote pop out of the bushes and grab the groundhog! Yay! Or, rather yikes!

    Bookmark   July 18, 2005 at 8:33AM
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DorothyA(z4 VT)

After a groundhog burned my brother's first house in the country down (chewed ancient wiring that caused a short, which caused a fire), he took their presence anywhere within his property lines as a personal challenge. So when one moved in under his shed... well, that poor woodchuck didn't know what he's got himself into. One Saturday morning, said brother looks up from his coffee to see Woody chomping on the garden. He grabs his shotgun and within a minute, Woody is no longer a problem. He walks out from behind the shed with shotgun in one hand, dead critter in the other and right into the headlights of someone selling religion door to door. They stammered a quick hello-goodbye and were out of there almost as fast as the groundhog.

It's not the most P/C story, especially the way my brother tells it, but he did get rid of two pests with one shot.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2005 at 4:26PM
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My girlfriend's husband poured ammonia down the woodchuck hole and they moved out! I think I wouldn't do that, but hey, if they're really destructive, ya gotta do something!

    Bookmark   July 19, 2005 at 2:17PM
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I wish I had enough ground to support a groundhog- my husband ADORES them, and has a real 'way with critters- I've never seen a 'hog eat sunflower seeds from anyone's hand before!

but they can be real pests on anything less than two acres or so.

diversion seems to be the best accomodation- if you plant a bunch of yummy things far away from your garden, they will tend to go for the 'decoy' rather than the stuff with humans all around.

we're hoping for bats in the next year or two, though- gotta get that bombshelter-shed fixed up a bit, first.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2005 at 2:25PM
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We have a family of woodchucks living under our shed and spending some quality dining time in my vegetable garden.

These cute critters have decimated my brussels sprouts, sunflowers, smaller tomato plants, marigolds, and squash. We tried giving the dogs freedom to roam the garden,and fox urine. I even potted up some new brussels sprouts to grow in containers on the deck... well, they came UP on my deck!!!Dogs and all( they do have very sharp claws and I didn't want an expensive vet bill, so we called them off).

Now we have just trapped our 3rd woodchuck today, and will continue to do so till they are gone or move elsewhere.
We usually take them for a "swim" inside the cage dow at the river. I do agree that they are cute, but not eating my garden. So we bait the havahard trap and hope for the best.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2005 at 3:25PM
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blitzdes(z9 ETX)

Well, so far I haven't seen the groundhog again, nor have I noticed damage to any good plants. I guess he/she prefers the neighbors' yards...or else the worst is yet to come!

Thanks for all your information, and the entertaining stories. FYI, I found several tips online where people seemed to have good luck repelling the creatures with used cat litter.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2005 at 6:51PM
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ron48(z6 Mass. Essex)

Ladybug, how long do they have to hold their breath before they win back their freedom? Just kidding of coarse.

They are very destructive once they move in. The red tail hawks and the coyotes have kept the numbers low. On the other hand they have taken refuge in the neighborhood.


    Bookmark   July 19, 2005 at 8:48PM
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Doesn't a gopher have stripes on it back? You sure it's a ground hog? Some Marmots have stripes, if a picture is to be believed, and your location is more mountainous. I Googled it and found the striped variety. Not sure if that pic is correct though. Just and idea.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2005 at 5:03AM
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Maxpower(5 MA.)

" long tail" aint no groundhog that i ever heard of!

    Bookmark   September 8, 2005 at 2:28PM
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What about a strange creature known as a "fisher cat"? Not a cat at all, but in the weasel family. Probably related to my boss......

    Bookmark   September 8, 2005 at 3:53PM
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jackied164(z6 MA)

my groundhog comes and goes. he has been around lately and 3 foxes have taken up residence on the hill below my house. I heard a horrible animal fight a couple of nights ago and am hoping the foxes had a nice dinner. btw the foxes are really really cute and they can stay.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2005 at 7:49PM
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sequoia54(z6a MA)

The groundhog does have a tail, though it's not always noticeable because they're sitting in longish grass. This surprised me too, the first time I saw one close enough to see the tail.

Fisher cat? I think they are exclusively carnivores (they certainly have a reputation as fierce predators). They've been spotted in some of the "exurbs" around here (i.e. Groton, Dunstable, Pepperell). I'd be more worried about my pets than my veggies, if there were a fisher cat in the neighborhood!

    Bookmark   September 10, 2005 at 8:48PM
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blitzdes(z9 ETX)

Well, I saw Chucky again today for the first time in a while. He was disguised as a large rock sitting on a table (OK, maybe it's time to update the bifocals). I thought that perhaps a meteorite had landed ever-so-gently on the patio table, so I went to investigate. I didn't realize it was him until I scared him away.

Interesting that several of you mentioned that they like living under sheds, because that's precisely where Chucky ran when he broke out of his rock-ish state. No wonder Mowse the Cat is always trying to slink under that shed! Actually, Chucky didn't seem as large as he did when I saw him before, so maybe this time it was Chuckina, or a Chucklette.

In any case, I still haven't seen any noticable havoc wreaked, so I guess he likes my weeds better than my planted stuff...or he's dining at the neighbors'. So far, I kinda like having him around.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2005 at 9:57PM
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jackied164(z6 MA)

I will stick with my foxes and continue hoping that they get the groundhog. Actually the foxes are not too shy and I see them around alot. I talk to them and try and encourage them to find the groundhog. The groundhog has been around. He has been trying to pull tomato vines off their stakes so he can reach the tomatos. He has gotten some but most are tied tightly higher than his reach. I really hate him.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2005 at 9:41PM
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Maxpower(5 MA.)
like i said that aint no long tail!!!!!!

    Bookmark   September 14, 2005 at 3:26PM
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