The groundhog, also known as a woodchuck, is a member of the squirrel family. They are found in open pastures, woodlots, fields, ditches, and roadsides. During early spring, they are most active during the warm parts of the day. However, during the warmer spring and summer months, the day is spent in their cool burrows and feeding occurs during the very early morning and at dusk. They begin hibernation mid-October and emerge in February.
Their burrow system is located about 2 to 4 feet underground and may extend 15 to 25 feet horizontally. The main nest chamber is usually located at the end of the burrow. The main entrance is seen as a mound of fresh earth around the opening. They are active by day, especially in early morning and late afternoon. In residential areas they may be found beneath homes, patios, decks, garages, and stored lumber. They construct burrows and eat a broad range of vegetation. An adult consumes about 1-1/2 pounds of vegetation a day. One or 2 are capable of eating your garden almost overnight.
They weigh between 4 to 14 pounds and are stocky, giving the appearance of crouching close to the ground as it moves around. The body fur is long, grizzled grayish-brown in color and coarse. In late summer or early fall, they put on a heavy layer of fat, which sustains it through hibernation. Use caution around groundhogs as they can carry and transmit rabies.
Opossums are the only marsupials that reside in our area. Due to their gray coloring and the fact that they have no hair on their tail, they are often mistaken for big rats. They are nocturnal, very shy, and normally very transient. Since they carry their babies in a pouch (like a kangaroo) or on their backs, they usually do not den in one location for very long. Normally, they live in abandoned burrows, thickets, and sheds. Opossums love to raid trash cans and pet dishes, but normally property damage from an opossum is minimal. Opossums are considered to be low-risk rabies vectors, but have tested positive for the virus in this region.
The common small rabbit of North America has grayish or brownish fur and a tail with a white underside. Rabbits are hosts for lyme disease and ticks.
Raccoons are high-risk rabies vectors and should never be approached. It is not uncommon for a raccoon to be curious around humans. However, if a raccoon shows no fear, staggers, walks in circles, or shows any sort of odd behavior, residents should stay away from the animal and contact the Animal Control Officer or the Police Department immediately.
The size of this noxious creature is similar to that of a house cat. It has a small, black head with a white stripe between the eyes and 2 broad white stripes that meet at the shoulders of its black back. The tail is black with a white tip or fringe.
It is very common to see skunks in the suburbs and they will often den very close to houses. The unique characteristic of the skunk is its ability to spray a fetid, oily, yellowish musk 10-15 feet. This fluid in the eyes causes intense pain and a fleeting loss of vision. Ammonia or tomato juice is best to remove the odor. The pelt is not highly valuable but the musk, once the odor is removed, is used as a perfume base because of its clinging quality. The skunk is an omnivore who feeds on a wide variety of vegetable matter, insects and grubs, small mammals, the eggs of ground nesting birds, and amphibians. In mid-May, 4 to 7 young are born. Although they do not hibernate during the lean winter months they may become temporarily dormant. The striped skunk is the main carrier of rabies in the U.S.