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Woodchucks (Marmota monax) are also known as groundhogs. They are making a strong come back on the East End of Long Island, where they have been in low quantities for the past decade. They have an average lifespan of 3-5 years in the wild. They are approximately 20”-27” long and weigh between 5lbs-12lbs. Adults are often seen basking in the sun throughout grassy areas and on stone walls or log piles. They are den dwellers who construct dirt and stone burrows with multiple entrances. These dens can be 2’-5’ deep and up to 60’ long. They are most active in the early morning and evening hours, but rarely go more than 150’ from their den openings. They have very good eyesight and when startled whistle sharply and make a low chattering noise, which actually led to their nickname Whistle-Pigs.
Being herbivores they feed on succulent grasses, lawns, weeds, fruits, berries, ornamental plants, garden crops and will sometimes chew on wood or bark. Some of this damage is usually mistaken for rabbits. Occasionally they chew on decks, siding and outdoor furniture when they are wearing down their teeth or scenting their territory. Their teeth never stop growing from time of birth, so they have an instinctual need to chew on items to wear them down.
A little known fact is that they are great swimmers and climbers. They will scale trees up to 20’, but usually stay between 8'-12' to access fruits like cherries, apples and pears. They hibernate from the first heavy frost through early spring.