Woodchucks in Dupage County|
Woodchucks are known as groundhogs or marmots. Woodchucks are excellent diggers and it is said that they can move up to 700 lbs. of dirt in one day. Woodchucks have short, strong legs with curved claws on their front paws designed for burrowing. One of the true hibernators, they sustain themselves during the winter on fat reserves they accumulate during the warmer months. Woodchucks are active in the early morning and early evening and are commonly seen by roadsides foraging for food. Woodchucks are primarily vegetarians who like to sample from gardens, lawns (dandelions and clover are a favorite), nurseries, and orchards. They are also known to eat insects like, slugs, grasshopper and June bugs. Here are some humane solutions to unwanted woodchuck situations.
Woodchucks Living in Your Yard
Woodchucks are traditionally associated with crop fields, however suburban neighborhoods provide adequate food and shelter. Woodchuck burrows can have 1 to 4 entrances with a tunnel system averaging 25’ to 30’ in length and 2’ to 5’ in depth. The main entrance to the burrow is approximately 12” in diameter. Common areas for woodchucks to burrow are under decks, buildings, and sheds, openings under concrete slabs and porches and tall grass areas. They are cautious animals and do not travel far from the entrance holes when foraging for food.
Recommended Deterrent Techniques:
Woodchucks Visiting Your Yard
- Woodchucks are easily frightened. Leave blown up beach balls in your yard; the wind will blow them around and frighten them. Place plastic bags on sticks in various spots in your yard for the same effect. Scarecrows and objects that move in the wind are also effective. However, they will grow used to these things and their effectiveness will fade.
- Place lighting (such as bright flashlights, flood lamp, blinking strands of holiday lights, etc.) in their den. It is best to leave the lights on 24 hours a day. If this is not possible, the lights must be on during the nighttime to disturb the animal’s sleep.
- Play a radio (portable alarm clock, noisy children’s toy, anything that plays music or makes noise repeatedly) either in or near their den. It is best to leave the radio on 24 hours a day. If this is not possible, the radio must be on during the nighttime to disturb the animal’s sleep.
- Place rags soaked in ammonia in the den for one week. Ammonia has an irritating smell. Over time the ammonia will dissipate and it is important to re-soak the rags on a daily basis. *VERY IMPORTANT* We do not recommend using ammonia soaked rags during baby season (March – August). It may injure infant wildlife, which are too young to escape.
- Deterrent techniques should be used for at least 7 – 10 days and it is important to use all the techniques at the same time in order for the deterrents to be successful.
- To determine if the animal has left the den site, wad up newspaper and pack it into the den entrance (also helps hold in ammonia fumes). If the woodchuck is still using the den, the newspaper will be pulled out. If after a few days the newspaper has not been disturbed, securely repair any access routes. Use welded wire to exclude woodchucks from underneath decks, elevated sheds, openings under concrete slabs and porches. Secure outside access to crawl spaces.
- Failure to do so may result in the woodchuck or another animal moving in.
- Exclusion is always the best technique. Build a 3’ to 4’ high wire mesh fence around the garden leaving the top 12” to 18” unattached to any support and bent outward. Fold the bottom 6” of the wire mesh out to a 90º angle and bury 1’ to 2’ of the wire mesh underground. Woodchucks are not only good diggers, but skilled climbers. Try deterring woodchucks from your garden by planting the following around the parameter of your garden: Onions/flowering onions, garlic, Fritillaria, or Tropaeolum (nasturtium). These plants have either an unpleasant taste or smell. Taste deterrents will work also, however they will need to be reapplied after a heavy dew or rain. Recommended taste deterrents are; mixing 2 tablespoons of hot sauce with 1 gallon of water, make a garlic puree and spray onto plants, or check with your local nursery or home center for commercial products.
Public Health Concerns
- Occasionally woodchucks climb trees in search of food. To prevent this wrap a 4’-6’ wide piece of aluminum flashing around the tree trunk so that the woodchuck cannot get a foothold on the bark. Make sure the aluminum flashing is a minimum height of 4’ from the ground. This technique provides an immediate solution, however it is recommended to leave the flashing up for 5 to 7 days.
What Not To Do
- Woodchucks are not considered to be a significant source of infectious diseases that can be transmitted to humans. Woodchucks may be carriers of rabies, although there have been no rabid woodchucks in DuPage County in recent years.
When to Call Willowbrook Wildlife Center
- Please remember that it is illegal to keep wild animals even for a very short time and that they have specialized nutritional, housing, and handling needs that you are unlikely to be able to provide. Inexperienced individuals who attempt to raise/treat them inevitably produce an unhealthy, tame animal that cannot survive in its natural habitat
- Trapping and removing woodchucks is illegal without the proper permits and is not always the solution to the problem. Removing the animal creates an open space for another animal. Trapped adults may be leaving young behind to die of starvation in an inaccessible area. Focus on removing the attraction, not the animal.
- Never move young from the nest. Contact Willowbrook Wildlife Center for advice at (630) 942-6200.
- Do not use poisons. They are inhumane and may be illegal. They can result in secondary poisoning of raptors, wild scavengers and neighborhood pets.
- If you come across a wild animal and are concerned, leave it alone. Call Willowbrook Wildlife Center at (630) 942-6200 for advice 9:00 AM – 4:40 PM daily. Young wild animals are not like human babies. Their parents do not constantly watch them, and they spend large amounts of time alone or with brothers and sisters.
- If you find a woodchuck with visible wounds, or spinning or walking in circles, contact your local police department. Because woodchucks are primarily ground feeders, they frequently ingest the eggs of an intestinal parasite, Baylisascaris procyonis, normally found in raccoons. This parasite is fatal to woodchucks, most other mammals, including humans and some birds. Fortunately, the woodchuck cannot transmit the parasite to other animals.
- Please call Willowbrook Wildlife Center before bringing an animal to the center 9:00 AM – 4:30 PM daily. Call (630) 942-6200.
- Willowbrook is open daily from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas and New Year’s Day.
- If you find an animal with visible wounds and it is after Willowbrook’s business hours, please follow the instructions below:
- Place the animal in a box or animal carrier using heavy gloves, a broom or shovel.
- Keep in a dark quiet space, away from people & pets.
- Place a heating pad on low underneath ½ of the box/carrier.
- Do not feed. Improper food or drink can harm them.