Saturday, April 17, 2010

Death of a Woodchuck

We have a lot of woodchucks/groundhogs who live in our backyard in the summer months.  We have quite a few woodchuck holes here and there, but the holes in the ground really don't bother us much.  We know where the holes are, and can avoid them so as not to twist or break our ankles.  

We only have male woodchucks, we don't know why.  They entertain us with their little territory "fights", which consist of two woodchucks facing each other, puffing up their tails, and then wagging their tails.  Eventually they walk or run away from each other.  Woodchucks are not mean animals, we have never seen any aggression from them whatsoever.  They seem to only eat grass, weeds, and clover.  They never disturb our garden, which is close to their homes.  When we disturb them by walking into our backyard they run to their homes and hide.  We have no females, hence no baby woodchucks  The females must live deeper in the woods, I don't know.

As far as we've seen other animals don't bother the woodchucks.  Jerry, the outside cat, used to "pretend hunt"  the woodchucks ~ he would squat down and try to hide behind some tall grass and watch them for hours before falling asleep.  The woodchucks are larger than Jerry, I do not think he could kill a woodchuck.  Jerry would take a mouse or a bird without thinking, but not a woodchuck.

This past week, as I was walking in my backyard, I realized a woodchuck had been killed by it's hole.  It was awful, body parts scattered around the ground.  Hair everywhere.  Then I found it's tail.  So sad. 

It appears the woodchuck hole has been enlarged, dug out by a bigger animal.  And the former tenant was killed and his remains scattered about by the doorway into the underground home.

I assume a fox is the culprit.  I have recently seen a beautiful red fox in our backyard.  I figured he lived deeper in the woods.  And I figured he want to be far away from humans, especially since there are so many other woodchuck homes which he could have chosen in the woods.  But it appears he chose this home, right in our backyard.

This raises a big concern for my chickens, if foxes are now living right in the backyard.  My husband planned on totally free-ranging the chickens eventually, letting them out of their fenced-in area.  Maybe not.  We will have to keep an eye on the new neighbor for a while to see if he stays and continues to kill the other neighbors.


CeeCee said...

I always thought woodchucks were too big for a fox to take, but Google thinks differently. :)
As for chickens being totally free-range--around here we have too many predators at night (owls, raccoons, opossums, coyotes and fox) to leave them free at night. Mine free range for a greater part of the day, but come in to be locked up at night. Coyotes and fox are sometimes brave enough to hunt during the day. Unfortunately, living with wildlife, sometimes means losing our domestic animals to them.

Poconoangel said...

Maybe you will have to rig up some kind of an alarm by the chicken coop!

Gail said...

The life cycle is sometimes cruel.

Genny said...

It's the circle of life, the way nature is intended. I know it doesn't make it any less sad. But I'd rather know an animal gave up its life to feed another in the food chain to help feed their babies and perpetuate their lives than to see them run over. I love the woodchucks. We have them here in northern Virginia too. I sometimes see fox on my way to work on the side of the GW Memorial Parkway. It makes me sad to see them with their ears flattened, trying to get across the road to the river when cars are zipping by at high speed. The poor little guys don't have a chance. I silently tell them to go back away from the road.

Razzberry Corner said...

Hi CeeCee - I would think a woodchuck would be too large for a fox, too. But foxes are the biggest animal we have around here in MD. My husband wanted the chickens to free-range during the day & be locked up in their coop at night. They have gotten good about going into their coop by themselves at night (even the guineas), and then we close up & lock the little chicken door. But I'm worried about during the day, I've seen a fox during the day. Like you said, that's life, I guess.

Barb - I want to get a motion video camera one day! I'd love to see what happens outside at nighttime!

Gail - Yes, that's life.

Genny - I didn't realize you lived right here in my area around DC! My farm is only 20 miles outside DC in MD. GW Parkway is a beautiful wooded area, I'm sure there's lots of animals that live in those woods. And they don't stand a chance crossing that busy highway! :( Poor little guys. I go up Suitland Parkway into work every day - I've seen quite a few deer on Suitland Pkwy, in the city. It's crazy. It's sad to know someone's going to hit them when they try to cross.


Leigh said...

We have a woodchuck living in the field we're fencing for goats. Not sure what to do about him (I don't actually know it's a him). Biggest concern is the hole.

Rather unnerving to find that one killed like that. It is a concern for the chickens to be sure.

Robin said...

I think woodchucks are so cute. I have never seen one in person though because they don't live in Oregon. When I see pictures of them it makes me want to hug them. lol. Not that I would try.

So does that mean the next thing you will see is baby foxes?

AJ-OAKS said...

Woodchucks! Foxes! Oh my. How cool!! Ok, not cool about the death of the woodchuck, but very cool that they are so close.
I don't think there are any woodchucks around here. But don't know for sure.
Have to agree, if there is a fox nearby, it would worry me about your girlies. Maybe hanging some kind of alarm system around the coop. Like bells strung on a wire or something.

Razzberry Corner said...

Leigh - Yes, it concerns me, too, to have an animal as big as a woodchuck killed in the yard.

Robin - When we very first moved into this house out in the woods we saw 2 fox cubs toddling about in our front yard. The house was empty for years before we moved in. The momma fox moved the babies away shortly after we moved in, as we never saw them again.

Hi Cindy - Yes, we have the critters around here. And coons, too~ I didn't mention the coons that come by in the evenings to eat the outside cat food...