For a couple of years now, we have had a groundhog take up residence under the shed in the backyard during the late spring and summer. This year would be quite different. One day, the groundhog was coming through the backyard from the front, but she wasn’t alone. She had babies with her and they were moving toward the shed. I’m not sure if she had given birth somewhere else and wanted to move her young to another location or they had been with her under the shed all along. There were a total of five young groundhogs. Anyway, I was able to observe the groundhogs for about a three month period. I observed them on a daily basis and had the chance to watch them grow and interact with each other. As they got a little older and were able to escape their mother’s watchful eye, I was able to photograph them from a safe distance.
At the beginning, the mother was very protective of her young. As the summer progressed, the kits would move farther from the shed and begin to explore on their own. There was one kit in particular that would break away from the rest of the group. We would find this one close to the house and inside the fenced-in pool area on a regular basis. I called this one Rebel and that was a very fitting name indeed. In August, when kits get older, they will leave their mothers and find a second residence before moving on. I believe the mother and kits had moved on already at this point, except for Rebel. Rebel moved in under the front porch and stuck around in the front yard for another two weeks before moving on. I feel I got to know this groundhog the most.
The groundhog (Marmota monax), is a rodent of the family (Sciuridae). These large burrowing rodents belong to the group of large ground squirrels called marmots. Groundhogs are referred to by many names, a few them being, woodchuck, whistlepig, chuck, wood-shock, whistler and thickwood badger. Groundhogs can have up to 10 young, but the most common litter size is between 3 to 6. Baby groundhogs are called “kits,” “pups” or sometimes “cubs.” The following pictures are of the mother and the young groundhog siblings taking residence under the shed in the backyard.
A groundhog mother (Marmota monax), watching over her young
A watchful groundhog mother (Marmota monax), with her kit
Groundhog siblings (Marmota monax), emerging from their burrow under the shed
Woodchuck siblings (Marmota monax), playing in front of a wooden shed door
Young woodchucks (Marmota monax), playing in front of a wooden shed door
Two woodchuck (Marmota monax), siblings sitting on a piece of old wood in front of a weathered shed door
Two whistlepig kits (Marmota monax), kissing in front of a weathered shed door
The young woodchuck (Marmota monax), I call Rebel, foraging for food in the backyard
A young woodchuck (Marmota monax), eating in a field of tall grass
A close-up of a young woodchuck (Marmota monax), feeding on tall grasses in the backyard
A young woodchuck kit (Marmota monax), looking for food in a field of grass and hawkweed (Hieracium)
A young groundhog (Marmota monax), sitting and eating in the tall grass