If you’ve spotted a dirt mound in your yard or noticed that your crops are being destroyed, you may have a groundhogs on your property. While groundhogs are not considered a public health threat, they can still be a nuisance and cause property damage. If you think they’ll just go away soon, think again. How long do groundhogs live? Here are some facts you should know.
On average, the groundhog lifespan is three years. Their short lifespan can be attributed, in part, to their susceptibility to predators, such as coyotes, foxes, bobcats, hawks, owls and even household pets (e.g., dogs). Additionally, groundhogs move slowly and they are prevalent in suburban areas, hence they are also killed by cars. Groundhogs begin reproducing during their second year of life. Breeding season takes place after hibernation ends in approximately March, depending on geographic area and environmental temperatures. There is a single groundhog litter born each year for each female and the gestation period is approximately 30 days. Groundhogs can deliver up to five offspring at a time. A two-month old may venture off to establish their own territory.
Groundhogs' ideal habitat includes: crop fields and/or meadows close to woodlands. As herbivores, they primarily feed on crops, grass and other types of plants. Woodlands areas can provide shelter and cover for avoiding predators. During winter months, groundhogs live underground in burrows that they create by digging. Besides being a place for hibernation, burrows are also where mating takes place and where offspring are born. In the spring, when the hibernation period concludes, groundhogs may venture 50 to 150 feet from their burrow to find food and/or a mate. One reason groundhogs do not venture very far from the burrow is that staying close allows them to avoid predators by quickly returning to safety. Even in the summer and fall, groundhogs prefer to remain hidden when not foraging for food. While they’re most active during the day, groundhogs only emerge for up to two hours each day.
Groundhogs are known for the damage they can cause in gardens and/or on farms (e.g., crop fields, orchards, plant nurseries). Crops, flowers and grass can be stripped away by these herbivorous animals. In some cases, the creation of their burrows can also cause severe damage to building foundations and/or the holes and unstable ground around burrows can cause a hazard for farm animals, people and/or equipment. A burrow may appear to simply be a hole in the ground, but there may be more than meets the eye. Groundhog burrows are elaborate tunnel structures and contain different chambers for nesting, raising offspring and defecating. Burrow openings can be up to 12 inches in diameter. If the burrow is too close to a structural foundation, it could cause hazardous repercussions.
If groundhogs are causing a ruckus in your yard, don’t try to outlive them as they will continue to reproduce and potentially expand their habitat and foraging range. Instead, consider scheduling an appointment with Terminix® to determine your options. Our trained pest control technicians have the knowledge and experience to help assess the severity of and potentially remove these pesky critters from your property.