Caring for Abandoned Baby Groundhogs
Have you found a baby groundhog or litter that appears to be in distress and determined it has been abandoned?
You can help it by following the suggestions listed below regarding caring for abandoned baby groundhogs …
Initial Care Instructions
Please follow the care instructions below. They will guide you during the brief interval between finding the abandoned groundhogs and contacting us for drop-off arrangements.
- For the sake of the wildlife babies, wash your hands before handling them. For your sake, wash your hands again when you are finished.
- Wear sterile, disposable (latex/rubber) gloves for very small groundhogs, but for older youngsters use thick gardening gloves to pick them up as they may bite.
- Until you can get him into a covered box or carrier, warm the baby by making a nest of your hands.
- Use ravel-free material such as tissues or a shirt (no buttons) for bedding. If you use white material it is easy to see if the babies urinate or defecate. Moreover we can use these waste products as indicators of the babies’ health.
- Please do not use towels because most towels are made from materials that get caught in the groundhogs’ claws. Also, please make sure there are no loose threads or holes in the bedding material. All bedding must be changed at least once every 24 hours.
- Place the baby or litter of baby groundhogs in a covered box or pet carrier with ventilation. Ensure the groundhog cannot climb out of the container.
- Gently put the container in a soft duffel bag or cover it with a towel, blanket or sheet to keep it dark.
- Leave the container indoors in a warm, dark and quiet place away from pets and people. Please do not cause unnecessary stress by handling, talking or watching the groundhogs. Habituating them to humans or our pets can mean a death sentence when they are released back into the wild.
- Keep the babies warm by putting the container half on and half off a hot water bottle or heating pad set to low. The babies must be able to move to or away from the heated area. Never place an animal directly on a source of heat. You could also fill a water bottle with hot water, wrap it in a sheet or blanket and brace it against the container. Be sure it cannot roll on the babies. Keep in mind that when the container is jostled (such as when you are driving to the wildlife rescue to drop off the groundhogs) the bottle must not be able to roll onto the babies. Replace the hot water frequently as it cools down.
- Very Important: please offer the babies warmth (not too hot) at all times. You should do this from the moment you find them until the moment you drop them off at our Rescue. Keeping them warm is the single most important thing you can do for them to help ensure their survival.
Special heating pad for animals pictured with its cover.
- Never give the babies anything to eat or drink. If you feed the wrong thing in the wrong way or at the wrong time it can harm them. The adverse effects of giving them something might not be apparent in the moment. However, such actions can cause internal issues that lead to sickness or death a few hours or even days later.
To reduce stress during transportation, gently cover the container to muffle exterior sounds. Also, please turn off the radio, don’t talk and if possible leave your children, pets, etc., at home. It is particularly important to keep your dog away from groundhogs as their natural instinct to vigorously shake the groundhog by the neck will kill it.
Some Additional Thoughts …
Be Gentle ...
Always be very quiet and gentle when working with baby groundhogs. Care for them in a dark, quiet room. Handled them as little as possible.
Be Careful ...
Do not critter-nap. If not injured, only abandoned neonates (hairless, eyes closed) and abandoned juveniles (furred, eyes open but small) need our help. This means any groundhog that has reached 2 months of age (570 grams) is a young adult (albeit much smaller than a full grown adult) and should be left alone.
Be Informed ...
As tempting as it is to try to raise the groundhogs yourself, it is important to remember that they require very specialized care, housing and food. Using their forever-growing teeth and claws they can make a shambles of the interior of your home. Also, in Ontario it is illegal to keep groundhogs if you don’t have an Ontario Wildlife Custodian Authorization license (or equivalent) from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources & Forestry (MNRF).
Thank you for all that you do to help our wildlife !