Does that Groundhog really need Rescuing?

Mother and baby groundhogs will eat and play together in and around their burrow.  

But you have found a baby groundhog or litter with no adult in sight.  

Does it need your help? …

It is time to INTERVENE if the baby groundhog is

Sick, Injured or Abandoned . . .

HOW to Determine

If a Litter has been

             ABANDONED …

             ABANDONED …

            orphaned

Any groundhog that is less than 2 months old should still be in its mother’s care.  

Very young groundhogs (neonates and juveniles) are rarely out of their mother’s sight when above ground. Also, adults usually don’t wander farther than 15 to 30 meters from their den.

Therefore if you find a baby or litter by itself outside their burrow then this could indicate there is a problem. Because the father does not stay to help raise babies, a mother’s death or severe rainstorm can create orphans. 

The first thing you should do is spend some time looking around for the mother. Listen for panicked calls to her young.  

If you don’t hear or see the mother then it is relatively safe for you to conclude this baby groundhog or litter is on its own.  

HOW to Determine

If a Baby Groundhog is Sick or Injured

Groundhogs are very talented at hiding symptoms of an illness or injury. As a result we often won’t realize it is sick or injured until the vary late stages of an illness or unless the injury is severe.  By that time the animal is in serious trouble.

Be very careful when handling a sick or injured baby groundhog.  They bite!  Always wear protective gloves. You can use a piece of material that can’t get caught in claws or small limbs (not a towel) to wrap up a struggling animal rendering it relatively harmless for brief intervals.

Be gentle!  This animal is in pain.  

The groundhog is probably sick or injured if it displays one or more of the following: 

  • dehydration, emaciation, weakness or non-responsiveness;
  • bleeding or is wounded;
  • not breathing properly;
  • unusual discharge is coming from its eyes, mouth, nose or butt;
  • neurological problems such as head tilting or loss of balance;
  • is not acting ‘normal’ and is, for example, approaching you;
  • has insects such as flies or lice on it; or,
  • has been handled by a dog or cat which can cause internal injuries.

 

If the groundhog you have found is sick or injured, please visit Our Network to find an appropriate organization that will take it. Or, you can take it to a local veterinarian (who specializes in rodents) yourself and then Contact Us. Although we don’t currently have the resources to accept sick or injured animals that have not received medical treatment, as authorized wildlife rehabilitators we are very well equipped to nurse them through their recovery, rehabilitation and release phases after they have been seen by a medical professional. 

When to NOT Intervene

At 2 months old and approximately 570 grams, a young groundhog moves out of the maternal burrow. He then moves into his own burrow which he has dug by himself. At this age he is far from being full grown but he is old enough to live an independent life.

During the brief move, you may encounter these roaming young adults. You can discretely observe them from a distance however they do not need your help. 

Certainly, keep your pets away from them at all times.

When to MAYBE Intervene

Your intervention may be necessary if you find a baby or litter that is in imminent danger. For example, when a predator is nearby. If the predator is your dog, leash him and leave the area.  Dogs and groundhogs do NOT get along.

If not, in most cases you can help the groundhogs that are in danger by making a loud noise with your voice or clapping your hands. Noises you make will alert the groundhogs to danger and they will make their escape. The noise might also discourage the predator.

Before making the loud noise, position yourself somewhere OTHER than between the groundhogs and their burrow (if you know where it is) because your presence in such a location might thwart their escape. They can climb trees and fences, but the safest place for them when predators are lurking is in their burrow.

Next steps

If you have determined a wild neonate or juvenile groundhog really needs your intervention because it is has truly been abandoned, please visit Caring for Abandoned Baby Groundhogs. Here you will find guidance on the initial steps you can take to help this animal. Then please Contact Us.