The groundhog, a rodent also known as the woodchuck or mouse bear, is a member of the squirrel family, Sciuridae. This furry creature forms part of the group of large ground squirrels. They are sometimes also called “whistle pigs”, due to the high-pitched whistling sounds they make when they are threatened.
For many people, the groundhog is associated with Punxsutawney Phil, a groundhog that was associated with “predicting” the continuation of winter. Many groundhogs have since “followed in Phil’s footsteps” as weather-predicting mammals.
Despite their fame, groundhogs are still vulnerable to attacks from predators. Sometimes, their burrows do not protect enough protection and they fall prey to some of these animals.
Here are some of the groundhog’s predators.
Foxes eat a variety of plant and animal-based food sources, the latter including small mammals like groundhogs. These small rusty-red coated predators usually hunt at dawn and dusk, but they are known to be active during other timeframes too. Although groundhogs can nestle safely in their burrows, this groundhog predators are keen listeners and can detect movement underground and will start digging to get to their prey. Groundhogs moving on the ground are also at risk from fox attacks as these sly predators will stalk and pounce on them when the time is right.
These nocturnal animals that have an average weight of 11 to 30 pounds can easily hunt and kill prey much bigger themselves. These opportunistic hunters hunt by first observing and listening for any prey. If they should spot a groundhog, they will start stalking it until it is close enough to pounce and kill it. Should the bobcat not consume the whole animal, it will cover the remainder of the kill with leaves, grass or snow and return to it later to finish the rest.
These famous predators of groundhogs are mostly considered carnivores, although they will supplement their diet with additional plant-based foods. Groundhogs are most vulnerable to wolf attacks during warmer weather when they come out of hibernation. During springtime, wolves will be on the prowl for various small and other animals to hunt and be in actively hunting by the time summer arrives. Wolves usually hunt in packs, but lone wolves have been known to strike down prey on their own too. Due to their size, groundhogs are vulnerable to wolf attacks.
A bear attack can be one of the most grisly demises of any groundhog. Bears are known to stalk their prey and an animal, like the groundhog, that doesn’t become aware of an impending attack will certainly have trouble escaping such a powerful predator. A bear kills its prey by biting into the animal’s neck or even crunching down on its neck. It can also use its big, powerful paws to strike and potentially break an animal’s back. Considering the size of a groundhog compared to that of a large bear, the odds during a bear attack is unfortunately in the bears favour.
Exceptional vision and a well-developed sense of smell make coyotes shrewd hunters that can easily track and hunt groundhogs. Roughly the size of medium dogs, coyotes can even reach speeds of 40 miles/hour. Burrowing animals such as the groundhog are easy prey for lone coyotes. These predators of groundhogs also stalk their prey until they are close enough to pounce. For bigger prey, coyotes will usually hunt in packs to take down the animal.
Groundhogs that wander into residential gardens might come face to face with man’s best friend and meet an untimely end. Larger breed dogs might mostly be inclined to chase after a rogue groundhog and kill it swiftly; still, a groundhog might land a bite or two of its own as well. Smaller dogs are likely to keep their distance though as they might not have the advantage of size to attack a groundhog or be out of harm’s way when it comes to the groundhog’s sharp teeth.
Small to medium-sized land-dwelling animals like the groundhog are most vulnerable to eagle attacks and getting into contact with this predator’s sharp talons. These talons are exceptionally strong and can crush several inches of flesh and bone during an attack when they swiftly swoop down on prey. This groundhog predators are known to break their prey’s necks, but they will not hesitate to slice open still-alive caught animals and to start eating.
Although not necessarily a food source for humans, groundhogs could be considered to be vermin and unsavoury when they invade people’s gardens and roam about in these areas or damage building foundations or when they chew on car wires. Inhumane practices might be used to get rid of groundhogs. Other human threats for groundhogs are moving cars and traffic and being hit by moving vehicles. Groundhogs do not usually seek out contact with humans, but they could be carrying ticks, fleas and rabies, which could pose health risks.
Groundhogs’ saving grace when it comes to predators is that they do not actively seek out squabbles with their animal enemies. They might be ready to fight with their sharp claws and teeth when the occasion calls for it, but they would much rather be ensconced in the safety of their burrows, far away from the grasp of predators that are ready to strike.
However, when they do venture outside, groundhogs are on high alert and when they are not feeding, they will often be standing almost motionless on their hind legs as they observe their area for any sign of danger. Should they see danger, they will likely emit their signature whistles, signalling the danger to other groundhogs.
Despite being hunted by several predators, the groundhog population remains stable. And even though some humans might consider them a pest, they play an important part in nature’s ecosystem by feasting on grubs and insects that are also considered to be pests. This, together with their fame as weather predictors, bode well for the future of the groundhog.
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