Locating Woodchuck (Marmota monax) Dens
The most efficient way to control a problem animal is to locate its den. Knowing where it animal lives gives you the advantage of knowing its travel and activity. In contrast, when you don’t know where the animal lives, then you have to rely on lures or chance to get access to the animal which substantially increases the time and effort needed to effect control.
Woodchucks are one animal where knowledge of its den site gives one a tremendous advantage. Access to den sites allows you to employ control techniques other than trapping and shooting. But to take advantage of this knowledge, you have to find the den. Here are some tips for locating woodchuck (Marmota monax) dens
First, inspect the area where you see woodchucks the most. Do they tend to flee in a certain direction? Are they lingering in a particular area? Do you see an area of grass that looks like it has been walked on more frequently than others?
Second, understand woodchucks tend to be pretty particular where they establish a den so look for the following characteristics. If the den isn’t in an open field, then investigate areas containing structure, such as tree, rock, house, fallen log or bushes. They also like their dens to between within 50 feet of an open field so look carefully along the edge between the woods and the field. Finally, woodchucks like to dig their dens in drained soil. You won’t find them in swampy soil. Be careful where you walk because poison ivy also likes well-drained soil.
As you investigate these areas, keep an eye out for the dig out plume (called a porch) that lays before 1 of their holes. It is easily noticed because the soil color will often be different than the surrounding soil. Once this hole is discovered, look in a 30 foot radius range for a possible second hole. Look carefully, because this hole may lack a similar dig out plume or be hidden under a shed or stump etc.
If the hole is active you may even see flies circling around the opening. Generally, the holes are about 8 inches in diameter with a lot of dug out dirt at the entrance. This dirt plume is the tell-tale sign of a woodchuck den. Don’t be surprised if you don’t find a second hole. Newly dispersed woodchucks often don’t dig a second hole until they get older. If you can’t find a den then you are dealing with transient damage, i.e. the woodchucks are just using the area as a feeding station.
About the Author
Stephen M. Vantassel is a certified wildlife control operator who helps individuals, businesses, and agencies resolve wildlife damage issues through training, writing, expert witness, and research. His latest books are the Wildlife Damage Inspection Handbook, 3rd edition and The Practical Guide to the Control of Feral Cats. He can be contacted at wildlifecontrolconsultant at gmail dot com.
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