When I drive to the Centennial Soccer dome at the south end of Guelph, I often see groundhogs between 5 and 7pm. They feast on the grasses, clover and nearby shrubs. During a particular soccer Friday in June, I remembered to bring my camera. Many cars drove by me as I leaned intently over the grass trying to get a close-up shot of groundhog sign (in my soccer gear). I also discovered that groundhogs are great at posing for photos until you open the car door. Then they flee.
Here is a photo of a groundhog eating leaves:
The next photo shows a close-up of the leaf. Does anyone know what kind of tree/shrub this might be?
I am leaning towards identifying the plant as a young birch tree but I am uncertain. There were horizontal lenticels on the bark as well. Ann says that it could be Forsythia.
This photo shows a circular patch of chewed grasses and Bur-Clover – a relative of alfalfa (thanks Ann!).
This is the groundhog’s escape route, under the fence towards a wild space on the east side of the Hanlon Expressway in Guelph. Clever beasties:)
This groundhog trail emerged from a network of 5 burrows on the south side of a farm field in Durham. We saw the groundhog come out of one of the burrows and then dive back in when we stopped our cars to observe the tracks. While looking at the tracks and sign left by the groundhog, we heard a high pitched whistle. The groundhog had come out of his burrow again. He saw us and decided that we were too close for comfort. The whistle sound is an alarm call, hence the nickname “Whistle Pig”.
This trail shows a walking gait. The trail width was about 10 cm (close to 4 inches). A friend of mine, Alex, shared the fact that tunnelling mammals tend to use walking gaits. This makes sense. Imagine trying to jump, gallop or bound inside a tunnel that is as large as the width of your body. Not likely! Speaking of tunnels, here is the groundhog’s burrow:
This is a rear track. There are 5 toes on the rear track. The three middle toes are often close together and longer than the other toes. The heel pads do not show as prominently as on the front track.
Rear Track Measurement: 2 inches width x 2.5 inches length
This is a front track. There are 4 toes on the front track. The plantar (or palm) pad makes a heart-shaped impression (see middle pad). As far as I know, no other mammal track has this feature:) Heel pads are very prominent in the front track.
Front Track Measurement: 1 and 3/4 inches width x 2.5 inches length
The groundhog trail travelled a few metres away from the den and paused at a tree. I observed where the groundhog had chewed into the tree bark. There were some older chews visible. Was the groundhog marking the tree for communication purposes or for tasting?