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Woodchuck (home)

Marmota monax


The Woodchuck hole where it is hibernating for the winter. The woodchuck's burrow, then, is the center of its home range and the focus of much of its efforts and work. Burrows are usually found in sloped, well drained sites. They can be up to five feet deep and over thirty feet long. Typically, the burrow's entrance leads into a steeply angled passage which quickly levels off into a longer, narrower tunnel. The den is found off of this central tunnel and contains both a nest and an excrement chamber. The nest functions as a brood chamber, sleeping chamber, and as a hibernaculum. It is lined with soft grasses for both warmth and comfort. The burrow will have a main entrance around which the tunneled dirt is piled. It will also have "spy holes", or smaller, more concealed entrances out of which the woodchuck can look across its home range or in an emergency rapidly exit or enter the burrow. The soil from the digging of these spy holes is carried to the dirt midden of the main entrance to minimize the visibility of these less "public" holes. The burrows are extremely beneficial to the soil ecosystem. They generate gravitational water channels and extensive aeration passages through the soil profile. They also provide widely utilized habitats for other animals in these ecosystems. Rabbits, opossums, raccoons, skunks and foxes all use abandoned woodchuck burrows for dens and refuges. These burrows, though, can also be a serious problem for larger, grazing animals. The larger entrances, the hidden burrow openings, and the weakend soil structure over the tunnel systems can be serious hazards for larger animals especially when they are running across the surface of the soil.

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Vermont, USA

Spotted on Dec 20, 2014
Submitted on Dec 20, 2014

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