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Found this little one on the bank outside my home in New Cumberland PA, wandering around, I assume trying to figure out where momma was. They live under my shed, and I fear she’s been killed if she hasn’t come back to take care her young. Babies are usually born between mid-April – early May, (this was the end of April when taken!) and don’t come out of the burrow until July. I estimate him to be at most 4 weeks old, since his eyes are open.
I did put him back at his burrow and he made his way back inside. Now it’s a matter of waiting to see if the momma comes back, or if this little one will try looking for her again. He seemed a little undernorished so I don’t hold out much hope.
A few days later…
he came looking…for me. As my sister pointed him out to me across the yard and we began talking, he picked up the pace, waddling right for us. He must recognize my voice. I put him back at his burrow. Trying to explain, it’s only the beginning of May, you aren’t to be out till July!
That evening I thought I saw the momma eating the ducks corn. I couldn’t believe this little guy (and a smaller sibling) have been surviving. I thought, good, end of story.
However the next morning, after a long night of bone chilling rain, I arrive home from work to find one of the cubs at my patio.
Looking like a drowned rat…and lifeless to boot. I donned gloves and picked him up, detecting the slightest movemess. I rub him vigorously and he stirs. I take him into the house, wrap him in a towel, putting him in the bathroom sink and use a hair dryer (carefully!) to give him warmth and dry his coat. He moves a little more. I’m confused about his eyes being closed. Using a dropper I give him some warmed watered down soymilk and soon I hear the sucking of his tongue. His body was still cold, so I added a heating pad under the towel, turn off the light and let him rest.
I read what I could online about woodchucks and see something I wasn’t expecting.
Ut oh, before and after feeding you must rub its genitals to stimulate urination and defecation. I blink, and read again. REALLY? My sister and I laugh and off I go to rub a groundhogs genitals. Seems if you don’t their bladders can explode! What was mother nature thinking on this one! And how much does a groundhog urinate at this age. I gave it the old college try, got a little out then left him to sleep. He snuggled into the warm towel and appeared to be breathing normally. Later another feeding and I find his eyes are now open! Poor thing must have been so close to death.
Later I look out and see his slightly larger sibling climbing on the hill next to my shed. An even larger one is there, that I’d never seen before. Groundhogs however are known to care for orphans. So I quick grabbed the one from my sink and take him to the burrow opening. He balked at first, then crawled inside.
The one on the bank heard me talking and started to quickly shuffle towards me. OH NO I yell at him, you are to run the other way! Be afraid of me! hahaha. He made it over to me so I had to start pushing him to the burrow opening. he kept spinning around to get away from my hand and come back to me, but after a third shove he went into the burrow. All has been quiet since, the next day, so sign of any wayward groundhogs.
Hopefully they have all settled in and will revert back to natural groundhog behavior. Though I suspect now that they have discovered the outside world, even though months early, they will come out to explore.
I know people kill groundhogs. I know they can be pesky. I’ve lost some garden to them before :D But I don’t like to see a living thing suffer. It can be difficult finding the right balance, interfering as little as possible with nature. And if one of the hawks would have gotten them, that’s ok. That is the way life is. But to have to watch them suffer – different story!
I did look up rehabbers, however none within a reasonable driving area would take in a RVS (rabies vector species) animal.
There’s now, one day later, more to this story. But I’ll save it for another photo perhaps. But all is well!