Shy creatures who reside in extensive burrows, groundhogs keep to themselves and might go unnoticed in your own backyard.

Some gardeners might consider groundhogs pests—they enjoy a good salad as much as we do and will happily make a buffet of your vegetable garden! Yet these nearsighted mammals play an essential role in the ecosystem by providing food for larger predators. Their burrows also offer shelter to foxes, reptiles, amphibians and others.

Michael Szönyi
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Alamy Stock Photo
Groundhogs need their beauty sleep.

From late fall through early spring, groundhogs hibernate in their burrows. That’s why it’s never a good idea to close off a burrow until you know for sure that nobody’s home.

A woodchuck being fed at a care center
Elizabeth Brooke
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The HSUS
Did you know?

Is that little guy a groundhog or a woodchuck? Yes! There’s no difference; both names refer to the same animal, as does “whistle pig,” an older term that nods to the animal’s distinctive alarm call.

Bird in birdbath, enjoying a humane backyard

No matter how big or small your outdoor space, you can create a haven for local wildlife. By providing basic needs like water, food and shelter, you can make a difference in your own backyard.

ebettini / iStock.com