Identifying the creatures that are digging tunnels and causing damage to your backyard, is not always easy. In many cases, people will jump to the conclusion that it’s a groundhog that is creating the pile of dirt in their garden.
There are, however, many other possible culprits! This article will discuss the different animals that are most often confused with groundhogs.
Floofmania will show you how to differentiate them from one another, discuss the pest control options, and share some preventive measures to discourage them from coming back!
Table of Contents
- 1 Groundhogs
- 2 What Animals Are Most Commonly Confused With Groundhogs?
- 3 Animals That Are Similar to Groundhogs
- 3.1 Hoary Marmots
- 3.2 Yellow-Bellied Marmots
- 3.3 Moles
- 3.4 Prairie Dogs
- 3.5 Pocket Gophers
- 3.6 Beavers
- 3.7 American Badgers
- 3.8 Muskrats
Before we discuss the animals that are similar to groundhogs, let us first discuss what groundhogs actually are. Groundhogs are also known as woodchucks, land beavers, whistle pigs, and Canada Marmots.
Physical Appearance Of Groundhogs
They have a strong body, short legs, and front limbs with large, curved claws for digging burrows. They also have dense grayish-brown undercoats and longer guard hair.
Pest Control Options Against Groundhogs
Humane traps and relocating the groundhog may be the best way to solve the problem. Set traps in the garden or in front of the entrances to the groundhog’s burrow, and lure them in with broccoli, apple slices, fresh lettuce, and other fruits.
You can also put an old blanket over the trap to make the animal feel less exposed.
What Animals Are Most Commonly Confused With Groundhogs?
Before you can figure out how to get rid of them, you need to first identify what kind of animal is digging up your yard.
Although most animals on this list are subterranean or burrowing animals, their size, weight, behavior, and diet vary. This means that the methods of getting rid of the critter will be different, too!
Here is the list of the most common animals commonly mistaken for groundhogs, as well as a bit of information about their size, weight, active hours, and diet:
|Name||Size (inches)||Weight (ounces)||Active hours||Diet|
|80 – 208||Diurnal(day)||Primarily Herbivore|
|Yellow-bellied Marmots||L: 18.5-27.5|
|56 – 170||Diurnal||Herbivores|
|3-5||Can be Diurnal but Primarily Nocturnal||Insectivore|
|Prairie dog||L: 12-16|
|Pocket Gopher||L: 5-14|
|Up to 35||Nocturnal||Herbivore|
|American Badger||L: 20-32|
|24 – 72||Primarily nocturnal||Omnivore|
Animals That Are Similar to Groundhogs
There are lots of critters out there that may potentially be confused with groundhogs. In the following, you’ll find som of the most common ones.
The hoary marmot lives in the mountains and alpine tundras of northwestern North America. It can also be found in the northern tundra of Alaska, Yukon, and the western Northwest Territories.
Physical Appearance of Hoary Marmots
Hoary marmots are primarily gray, but their lower backs and faces are darker. They have dark brown feet, and their tails are dark red. Their fur helps them blend in with the lichen-colored rocks or rusty-brown soil around them.
They have a white patch above their nose, rounded body, short, broad head, short legs, small, round ears, and clawed front paws that they use to dig burrows.
Similarities and Differences Between Hoary Marmots and Groundhogs
Both of them have a lot of similar physical features because they both belong to the marmot family. From afar, a hoary marmot looks like a groundhog. However, some features will make it easier to tell these two apart.
- The dark head and white band across the face of the hoary marmot differ from the groundhogs’ cinnamon-like facial color.
- Hoary marmots can grow twice the average size of groundhogs.
- Hoary marmots are social animals that live in colonies, while groundhogs are solitary animals that prefer to live alone.
- There is a mantle of white hair over the hoary marmot’s shoulder and upper back, while the groundhog maintains their yellowish to black color.
Pest Control Options Against Hoary Marmots
It is very unlikely that you will see hoary marmots in your backyard because they are mostly found in alpine habitats, mountain ranges, and tundra vegetation with elevations of 8,200 ft (2,500 m) above sea level.
However, if you suspect sightings of these species near your property, you should report them to the nearest wildlife center in your area.
Yellow-bellied marmots can be found in southwestern Canada, the Rockies, and the Sierra Nevada in the western United States. Most of the time, they live in open places like steppes, gravel-covered fields, and forest edges. They dig their holes on open slopes with grass or herbs.
Physical Appearance of Yellow-bellied Marmots
Yellow-bellied Marmots have grizzled brownish fur, short legs, yellow belly, and reddish-brown tail. They have a white spot between their eyes, round ears, a short white muzzle, and a black nose.
Similarities and Differences Between Yellow-bellied Marmots and Groundhogs
Among the species of marmots, the yellow-bellied marmot is the most commonly mistaken as a groundhog. This is probably because the length and weight of a yellow-bellied marmot are about the same as a groundhog. However, there are still notable differences between the two.
- Yellow-bellied marmots have tan fur with white tips and bellies that are yellow to red. On the other hand, groundhogs have a rough coat that ranges from reddish brown to gray.
- Yellow-bellied marmots like to live in the mountains and are paler than groundhogs.
- Groundhogs like to dig their burrows in open terrain, while yellow-bellied marmots like to dig theirs under rocks.
Pest Control Option Against Yellow-Bellied Marmots
The yellow-bellied marmot is a big problem for homeowners because it likes to hang out in yards and dig tunnels under big rocks, houses, and gardens.
Marmot fencing is the solution that will last the longest, but it isn’t always the most efficient. Fences must be made of thick wire, be at least three feet tall, and extend about 12 inches underground.
The other option is to use a live trap and relocate the animal. In many parts of the country, moving wildlife is against the law. So it is important to double-check the state’s laws before considering moving them.
Moles are often mistaken for groundhogs even though they do not belong to the rodent family. They are small pests that are known for their tunneling skills. They make complex networks of tunnels and paths through leaf litter, plants, and soil.
Physical Appearance Of Moles
The appearance of moles is very distinct from groundhogs. They have small limbs, but large and powerful paws. The front feet are big, webbed, and have big claws, useful for digging.
Their noses are also a bit elongated, and their nostrils stand out. Moles do have eyes, but you can’t see them because they’re covered in fur. Their eyes aren’t very well developed, but they make up for it with their sense of touch.
While moles generally have dark gray fur, they have white or orange spots on their bellies.
Similarities and Differences Between Moles And Groundhogs
Moles share a lot of similar features with groundhogs, even though they belong to a different family called Talpidae, and are completely unrelated. Both can also cause damage to your house or other structures on your property because of their digging behavior.
Here are some of the visual differences between the two:
- Moles are smaller and lighter compared to groundhogs.
- Moles have small, sharp teeth, while groundhogs have two large incisors, a common trait for rodents.
- Groundhogs have rounded noses and small ears, while moles have tiny eyes, no external ears, and long, pointy noses.
- Moles are insectivores, while groundhogs are primarily herbivores.
- The tunnels that the moles create can be followed through the ridges that it creates on the surface. On the other hand, groundhog tunnels are deeper.
Pest Control Options Against Moles
Live mole traps are a safe and humane tool that you can use to catch moles. You can then relocate them to a faraway field, where they’re not bothering anyone.
You can also apply repellent around their tunnels, such as castor oil and dish soap to put them off, making your garden less appealing to them.
Prairie dogs are rodents that eat plants and live in groups in burrows that are connected by tunnels. They are a type of ground squirrel in the genus Cynomys. You can find them in the grasslands of North America.
Physical Appearance Of Prairie Dogs
Prairie dogs have relatively coarse, sandy, or light brown to cinnamon fur that covers their entire body. Their coats are thin and light, unlike the dense fur of groundhogs.
They also have pale cream to white fur on their bellies. Prairie dogs have short tails and four short, muscular legs. Like groundhogs, they are skilled diggers because of their strong claws.
Similarities And Differences Between Groundhogs And Prairie Dogs
Both prairie dogs and groundhogs have a set of big incisors that they use to gnaw through roots and other hard foods. They are highly related animals because both are rodents that belong to the squirrel family. Their major differences are as follows:
- Groundhogs and prairie dogs both dwell in tunnels; however, prairie dogs prefer to live in large colonies, whilst groundhogs prefer to live alone.
- Prairie dogs don’t really hibernate like groundhogs do, and don’t live in quite as cold climates.
- Both animals are very vocal and often warn their family members about dangers. However, prairie dogs have distinct whistle calls that change depending on the message that they want to tell their colony.
Pest Control Options Against Prairie Dogs
Despite their cute appearance, prairie dogs are considered pests, especially among farmers. Contrary to groundhog management, using traps for prairie dogs is not advisable because of their numbers, and because they usually live in areas with a lot of livestock.
Managing them is tricky because the proper permit is needed to relocate them. If you have a prairie dog colony on your property, it is best to contact the nearest wildlife rehabilitator in your area for their advice.
The name “pocket gopher” comes from the pouches on their cheeks that are lined with fur. People sometimes mistake pocket gophers for groundhogs, moles, and prairie dogs, which are also burrowing animals.
Physical Appearance Of Pocket Gophers
Pocket gophers are medium-sized rodents with small external ears and eyes. Their faces have touch-sensitive whiskers that help them navigate through dark tunnels.
Pocket gophers have pink, almost hairless tails which come in handy when they need to walk backward in their tunnels because they help them feel their surroundings!
Similarities and Differences Between Pocket Gophers And Groundhogs
Groundhogs and pocket gophers have similar colors, digging behavior, and diets, so distinguishing them can be difficult. Here are some pointers that you can use to identify one form from another:
- Both have typical rodent incisor teeth, but groundhogs’ teeth are not protruding like it’s the case with gophers.
- While groundhogs and gophers have similarly colored fur, their arms and feet are distinctly different. Groundhogs have dark brown to black skin, while gophers are almost pink.
- Pocket gophers spend a lot more time digging tunnels than groundhogs do.
- Pocket gophers have pouch-like skin on their cheeks that they use like pockets to carry food that they find while foraging underground.
- Gophers are almost 100% underground creatures and almost exclusively eat roots. Groundhogs move a lot around above ground, where they find a lot of food that isn’t available underground
Pest Control Options Against Pocket Gophers
The most humane and practical way to remove pocket gophers from your backyard is by using live traps. Pocket gophers are solitary creatures, so there’ll rarely be more than one animal in each burrow, except during mating season, so removal is easy and only requires some patience.
You can use specialized body-gripping traps or cage traps with bait. Use roots, tubers, acorns, fruits, and grasses as bait. Relocate them far from your home to a safe area where they can bother no one.
Beavers are one of the few animals that change the environment where they live. Beavers build lodges and dams that keep water out by weaving together sticks, reeds, branches, and saplings and gluing them together with mud and rocks.
Physical Appearance Of Beavers
Their large, front teeth grow all the time as they live like it’s the case with all rodents. These incisors are orange (in the case of the beaver) because they contain iron, which makes them both stronger and sharper!
Similarities and Differences Between Groundhogs And Beavers
Beavers and groundhogs are both big rodents. They both have brown fur, round ears, short and stumpy legs, and dark eyes. Although they share many similar physical features, there are still distinguishable differences:
- Both have sharp front teeth called “buck teeth,” but the beaver’s teeth are orange, and the groundhog’s are not.
- Beavers’ tails are wide and flat, while groundhogs’ are short and fluffy.
- When compared to groundhogs, beavers are 4 to 6 times bigger and heavier.
- Beavers spend most of their time in bodies of water like lakes and ponds, while groundhogs spend most of their time on the ground.
Pest Control Option Against Beavers
Unlike groundhogs, the ideal response to beavers is simply learning to live with them!
Most of the time, the presence of beavers causes more good for the environment than harm. They sure gnaw a lot of wood, but they can also make homes for a lot of animals.
If beavers are really causing harm to your property, the last thing that you should consider is relocation. Before you do anything to them and their homes, you need to contact wildlife control and rehabilitators in your state for guidance.
The American badger is a medium-sized animal that lives in burrows, or “setts”. It is usually found in the Great Plains of North America. Most people think they are rodents, but they actually belong to the Mustelidae or weasel family. They sleep, raise their young, and store food in underground setts.
Physical Appearance Of American Badgers
The American badger is a yellowish-gray mammal with a white stripe across the top of its head. It has unique white cheeks, black feet, and a black spot in front of each ear. Its fur is generally very shaggy.
Similarities and Differences Between Groundhogs And American Badgers
Both groundhogs and badgers are grayish mammals that live in holes in the ground, but it’s not hard to tell them apart from each other. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- American badgers weigh more than groundhogs, although they are only a few inches longer and wider.
- Groundhogs are grazing members of the rodent family, while badgers are hunting members of the weasel family.
- Badgers like to live in places that are open and have sandy soil. They don’t live in places with loam soil as groundhogs do.
- The body of the American badger is more flat compared to the rounded body of groundhogs.
Pest Control Options Against American Badgers
American badgers can be deterred from entering your property by spraying the boundaries with citronella oil or sprinkling your yard with hot chili peppers.
Vinegar and even human urine can draw them away since they will know that there are larger predators in the area. If these don’t work, you can check other methods of repelling badgers that we’ve previously discussed here at Floofmania!
The muskrat is a large rodent that lives in North America. Muskrats usually live in marshes, but they can also be found in swamps, lakes, and streams. They also make shelters by digging burrows near the water, which can weaken earthen dams and dikes.
Physical Appearance Of Muskrats
Muskrats have thick, shiny fur that can be blackish or silvery-brown in color. They have rounded heads and bodies, but the areas around their throats and bellies have lighter shades.
They have scaly, hairless tails that are 9 to 12 inches long.
Similarities and Differences between Muskrats and Groundhogs
Groundhogs and muskrats look relatively similar, which makes them easy to mistake for each other. Most of the time, both species are brown and stocky, and they have strong bodies. Here are some major differences to tell them apart:
- Muskrats have hairless, long tails, while groundhogs have thick, short, furry tails.
- Groundhogs are three to four times bigger than muskrats.
- Although both animals can swim, muskrats generally live near coastal and freshwater marshes, lakes, and ponds to eat aquatic plants or garden crops. On the other hand, groundhogs prefer to live in open fields, roads, and forest edges to eat grasses and other plants.
Pest Control Options Against Muskrats
Muskrats can have parasites like ticks, fleas, and mites; they also smell very strongly during the breeding season. Muskrats can be very aggressive and dangerous. They are known to carry diseases and leave a pungent smell for a long period.
These pests can cause expensive damage to homes and lawns, so if you want to get rid of them, relocation is the best option. But trying to trap and handle these critters alone can be futile, as properly trapping them requires knowledge and experience.
It will be best if you will call in pest control experts because they have the proper tools. Make sure that you will hire trained, licensed professionals to relocate the muskrat, seal their tunnels, and install preventive measures.