Brooklyn Woodchuck

I’m bringing this out of the archives in case anybody ends up here from a nice article in the Times by Jesse Greenspan on city groundhogs/woodchucks, in which I am quoted.Through the urban naturalist grapevine, I knew that woodchucks lived in Green-Wood Cemetery, but I’d never run across one before. Yesterday, I noticed something oddly round and furry on the ground in the distance. When I trained my binoculars on it, I thought it was a dead raccoon. But it was a woodchuck sunning itself outside its burrow. It pretty much instantly was aware of me and ready for trouble.Woodchucks are rodents. The scientific name for the species is Marmota monax; the animal is also known as a groundhog. Yup, same thing. This one’s burrow was underneath a family memorial. The burrow obviously went right underneath the big tomb, because this picture is from the other side. An obvious trail led a short distance to another hole underneath a vault. (Clearly, this is the Woodchuck of the Dead.) According to this helpful site, woodchucks live alone, but males visit females in their burrows for mating. (No doubt with a bottle of Champagne and some poetry in paws.) Mostly vegetarians, woodchucks hibernate through the winter. Litters are born in April and May.

Dogs and cars are probably the woodchucks’ greatest threat in city (in the suburbs they have to watch out for pest control types), but dogs at least are not allowed in the cemetery. I’d love to know more about their lives in the green heart of Brooklyn, amidst 2.5 million humans.

Update 4/8/11: The City Birder reports spotting another woodchuck in Brooklyn, this time in Prospect Park.

Update 10/14/12: Another sighting in Green-Wood, the first since this original post. A woodchuck was leisurely munching on what looked like tender greens amidst the gravestones.

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18 Responses to “Brooklyn Woodchuck”

  1. 1 meemsnyc April 4, 2011 at 9:38 am

    I always love seeing wildlife in the boroughs. I’ve never seen a woodchuck before, not even Chuck who lives in the Staten Island zoo.

  2. 3 Out walking the dog April 4, 2011 at 10:32 am

    Oh, Matthew, lucky lucky lucky lucky you. Later this spring, I want to head out to Green-wood to see what I can see. What a fat and lovely little guy that woodchuck is.

    • 4 mthew April 4, 2011 at 10:41 am

      It was luck. Usually, I’m on the lookout for anomalies in the trees, not on the ground. (And things coming out of the ground in a cemetery? I’m still traumatized by the last shot of Carrie.)

      Later in the spring will be perfect, once all the specimen trees have bloomed.

  3. 5 Traci April 5, 2011 at 12:11 pm

    I was also traumatized by the last shot in “Carrie”, and am often on the lookout for the eerie in Green-Wood. Next time I’m there I’ll look for a Woodchuck of the Dead.

  4. 6 mmk November 30, 2012 at 12:33 pm

    I believe I saw one yesterday in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn….he’s been rooting around my garden for a week….

  5. 8 alphonsegaston February 2, 2013 at 4:10 pm

    So true, about the garden. I enjoy spotting woodchucks in the grasslands along our midwestern freeways and in vacant city lots, but the one who lives under my garden shed is another matter. He/she is cute, but I now have a 15’x20′ six-foot chain link fence around my vegetable and hydrangea garden. Deer, too, of course. Last season he ate a flourishing perennial geranium to the ground, helpfully waiting until it was in bloom.

    • 9 Elizabeth February 3, 2013 at 12:38 am

      alphonsegaston, I hate to tell you, but a friend who has a vegetable garden in South Jersey told me that this summer, the garden was regularly raided by a woodchuck who climbed the fence.

  6. 10 McGill May 5, 2013 at 9:21 am

    Saw and photographed a woodchuck in Prospect Park this morning (5/5/13)

  7. 12 Karen Devine August 1, 2014 at 12:24 pm

    Just saw one this morning! Running across the road close to the mausoleums by the entrance.

  8. 13 Ellen Brys July 5, 2015 at 5:11 pm

    Just saw a pair of woodchucks in Greenwood cemetery and from your description, I think it may be the same burrow. I could hear some squeaking from the place they scurried into, so suspect babies. I googled “woodchucks in Greenwood Cemetery” and it brought me your post 🙂

    • 14 mthew July 5, 2015 at 6:14 pm

      Glad to see them thriving! I’ve spotted them in at least three disparate places in that vast garden cemetery.

  1. 1 Shifting baselines « Backyard and Beyond Trackback on April 15, 2011 at 8:40 am
  2. 2 Tentative IDs « Backyard and Beyond Trackback on April 23, 2011 at 7:18 am
  3. 3 In Green-Wood « Backyard and Beyond Trackback on April 4, 2012 at 7:20 am
  4. 4 Groundhogs! | Backyard and Beyond Trackback on February 2, 2019 at 8:01 am

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