Garden Dilemmas, Delights & Discoveries, Ask Mary Stone, New Jersey Garden blog

Beaver or Woodchuck?



Hello fellow readers, Is it a beaver or woodchuck eating Lucia’s trees? You’ll enjoy the story :^)

“Help! A woodchuck is eating my trees,” writes Lucia, “and he’s moved in right near my front door where there’s a deep hole about a foot in diameter. So I think, do I bake a cake, bring some wine or what? Who can I call to help him move to the San Diego Zoo?

Sincerely, Crowded in Blairstown.”

What wit Lucia has, who lives across the brook from me; hence her dilemma could also be mine.

While they are known to eat a twig or two, the name woodchuck has nothing to do with wood and is likely derived from the Native American words Wejack, Woodshaw, or Woodchoock. Woodchucks (also called groundhogs) prefer soft plant tissue such as grasses, dandelions, clover, vegetables, and leaves. My bet is you have a beaver eating the trees and a groundhog living by your front door. Quite a party – maybe you should bake a cake!

Woodchuck aka Groundhog

Woodchuck aka Groundhog

Woodchucks build remarkable homes with multiple exits and chambers. Beavers, on the other hand, burrow into banks with entrances to their dens underwater. The beaver, Castor Canadensis, is North America’s largest rodent and can readily chew and drop trees up to 2.5 feet in diameter or more. A beaver will drop a large tree at the edge of a river or creek to begin a dam (uh oh Lucia, we have that!), which serves as a foundation and a filter to catch the floating debris the beaver will harvest upstream.

There is no spray or device to deter your hefty invaders, and while you can prevent tree gnawing by wrapping chicken wire around the trunk, it’s tough to do on 100 trees.

Eviction is the only practical way. For woodchucks, have a heart (the trap that is) or don’t have a heart. It’s up to you and your dog, but please don’t tell me about it. There’s something about being fuzzy.

Beaver removal is trickier, and you’ll need a permit from the NJ Division of Fish & Wildlife to do it yourself. I’d suggest leaving it to the experts by contacting their NJ Wildlife Control Unit at 908-735-8793 or the Northeast PA Game Commission office at 570-675-1143. The dispatcher there said unless beavers are causing flooding, they give the animal the benefit of the doubt as often beaver move on if they don’t like where they are. Maybe best to skip the cake, Miss Hospitality.

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You’ll enjoy another fun story titled Groundhog or Woodchuck Dilemma?

Updated 2/2/2021


Mary Stone, owner of Stone Associates Landscape Design & Consulting. As a Landscape Designer, I am grateful for the joy of helping others beautify their surroundings which often leads to sharing encouragement and life experiences. These relationships inspired my weekly column published in THE PRESS, 'Garden Dilemmas? Ask Mary', began in 2012. I dream of growing the evolving community of readers into an interactive forum to share encouragement and support in Garden and Personal Recoveries - seeking nature’s inspirations, stimulating growth, weeding undesirables, embracing the unexpected. Thank you for visiting! Mary

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