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Caring for an Orphaned Groundhog

The most common way that people wind up with a pet groundhog
(woodchuck) is to find an orphaned baby that they can't
resist. So we will begin on that premise.

If you just want to rescue the baby, research how to care
for it properly, handle it as little as possible to keep it
"wild" and able to go back to nature, and release it the
next spring when it is old enough to fend for itself
(thirteen or fourteen weeks) and will have time to find a
home for the winter.

Choose a week without rain in the forecast, and an area with
plenty of open woodland, no dogs and signs of other
woodchucks. Dig it a starter hole or find an empty burrow
to give it a hiding place. Leave some food on the ground
nearby but away from the burrow by ten or more feet.

An orphaned baby groundhog should be warmed immediately and
then offered Pedialyte solution (from any drugstore), warmed
to body temperature. The baby woodchuck will need to be fed
Esbilac brand puppy formula four or five times per day to
start, down to two times per day after it is eating solid
food, up until it is weaned at about seven weeks old.

To feed it, wrap the groundhog pup in a warm cloth and feed
it the warm formula slowly with an oral syringe. Make sure
the pup doesn't drink too fast, and if it begins sneezing
milk, turn it upside down and gently rub its back and wipe
its face. (Try to avoid this, as it can lead to pneumonia or
even be fatal.)

It will also need urine and bowel care up until six weeks or
so old, or it may not survive. Wipe the baby's face and then
its genitals after each feeding with a cotton ball or soft
cloth until it has peed and pooped. Hold the baby over a
paper towel or cloth to catch the urine and wipe continually
to simulate the licking of a mother animal.

You should provide the baby woodchuck with a drip water
bottle and introduce it slowly to solid foods such as rabbit
pellets and banana or apple at about four weeks, and add
greens and other vegetables to its diet at about five weeks.
By eight weeks, you can put the groundhog into an outdoor
cage (see our article on housing) and continue feeding it
plenty of fresh vegetables, greens, rabbit chow and the
like. It will need plenty of fat if it is to survive the
winter hibernation.

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