Beaver or groundhog? Looking for clues.


The other day I showed you this picture of what I called a groundhog. Some of my readers thought it was a juvenile beaver. So I’ll pose the question, what do you think?

Meanwhile I went looking for clues.

Creek bed at the base of the hill behind our house. It swells with rainfall.

I took my ferocious wildlife tracking canine and my human body guard with me.


As we walked along the creek bed, we saw the big tree where I’ve photographed groundhogs in the past.


We saw quite a few tracks in the mud, but they were mostly white-tailed deer tracks. No big surprise.


I did see a couple of tracks like these. I don’t know whether they are just messed up deer tracks or something else.


When I looked online I couldn’t identify them.


We also saw this pile of tree branches across the creek bed. One of the dead ash trees in the woods had fallen across the creek, and Mark thinks that it served as a barrier to block other sticks  that got washed down the creek. I don’t know what to think. In the pools visible at the bottom of the photo, Mark noticed a couple of small gold fish swimming around with many minnows.

Circle and saturated color around goldfish added in photoshop for visibility.

Where do these guys come from? We believe our creek is part of the Mill Creek Water Shed, but mostly it carries runoff from the rain.


I tried to capture a photo of the many minnows that swim about and are easy to see by the naked eye due to their motion, but apparently are not so easy to capture as a digital image. I got a lot of reflection of the trees and skies.


I think you can see one minnow in the middle of this photo. I’ll have to admit; I just wasn’t expecting there to be fish living down in the creek.


We had the bonus of a couple of hawks landing above our heads. I only got one in the picture.  This might be a Cooper’s hawk, but I’m not sure.


The final piece of evidence came from one of the plastic chairs we use at the bottom of our yard. Can you see the teeth marks? Somebody was gnawing on this. What do you think, beaver, groundhog, or maybe just a squirrel?

Here’s a site that might help.

I hope somebody can clear this up for me.

26 thoughts on “Beaver or groundhog? Looking for clues.”

  1. I think it’s a groundhog or woodchuck . . . it’s tail doesn’t look flat enough for a beaver. And beavers are nocturnal.

    But the shape of the tail does remind me of a beaver.

    1. I think you’re right. The tail is too hairy. I also found out that woodchucks or groundhogs are sometimes referred to as “land beavers.”

    1. It does, doesn’t it. I think it is a groundhog, though, after reading all the comments and looking around a little more online. The groundhog is sometimes called a “land beaver.”

    1. Ha! But I don’t think so anymore. And a good thing, too. They can live for 25 years and love to chew down your trees. (I’m going to keep an eye on the sticks across the creek, though, just in case.)

    1. You got it in one. Beaverly looking groundhog. That’s what I think too. I didn’t think groundhog tails were that wide, but I saw some pics online that they were.

  2. I think it’s a groundhog, with a bit of a longer tail than usual.

    Beavers get a lot bigger, and a juvenile one wouldn’t have the courage to come up to a house. They’d stay close to water.

    1. I think you’re right. The shape and size of the tail threw me, but I’ve since seen some photos online that reassure me. I’m glad it is not a beaver.

    1. I’ve not seen a porcupine around here, but we have had raccoons. Although I read that squirrels can chew on patio furniture too. And we clearly have enough of those.

  3. I’m guessing groundhog because the tail is wrong for a beaver (but I don’t know… I’ve never seen a beaver, I just looked at google!). Wow do I love your pics Christine, gorgeous!

    1. I thought the tail was wrong for a groundhog – at least its shape and size. I have since corrected that thought by looking at more photos online. I’m pretty sure it’s a groundhog.

    1. Groundhogs are part of the marmot family. This is a groundhog. His tail is furry. (Beavers have scaly leather like tails.)

  4. I hate to mention this to the author of that article, but beavers are active during the day too. Apparently the beavers I’ve seen seen during the day in Maine and New Hampshire didn’t read the article.

    The messy pile of branches and saplings may very well be the start of a nest or dam. Beaver abodes/dams are not neat and tidy. They are big masses of mud, twigs and stuff, piled together. Mainly? It blocks water flow and forms a pool. I don’t think the beavers are going to stay there, though. The water is simply too shallow. They will probably move to an area with more water. Thing is, there are a LOT of beaver these days and the competition for sites to build dams/nests/houses is pretty intense. Unless you have a bear popularion to keep them in check, there will be more beavers than available free flowing streams for them to turn into swamps.

    For me, it’s a simple thing: that picture of that creature has a beaver’s tail. It would be a very young beaver by size and that his tail still has fuzz on it. Adolescent animals and birds are difficult to identify because the thing that makes them easy to identify as an adult isn’t yet developed yet. i do a lot of birding and adolescents are te bane of birders.

    I’m betting beaver.

    1. Yes. I don’t place a lot of regard on day versus night animals. Many of them are night-owls during the day. We’ve seen owls here in the day as well.

      I’m going to keep an eye on the creek, but I’m gaining more confidence that it was a groundhog. I did see some groundhog photos that looked like they had a similar tail. I also learned that the groundhog is sometimes referred to as a “land beaver.”

  5. I had to admit Christine that when I saw the photo in the post At first glance I thought it was a beaver… but then I thought well you knew what you saw and as I dont see groundhogs in the UK… I thought you must be right..
    But if you were to ask me what I think it is… I think its a beaver.. xxx

    1. Well, I assumed it was a groundhog from past experience, but it didn’t look exactly like one to me. Now that I’ve done more searching, I think it probably still is a groundhog. I’ll keep my eyes open, though.

  6. Did you ever ID what was chewing on your plastic yard furniture? I have the same problem and I do not know what to do.
    Raleigh NC

    1. I never saw what it was, but we have seen several groundhogs over the years. I’m sorry about your problem. I’m not sure what to tell you, but I hope you may have figured out a solution by now. If so, I hope you will share it here with the rest of us. Best wishes.


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