Saving the Life of an Injured Woodchuck

They suspect she’d been hit by a car.

The female woodchuck found by South Elgin police officers in a parking lot was clearly injured, so they took her to the main Anderson Humane shelter in South Elgin.

There, our wildlife team discovered that the woodchuck had a broken toe, head trauma, and mange. They treated her injuries and disease and monitored her progress. But as she seemed nearly healed, they noticed she wasn’t using one of her hands properly.

“When she first came to us, she didn’t have enough fat stored to survive the winter,”

“They need their hands to dig because they spend a lot of time underground,” said Ashley Kendall, Anderson Humane’s Senior Wildlife Manager. Because injured wild animals rarely survive, releasing the woodchuck back into the wild when she wasn’t able to use both hands wasn’t an option.

Wildlife team members figured the woodchuck was using her hand in some way to compensate for her injuries as she healed, and the repeated misuse caused damage. They decided to put a boot on her injured foot to allow for a full healing without strain on the rest of her body. Once it was on, she was able to truly heal.

When the team eventually removed the boot, the woodchuck was using both her feet and hands normally. She was ready to be released, but by now it was winter, when she typically would be hibernating. Once again, she wouldn’t survive if released at this point.

Once temperatures started rising, the Anderson Humane team prepared an outdoor enclosure for the woodchuck to help ease her transition back to outdoor living. When the time is right, the team will release her on one of the local properties whose owners have agreed to let us use their grounds for wildlife releases.

When they do return the woodchuck to the wild, team members can feel good about their impact on the animal. Even before her injuries, the woodchuck was struggling. “When she first came to us, she didn’t have enough fat stored to survive the winter,” Ashley said, adding that many young animals don’t survive their first winter. So, the police officers who found her – and the Anderson Humane wildlife team who fixed her up – definitely saved her life.

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