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I live not far north of Boston, up against some conservation land. Last night I heard something that, from its movements, sounded about the size of a raccoon but didn't move like a raccoon. It was skittering rapidly through the underbush in a prolonged way. I listened to this cautiously for a couple of seconds. Then it stopped and made a loud, deep grunt like a demented hog. I took one step back and slammed the back door and locked the windows. What was this? I should add that all my life I've spent a lot of time outdoors, day and night, all across the northern US and southern Canada, and I've never heard anything like it except for an actual pig on a farm. Also, I've lived in this house for 8 years and never heard it here before. I'll feel much happier when I can identify it. Thanks for your help!

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    Welcome to the site Della! Sorry I don't have time to write a full answer, but I'm willing to bet it's a Groundhog. I live not far from you and have some in our yard. The behavior's similar, and the fact that they're nicknamed "Whisting Pig" is another giveaway. They're not aggressive, so you should be fine! – Sue Saddest Farewell TGO GL Sep 19 '15 at 18:40
  • Hi, thanks for that - there have been groundhogs around for ages but they are not nearly bass enough, nor have I ever noted any of them doing a sustained and brazen skitter through the underbrush (they're too shy; too many things want to eat them). I thought about it and did some digging for animal sounds, and I'm chalking this one up to a very large badger. I'll be stepping inside whenever I hear this one. – Della Sep 20 '15 at 14:21
  • My mistake about the groundhog-sorry about that!! I'm glad you identified your backyard visitor. If you'd like to write an answer based on what you learned, I think it would be helpful to others, including me! I might have badgers too and either haven't noticed, or haven't known how to make the distinction! :) – Sue Saddest Farewell TGO GL Sep 20 '15 at 19:44
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    @Della it'd be really good to add it as a self-answered question :) – Aravona Oct 21 '15 at 9:28
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Possible culprits:

Opossums:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6D-iFOsRhJ4

Raccoons:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tAG0V1AauJs

Badgers:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xwrG_HdH2oY

Foxes:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qPLJ0Gbu5D8

Porcupines:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A_yoCesDLhg

Skunks:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hfrXnBMnNvg

There are other, less likely possibilities - deer grunt, but they are obviously much larger than what you are describing. Martens and Fishers also make odd noises, and both are known to live in Massachusetts, but they are less common and they tend to scream/shriek rather than grunt.

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It's hard to give a definitive answer, but based on your description one possibility could be a badger.

They make some really astonishing noises ranging from grunts to screams to barks. Maybe head over to Youtube and listen to some badger videos and see if that sounds similar?

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