Groundhogs are energetic animals with large appetites and a love for munching and snacking on flowers and vegetables in gardens. Groundhogs are also called woodchucks and ‘whistle pigs.‘ They belong to a family of rodents and can cause a lot of damage to your lawns and gardens. Groundhogs are renowned for their remarkable digging skills. Their dens can be extensive tunnel systems containing chambers, corridors, and numerous exit points.
They can weaken the surface through their digging and harm the foundations of the barn and farm equipment. Groundhogs are herbivores; they enjoy eating vegetables and plants, making your garden a perfect place for their feast. On average, they live for about six years but have been known to live in zoos or animal shelters for up to fourteen years.
Groundhogs are voracious chunky animals that weigh four to fourteen pounds and have long coarse and greyish-brown coats. They live in fields, gardens, and pastures from Alabama to Alaska. They hide from excessive heat by spending the warm months underground and only come out to feed early morning or at dusk.
They dig burrows for themselves, which are two to four feet deep and fifteen to twenty-five feet wide, running horizontally. These caves are their habitat, and they use them to transport themselves from one garden to another quickly. You could think of these caves as a well-designed escape route.
One has to look at a fresh heap of soil around the hole to spot the entrance of these burrows or caves; other entry points are hidden behind vegetation.
Groundhogs are especially fond of peas, broccoli, carrots, lettuce, squash, daisies, lilies, sunflowers, and marigolds. Hence, if you grow any of these, then you must look out for these devious little creatures.
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How to Remove Groundhogs from Your Garden
Here are some tips to help you protect your garden from groundhogs.
A humane and ethical way of trapping groundhogs is to capture them and then releasing them in some distant location. Groundhogs are not inherently aggressive animals but will bite when they feel threatened. Hence, wear thick gloves before catching them.
Make sure you wear insulated gloves while setting the trap; groundhogs are intelligent creatures that will not come near the tap if they smell human scent or odor around the trap. Start by placing the trap five to ten feet away from the entrance of their burrow.
The next step is quite essential; you have to camouflage the trap by spraying it with water and rolling it in the dirt. Then, throw some twigs, grass, and leaves on top of and around the trap. Place a brick or two on top of the cage to prevent it from scaring the groundhogs away.
The next part is to bait the trap with their favorite food, such as some fruits or fresh vegetables from your garden. Put sweet fruits that they find incredibly appealing, such as strawberries, cantaloupe, peaches, or corn. They also enjoy green beans and cucumbers. Ensure that the bait is buried inside the trap; the groundhogs enter the trap thoroughly to access the bait. You could also create a trail to lead the groundhogs into the bait.
Stay vigilant, and keep a close watch on the trap. Once the groundhogs are trapped, they will grow frustrated and try to escape, possibly injuring themselves in the process. Hence, wear gloves throughout this process to avoid any diseases from catching on.
Cover the cage with a towel to keep the groundhog calm, and hold the trap away from your body while carrying it from your garden to your transportation. Drive to an area that is five to ten miles away from your residence.
Choose a place with a lot of trees and topsoil. Groundhogs feel at peace in covered areas and will resist returning to your yard or someone else’s garden if they are provided a place with nourishments and shelter.
What kind of trap to set? Should it be lethal? People have found using a one-door live trap, also known as a cage trap, the most successful method. These types of traps prompt the door to shut as soon as the groundhog enters the trap.
Avoid using lethal traps since they can snap shut around the body of the groundhog and kill them brutally. This can create more difficulty for you since disposing of the carcass, and the buried body can attract more animals to your garden. Moreover, if you have a pet such as a cat or a dog, a live trap could injure them as well if they wander inside.
Groundhogs are not big fans of vibrations or any kind of shakiness. They will move away or shift their habitat if the surface is in constant motion. You could employ this technique by using lawn windmills, spinning pinwheels, or a vibrating device.
Place any of these instruments near the burrow’s entrance to scare the groundhogs away. You may also use wind chimes to cause a disturbance in their home. Inducing vibrations in the ground and setting up devices around your garden periphery can successfully deter the groundhogs away from your flowers, fruits, and vegetables.
Smoking the Burrow
If you want to kill the groundhogs in your garden completely while they are inside the burrow, then fumigation is the most strategic way. The easiest method is to buy gas cartridges or gas bombs from any garden center or any online platform.
Make sure the groundhog is inside the hole before you begin fumigating. This may be time-consuming since you have to observe their movement for a while before you fumigate. Once you have a confirmed report of the groundhogs inside the burrow, fill all the entrances with soil except for one.
Release the gas bomb into the unfilled opening; throw it in the open entrance and fill it up with dirt quickly to trap the groundhog and the poisonous carbon monoxide gas inside.
If you want to try a cheaper method for smoking them out, attach a hose to your car exhaust and release the fumes into the groundhog’s hole. The procedure would be the same; just make sure to block all the holes carefully. Both of these methods will kill the groundhog or make them run far away if they do dig their way out somehow.
Pouring ammonia down a groundhog’s tunnel is the preferred method for many people; this ensures the complete eradication of groundhogs from your garden. Once you have poured the ammonia down their tunnel, they will stop accessing them and either make new tunnels or just run away and find shelter elsewhere.
Make sure you find all the holes because there are always multiple holes or entrances that are hidden. This process may last several days, depending on the number of holes present in your garden. The method is quite effective in scaring the groundhogs away. They will make holes elsewhere or be gone long enough for you to build fences around your garden for protection.
You can make the ammonia solution at home, but be sure to wear protective gear such as gloves and goggles because ammonia can burn your skin and irritate your eyes. If you cannot purchase sudsy ammonia, you can make your own by mixing three parts of water with 1 part of ammonia and putting a drop of dishwashing detergent. Pour this solution down their holes; it will create toxic fumes that will be unbearable for the groundhogs. You can also spray the solution around the entrances of their burrows.
Garlic and Pepper
It may seem odd, but using these herbs could also work on your garden to drive the groundhogs or woodchucks away. Groundhogs absolutely despise the odor of garlic and pepper. To deter them from returning to your garden, crush some garlic and pepper and throw it in their burrows. Do this every day until they run away.
You could also create a garlic and pepper spray to spray on your vegetables and crops. Groundhogs will not go near a single thing that smells savory or spicy. For more protection and safety, scatter the crushed garlic and pepper around your garden to prevent them from entering.
Use a Predator
Dogs and cats are predators for groundhogs; their presence can be threatening and will scare the groundhogs away. The groundhogs will move somewhere else if they feel they can’t live in peace. If you don’t have a dog or cat as a pet, then perhaps get one from a friend or neighbor.
You could also ask for a urine or fur sample from a cat or a dog and use it to create the illusion of a predator in your garden. Locate the burrow’s entrances and pour the urine or litter of a cat or dog to scare the groundhogs away. You can prevent them from coming back by pouring urine and sprinkling hair around the perimeters of your yard as well.
Humans are also considered a threat, according to groundhogs. Hence, spoiling their natural habitat with your scent will scare them away for good. Take some clippings of your hair and secure them inside a mesh bag.
Put the bag around your garden’s topsoil to prevent these hungry creatures from disturbing your flowers and crops. In addition, you could disperse strands of hair into their burrows. This would induce a state of panic and frenzy, forcing them to leave your area.
Using lime to burn their feet is an age-old method. If you spread some agricultural lime near the hole’s entrance, it will burn their feet, and they will resist from entering the burrows. Moreover, you could also spread lime around your plants as a form of protection; this will safeguard your crops from being eaten.
Groundhogs will stay away from places that have talcum powder sprinkled on their periphery. The groundhogs will avoid anything treated with talcum powder. Hence this technique is useful in preventing groundhogs from eating your garden away.
However, talcum powder treatment may not be a powerful prevention method since it won’t stop groundhogs from forming burrows and going underground.
Chicken Wire and Fencing
The groundhogs may enter your garden repeatedly even after you scare them away. To prevent their entry entirely, build a fence at least two feet deep in the surface. This fence will ensure that the groundhogs don’t dig their way inside. The fence should be at least 3 feet tall to prevent them from hopping over.
If your main worry is regarding your vegetation’s safety, then frighten them by digging and lodging chicken wire into an L-shape. Bend the bottom part of the chicken wire at ninety degrees in an L-shape. Remember, while embedding the chicken wire, point the L-shape away from your garden. This step will safeguard your plants because, as the groundhogs dig to enter, they will hit the mesh and turn around.
Castor Oil and Epsom Salts
Castor oil can be poured inside and outside the burrow; it’s an effective method of discouraging groundhogs from entering your garden. They hate the smell of castor oil and avoid coming out of their burrows to feed on your garden.
Be sure to apply it once they are all inside. Similarly, Epsom salts can be sprinkled around the burrow entrances and any holes you find. If your plants are being eaten, try placing a tin pie plate filled with the salts near your plants. Hopefully, this natural resource can help prevent groundhogs from attacking your garden.
Buy some animal repellant from a store, which will not cost you more than ten dollars. Although animal repellent may work to discourage groundhogs from eating your vegetables, it’s not strong enough to completely remove them from your garden. Moreover, you will need to keep spraying repellent in your garden every day.
Groundhog meat is said to be quite similar to rabbit meat. Therefore, if you are a fan of rabbit, why not give this a go? If you are an avid hunter and believe in hunting your own meal, then perhaps do the same in your own yard. You could shoot and kill the groundhog, then prepare the meat by braising it like a rabbit.
However, be aware of the unnecessary glands that are not fit for consumption. Groundhogs have scent glands under their armpits that should be removed before you prepare their meat. These glands can ruin the meat’s taste. The scent glands look like a yellow kernel of fat.
Groundhogs hate the smell of mothballs, but they might not be strong enough to scare these resilient animals away. Some people report minimal levels of success, but most people say mothballs don’t work at all. Mothballs are simply not a strong deterrence against groundhogs, and you would be wise to use more effective techniques such as the ones mentioned above.
Groundhogs can most often be seen standing on their hind legs, which indicates that they are aware, alert, and on guard. Some people call them whistle pigs because they will let out a shrill whistle to warn other groundhogs of danger.
Sometimes, groundhogs will go into an attack mode instead of hiding. Hence, it would be best if you stayed away from them and not disturb them unnecessarily unless you plan to remove them. Groundhogs see everyone as a predator, which is another reason you should remove them from your garden.
Proper maintenance of your landscape will deter groundhogs from settling in one place. Remove substances from your garden, such as woodpiles, bushes, and leftover soil that could be used as cover.
Remember, these are wild animals; hence you must wear sturdy gloves to pick up the traps. You may also catch other animals using these methods. However, animal safety is also essential; therefore, use all techniques that do not kill the woodchucks first. If they still don’t leave your garden, then try some extreme measures.
Lastly, know the groundhog’s habits and the time they emerge from their hibernation dens. This period will differ depending on where you live. Spring season is when they start mating; hence, you can expect them to be the most active during this time.
Groundhogs hibernate from September to October. Keep this information in mind and harvest your crops as early as possible so that there is no food available to them. If you plan on killing the animal in its burrow, don’t do it during winter because their hole will be sealed off.
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I am Elsa, love gardening. I spent lots of time with plants, flowers, it gives me lots of happiness.
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