Groundhogs are officially called Marmota monax, and also have a variety of other names, including woodchuck, whistler, thickwood badger, Canada marmot, monax, red monk, and whistlepig. The difference in naming depends on which part of the world you live in. They are related to ground squirrels that are called marmots. Baby groundhots are called chucklings. They are extremely common in the USA and Canada.
During the last century, groundhogs used to be hunted for sport by humans to control their numbers. In only a few of the US states have they all been eradicated, for example, in Wisconsin. Today, hunting is frowned upon, so the groundhog population has been increasing in other areas that never practiced mass-culling in the past.
They breed quickly, and can live up to six years long in the wild, and about double that time in captivity. They are prey to cougars, coyotes, wolves, foxes, bobcats, bears, and eagles, but since the wild animal population has been decreasing over the past decade, it’s another cause for the increase in the groundhog population.
Groundhogs normally like open country, woodlands, and the forest, but due to many cities and towns situated near these woody regions in North America, groundhogs can be troublesome for farmers and homes with gardens. They are part of the rodent family, meaning that while they are relatively harmless to human safety, they can wreck havoc with a garden.
What Do Groundhogs Eat?
Groundhogs mostly eat wild grasses and vegetation in forests and woodlands. They also enjoy eating clover, alfalfa, dandelion, and coltsfoot. While they’re mostly herbivores, they can eat grubs, snails, insects, and grasshoppers too. Like squirrels, they enjoy eating nuts, but they do not bury them like squirrels do. Groundhogs get most of their water from the food they eat, or from dew or rainwater left on the plants.
Groundhogs can also encroach on human lands and enjoy eating berries, vegetables, and other types of agricultural crops, which is why they become pests. They can consume a lot of produce in a short amount of time, and breed quickly. While you may not mind one or two, soon you’ll have entire families of them enjoying the fruits of your labour.
Other Ways Groundhogs Destroy Gardens
Groundhogs enjoy burrowing into the ground as that’s where they have their living quarters and stay safe. However, when they burrow beneath vegetable or flower gardens, crops, or ponds, they can destroy structures, soil, and the gardens above them.
It’s not just groundhogs who live in the burrows either. Snakes can take up residence, as well as foxes, skunks, field mice, grasshoppers, beetles, and other creatures that will also destroy a garden.
When you begin to see burrows beneath your fruit or vegetable gardens, or underneath your farmland crops, you’ll begin seeking a reliable way to eradicate them.
How to Humanely Get Rid of a Groundhog?
Many people call a pest exterminator to kill the groundhogs. For this reason alone, many people are hesitant to kill cute little animals, even if they wreck havoc in the garden. Fortunately, there are humane ways to move the groundhogs out of your garden.
The best way to get rid of groundhogs is to purchase humane groundhog traps. These look a lot like the cages they have for pets, but the doors operate on springs, so that the groundhogs walk inside, but they can’t get back out. They are made from a silver wire that allows for plenty of air flow, so the groundhog can still breathe.
This is because the door snaps back into place. You may need to get a few traps, as they do emit a high-pitched sound to warn off any other groundhogs, though chances are you may get a few attracted to the food inside. Using traps will be an ongoing solution for keeping your garden free of these pests.
Once the groundhogs are in the traps you’ll then take the traps to a nearby forested region, preferably an hour away from your home, or to a wildlife rescue centre. The wildlife rescue centre can release them back into the wild should you not wish to do so. Most larger cities and towns have a local wildlife rescue centre. These places are extremely busy and often rely on volunteers, so it’s better that you drive your groundhogs to them, rather than expecting someone to drive to your house to pick them up.
How to Trap Groundhogs in a Trap
It takes more than simply setting up a trap in your garden. You must place food bait in it to tempt the groundhogs to enter the traps. Once inside, they can’t get back out again.
Best Groundhog Food Baits
There are some types of foods that groundhogs prefer. It’s best to provide the most tempting types of foods so that they’ll be more likely to go into the traps. If the same food is in the garden, it’s unlikely they’ll move into the traps. One of the best ways is to cut the food up so that the groundhog doesn’t need to do any work opening up the fruit or vegetable, or choose foods that the groundhog doesn’t normally get to eat.
Here is a list of some of the best groundhog food baits.
- Fresh green beans.
- Lettuce, any variety.
- Peas removed from pea pods.
- Sliced cantaloupe.
- Sliced peaches.
- Sliced strawberries.
- Sweet corn, removed from the husk.
- Vanilla beans.
- Peanut butter and jelly.
How to Bait a Groundhog Trap
It takes a bit more effort than simply tossing your food into the trap and hoping for the best. You want to ensure that the bait will not only lure your groundhog into the trap, but that they must step on the trigger plate or door to reach it. They’ll also need to walk to the end of the trap so that the door or plate springs closed behind them. The small animals will not be able to escape. When you’re ready to release them back into the wild, you can easily open the door for them, and they’ll run right out.
1) Door Traps
- Place the bait right at the end of the trap, so groundhogs must walk the entire distance.
- Keep the bait away from the trap’s walls so that the groundhog won’t be able to reach in from the sides.
- Rub cantaloupe juice over the trap to encourage the groundhog to enter.
- Place the bait right in the middle of the trap.
- You can also put the food under the trap to make it more difficult to get.
- Or, hang the food from a string from the top of the trap.
2) Predator’s Urine for Discouraging Groundhogs
While trapping groundhogs is a great way to move out the rascals that have already moved into your garden, there are ways to discourage more from moving in. Predator’s urine(fox, dog or raccoon) is the best way, as the groundhogs can smell the urine and assume that their predators are living nearby. Groundhogs want to avoid being eaten, so they’ll keep moving on until they find a better home.
What Are Fox Urine Granules?
Fox urine granules are a natural repellent that not only discourages groundhogs from moving into your yard, field, or garden, but they also discourage other critters from doing so too, including rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, and skunks.
The granules come in a sprinkle canister and make for easier application than if you purchased it in a liquid form. Since fox urine is a potent smell, it’s far better to purchase in a granular form, than liquid form. After the granules are sprinkled in the garden, the smell dissipates after a few days, but the groundhogs’ noses can still sniff it for weeks afterwards.
The fox urine to make the granules is sourced humanely from foxes that live in farms, zoos, or rescue organizations.
How to Use Fox Urine Granules?
If you choose to purchase fox urine granules, you’ll want to use the most effective application to keep groundhogs from away your home.
- Sprinkle around the boundaries, much like where an invisible fence would be located.
- Do a light application, as the container’s holes may be too big to encourage over-consumption.
- Sprinkle granules around any burrows in the ground that you see.
- Avoid sprinkling the granules directly onto your plants, bushes, or flowers.
- Reapply about once every two or three weeks.
- The granules are rain-resistant, so you won’t have to do reapplication after it rains.
It’s normal to see a few small wild animals in your garden on a daily basis, but if you are starting to see more than one groundhog or their barrows, now is the time to buy traps and groundhog repellant. The sooner you prevent your garden from being eaten up by rodents, the more produce you’ll have for your dinner table.
It may be expensive buying the traps initially, but they can catch a variety of rodents, and can be reused for as long as they stay intact. Fox urine repellent is inexpensive, and can provide an additional guarantee that your garden stays groundhog and rodent-free.