The woodchucks or as many people know them, groundhogs are a gardener’s worst enemy. They may seem cute in cages, but there’s nothing attractive about their habits in real life – ask any gardener that has been a victim of the critters.
Groundhogs are some of the most gluttonous rodents that can invade your vegetable garden, reducing it to nothing in a matter of hours – they can eat a between a pound and a pound and half of the plant matter within a day.
The whistle-pigs can swim, burrow and climb, making them among the most robust rodents. However, there are ways that you can get rid of these persistent rodents.
Groundhogs have unusual hibernation behaviors with low breathing rate, metabolic rate and significant amounts of sleep. The acclaimed kings of rodents can go for months without food relying solely on stored fats until the cold months are over.
What do Groundhogs Eat?
Groundhogs feed on a large variety of plants from vegetables to flowers. That means the rodents can destroy your vegetable garden and as if that is not enough, use the flowerbeds as dessert. Their favorites include soybeans, lettuce, plantain, peas, beans, broccoli, and clover.
Identifying Groundhogs and their Damages
The whistle-pigs are stocky critters with short, muscular legs, small ears and short bushy tail. They have curved claws and grey-brown fur, as well as, big chisel-like teeth, reliable, and efficient. The rodents live in deep tunnels, usually with two or three entrances measuring between 10 and 12 inches wide.
Deer and rabbits share the same favorite foods, and so you will need to confirm they are groundhogs through their burrows. The woodchucks will also chew on fruit trees and usually feed during the morning hours and afternoons – the time of damage may also be another groundhog identification factor.
Getting Rid of Groundhogs
Trapping and Releasing
The easiest way of getting rid of the serial crop destroyer is by trapping and releasing them in the wild, miles away from your property. Even though they are harmless creatures, groundhogs can bite you when they feel threatened. It’s essential that you use thick gloves if you have any intention of handling them.
Here’s how you trap them:
Position the trap about five feet from the burrow entrance, and camouflage it by pouring water and rolling it on dirt. Use gloves to prevent leaving your scent on it. The ideal bait includes sweet fruits such as strawberries and cantaloupe, especially the cantaloupe.
Keep a close watch on the cage and when they become trapped, cover it with a towel to keep the groundhog calm. Take it to the car and drive about five miles from the property to a wooded and covered area where they will feel comfortable.
Get a Dog or a Cat
To groundhogs, dogs and cats are dangerous predators to keep away from, even though that may not be the case. You can as well sprinkle cat fur or urine around their burrow entrances. The scent of a dog or cat is the clearest indication to them that they can no longer live in peace and will need to relocate.
Sprinkle the same around the property, and the groundhogs will move and not return for a long time – shall we call it the cold war strategy?
Smoking them Out
You can purchase gas cartridges from the stores and use them to kill the groundhogs while still underground. However, before fumigating, you will need to make sure that the groundhogs are inside the burrows, meaning that you may need to keep a close watch on the entrances.
Once the little guy makes his way inside the burrow, close all the entrances, leaving only one hole which you will use to fumigate. Then light and throw the cartridge inside, swiftly closing the remaining opening with dirt.
The carbon monoxide will kill the groundhog while still underground and you will never have to worry about it ever again. But if the little rascal manages to get away, he will run for miles and be too scared to return.
Lime is an excellent groundhog deterrence that produces a burning feeling on their feet. Typically, sprinkling lime around the entrance to the burrows and the vegetable gardens will make the rodents leave the property.
Pouring ammonia inside the entrances is quite effective at evicting the rodents, and preventing further digging around the property. If you have a few groundhogs making burrows under the house, the ammonia will chase them away so that you can erect a fence as is necessary. Be careful when using ammonia and wear gloves and goggles for safety.
Groundhogs hate the smell of talcum powder with a passion. Sprinkling talcum powder around the property will deter the critters from creating burrows and eating anything around your property.
Pepper and Garlic
Pepper and garlic are other substances that groundhogs love to hate. Ideally, use a blend of garlic and pepper to sprinkle around the garden and burrow entrances. The pungent smell of these spices will make the groundhogs give up on your property and look for food someplace else.
If they are too much of a problem, you can as well shoot the groundhogs. However, you will first need to be sure that it’s legal to do so, and that you are a good shot. Killing a few of them will scare the rest of them, and they may run for the hills, literally.
How to Keep Groundhogs from your Vegetable Garden
Fencing is probably one of the best groundhog control measures you can use. And what’s more the fence can keep other animals such as raccoons, deer, and rabbits from the farm, as well.
Since groundhogs are ardent climbers and diggers, the enclosure should be about six inches of woven wire, and at least four feet high. The top part should remain unattached to the fence posts, bending away from your property so that any attempt to scale the last part will make them flip backwards.
The fencing should go two feet underground with a 12-inch long L-shape facing away from the garden to deter entry through underground tunnels.