Groundhog Wars

August 13, 2006

It’s been a rather frustrating year in the vegetable garden, thanks to a group of groundhogs that seem to have taken over the area.

I knew woodchucks were very destructive and that a single animal could wipe out entire beds of healthy vegetable plants and flowers, but in the past I’ve never had this much trouble controlling groundhogs.

Invasion of Garden Destroying Groundhogs

My biggest mistake in dealing with these creatures was in thinking that we could all just get along in peace! Last summer I recall seeing a couple of groundhogs residing under a neighbors shed, but they were social, peaceful, and never once set foot in my garden so I just let them go about their business without as much as an unfriendly thought sent their way. That all changed this spring.

Groundhog Photo.thumbnail Groundhog WarsIt started when I noticed the climbing Morning Glories, Mandeville vines, and other annuals that were planted in containers around the patio being mysteriously eaten. I soon realized that the culprit was a groundhog that had taken up residence underneath of the deck. I quickly set a baited Havahart trap close to the area being used to enter and exit the groundhog shelter.

Several carrots, apples, and numerous pieces of watermelon rind later, I had managed to trap and relocate a total of seven groundhogs that were living under the deck. That was just the beginning; there was at least one more hanging out in the garden, a couple living under my neighbor’s shed and a couple wandering around in the other neighbor’s yard.

Controlling Groundhogs in the Yard and Garden

I’ve learned my lesson, from now on I’ll start trapping at the first sight of a groundhog in the area and will continue until every groundhog in sight has been trapped and relocated. The days of tolerating them anywhere near the backyard or garden are over.

It seems that any attempts at a peaceful coexistence will eventually come to an unpleasant end as the woodchucks multiply and expand their territory until it includes your precious vegetable garden and landscape plants, not to mention the unsightly and potentially hazardous holes that the critters create.

On a farm the preferred method of groundhog control has typically been lead poisoning by means of a small caliber firearm. That’s definitely not an option if you garden in a residential area, but there are less violent means of controlling the groundhogs that may be giving you and your garden the blues.

Garden fencing was enough to deter the groundhogs for a while, but as their numbers increased so did their interest in what was growing in the garden, and a determined woodchuck can easily go over or under an ordinary fence.

Double Bubble Gum, a Deadly Groundhog Treat?

My next door neighbor flagged me down one day and excitedly told me about the groundhog solution that he had heard about on our local Plant Doctor Radio Show. Noel Falk, the “Plant Doctor” had recommended using “Double Bubble” brand bubble gum to eliminate groundhogs.

Supposedly groundhogs love this particular brand of bubble gum, but once they eat it, it gums up their insides and ultimately kills them. Well we tried this groundhog remedy and something did enjoy the gum leaving behind nothing but the wrappers, but I can’t confirm that it eliminated any of the neighborhood groundhogs.

I haven’t seen the two critters that frequented the area under the neighbors shed lately, but I’m not convinced that the Double Bubble is what did them in. If you’ve tried this solution and it worked for you be sure to let me know of your success.

Other possible methods to eliminate groundhogs include various devices to introduce smoke or gas into the animals burrow to destroy them that way. I’ve never tried any of these control methods and they do require direct access to the groundhogs tunnel. Don’t waste your time trying to flood the critters out with a water hose as I doubt that technique will be successful.

Using Live Traps to Control Groundhog Populations

My favorite method to control and eliminate groundhogs is to simply trap them in a live trap and relocate them to an area far from your vegetable garden. This is also the way to go if you’d rather not do harm to the animals as you eliminate them from your property. This solution takes a little more time and effort but groundhogs are relatively easy to trap and release away from your home and garden.

Check with your local game commission to see if there are any restrictions on trapping and where you are allowed to release trapped animals. Also exercise caution any time you are near a wild or trapped animal. The Pennsylvania State Game Commission has some useful information and tips related to trapping nuisance animals at the following link on Wildlife Nuisance Management.

Another warning involves inadvertently trapping animals other than the intended target. It’s one thing to trap a rabbit when you’re trying to control groundhogs, but it’s an entirely different story if you find yourself staring down at a skunk that happens to wander into your trap. You can help avoid this predicament by using baits that are more attractive to groundhogs, and leave the trap set only during the daylight hours when skunks are less likely to be active.





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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

David Beaulieu August 27, 2006 at 4:54 pm

Very amusing and informative article about groundhogs! Like you, a lot of my own groundhog experiences are reflected in my article, Groundhog Day and the Groundhog Day Movie. Hope you don’t mind my linking to it here. My site’s August 30 blog entry will feature and link to your article on bay laurel trees.

Margaret June 2, 2007 at 5:58 pm

Our repeated attempts to landscape our backyard have met with a mysterious degree of failure over the years. Fields of vinca? Gone. Expensive hydrangeas? Strangely diminished. Then today I saw a groundhog apparantly GRAZING in our lawn. Before this, I had never even suspected that chubby little rodent who lives next door! Thanks for your help!

Heirloom Gardener March 18, 2008 at 10:29 pm

I have an awful groundhog that lives next door. I have tried to trap it in the past, but you have given me new hope. Thanks!

Michael P. March 19, 2008 at 3:51 pm

The best way in my experience, to rid yourself of whistlepigs (what you city folks would call a groundhog) is:
1. lawn chair
2. whole bunch of bullets
3. high powered rifle
Thats how I’ve always dealt with them and if your squeamish about shooting them remember that trapping and relocating is not a guarantee that they will survive in a place they’ve never been, with no burrow, and out in the open. Coyotes, foxes, bobcats, mountain lions, dogs all love to have whistlepig for dinner. I wouldn’t do this if you’re not a good shot, you want to give them a quick humane death. Aim right behind and slightly down from the shoulder and you should hit the lungs and heart.

WoodchuckWarrior in VT June 7, 2008 at 1:00 pm

Ok, I have 2 adults and four babies supervising me while I try to plant my garden in 90 degree heat this morning. I just read about the bubble gum scheme…went out and bought 4 canisters of “Dubble Bubble” gum, unwrapped and put it in four holes, all along the property line where they graze. Sat on my deck and waited…Within 20 minutes they ALL came out and ate the gum!! It’s been three hours and no sign of them. I will update this post if this works….Oh yeah, we’ve tried gasoline, ammonia, smoke bombs and traps-even the neigbor’s dog, to no avail.

Caddyshack'd March 30, 2009 at 10:09 pm

Hi, Just spotted the first groundhog hole of the season, after removing 11 of them last summer. He went right under the chicken wire I buried under the soil. The war never ends. Just wondering if this “bubble gum” tactic really works? Can anyone confirm this method of… removal? Thanks!

ralphie boy May 3, 2009 at 7:26 am

Greetings : Its hunting season here again in veggie garden land Massachusetts. Last year I had “momma’ and the six to ten week olds live trapped before the end of frost season. Papa had his tunnel opening on the slope of the RR berm, that is now National Grid lines. It was my experience that he was surprisingly punctual about being home just before dusk. HMMM, three gas canisters taped to dowel lit and guided in as far as possible, then shoveling the hole shut with the lose stone he left me, night, night!

Must tell you all our first attempt rendered us the Grandaddy of all Skunk totally white just somw black on feet with grey face. We took a blue plastic tarp and covered our silos then slowly covered trap leaving access to end away from us. Gloved hand I gently open the HAH, and he came out looked over his left shoulder as if to say “you better not do that again” and scurried away.

I have a Daisy Pellet over pumped with the Copperhead pellet two shots chest quickly dispatches them.

Happy Gardening

Chris February 7, 2010 at 11:13 pm

I had a groundhog problem for the first couple of months of last spring/summer. I heard from someone that groundhogs are very neat/clean creatures, so I made life very unpleasant for them. I started throwing food scraps (egg shells and other food items) down their holes. I even tossed a bucket of vomit from my kids down the holes. After about 2 weeks of steady application of all types of scraps, they stopped appearing in my yard and I haven’t seen them since. If I see them again, I’ll try the same treatment in 2010.

Helen June 30, 2010 at 6:32 pm

Can anyone confirm the double bubble gum theory worked?

Caddyshack'd July 1, 2010 at 10:13 pm

I tried the “bubble gum” method and don’t think it made any difference. After a four year war with these little beasts I found the best solution is to trap and remove. Be sure to take them at least 7 miles away, preferably 10. Over the past 4 years I’ve captured and removed 20+ groundhogs from our property. No need to bait the traps, they’re dumb as a bag of rocks and will walk right in. Each Spring I search out the fresh holes and bomb until they stop digging out. Best to get them before they start to multiply. I know some people don’t like to kill them, but this is war! Also keep a lookout in the beginning of July, that’s when the young are kicked out to find a new home of their own. And the cycle begins again. Good luck!

tom fiorello July 20, 2010 at 12:37 pm

I had a pile of hay in my garden and damage to my melons. When I examined the hay pile, I noticed an opening. It was a main entrance to a groundhog den. I took some 2″ pool hose and stuck it down the hole, filled it in with some dirt on the sides, and dumped a gallon of bleach followed by a half gallon of ammonia. The moment the gas cloud started to come out of the hose, I pulled it out, and threw some dirt over it. I did this mid afternoon on a hot sunny day when they would be napping. They have not reopened the hole. I’d try acute lead poisoning, but by the time I get a rifle, scope, permit, ammo, I’d have spent enough to join a CSA with no guarantee of killing anything. Stand upwind if you try the above, the fumes are bad [and toxic].

Parsons847 March 17, 2011 at 9:53 am

I have also found the best way to get rid of groundhogs is to trap them (preferably at 1st sign in spring, or else you’ll deal with a bunch of babies too). However, I do not relocate them. I did this for a few years, but when you catch a large groundhog they’re very vicious, so not fun trying to release. Plus, I have a feeling people in a more residential area release their groundhogs by my house in the country! Not wanting to impose my problem on others I now kill them. I do not own a gun, but I want to do the killing as quickly and painlessly as possible. So, I use the smoke bombs meant for their holes. I keep the groundhog in the trap, then cover it with a large tupperware bin. Put 2 smoke bombs in one end, put down bin, and shovel dirt around bin to prevent smoke from escaping. Leave covered for 2 hours or so. I feel bad killing them, but if left unchecked we end up with a bunch who not only wipe our our gardens but do a lot of damage around our structures. I wouldn’t be surprised to see our shed fall into a groundhog cavern one day.

Kenny Point March 20, 2011 at 8:07 am

Groundhogs can be very vicious when cornered or trapped! That smoke treatment doesn’t sound very quick and painless, and definitely not more so than a properly placed bullet. I hope that you don’t have a problem with them in your garden or under your shed this season.

Gayle June 15, 2011 at 9:24 am

I bought a bucket of Double Bubble yesterday! I hope 380 pieces is enough to get rid of the Mamma and 3 babies I’ve seen so far. They come out from the wooded area full of flourishing green plants in search of MY food. The young go right through the upper holes of my rabbit fencing. So much for broccoli again this year. I’ve replanted my beans. I don’t know if they cucumbers will survive their wrath. I’m not expecting to harvest my grape tomatoes this year. I hope they die before ruining all of the heirloom tomatoes.
It looks like I’m trying to grow bubble gum in my garden and the yard was littered with Double Bubble wrappers this morning!

Rhonda June 25, 2011 at 10:49 pm

I’m having problems with the groundhogs under my storage building and now in the garden. I sprinkled red pepper flakes and cayenne pepper around the perimeter of the garden, so far it has keep them out. I’m looking for a permanent solution, so I may try the gum trick.

Tim V June 27, 2011 at 7:04 am

I have a beautiful groundhog living under my shed. I have had no problem with him and actually enjoy seeing him from time to time.
Unfortunatly he has now decided to dig under my garage foundation. I have tried to trap him and I’m afraid he is now hip to the trap. I will try relocating the trap and trying some of your bait choices.
I’ll let you know if I get him.

allent August 25, 2011 at 10:00 am

As a farm boy growing up and now suburban gardener, I can tell you that a .22 is the simplest solution. That being said, I agree that neighbors can get a little salty if they see you in your yard with a gun while they are splashing around in their pool next door. I have never observed the bubblegum solution to work but I can’t state for sure that it doesn’t. If you do trap, use cantaloupe. Create a trail of small pieces, spaced about 12″ apart starting on the groundhog’s path to his hole and leading right into the back of the trap. This works every time. Cantaloupe is by far the most effective bait and I’ve used almost everything you can name. If high-dollar toys are your thing, get a rodenator. (google it) I have one of these and nothing is more effective. You don’t have to wait with a gun and you don’t have the uncertainty of the trap. It is expensive though.

Woodlie May 29, 2012 at 9:43 pm

I tried throwing a couple pieces of bubble gum down the hole last summer to no avail. I gave it a second try this spring but with a newly researched method. Different sites told me it has to be this or that bubblegum. I went with Bubblicious Watermelon but suspect any fragrantly fruity kind would do. Next, and apparently important, I tossed 5-6 pieces of bubblegum down the hole EVERY day for 5 days in a row, leaving all fully WRAPPED – except 1. That one piece I opened and laid inside the hole such that “woody” would rub against it and get the smell on his fur. I also laid a couple small twigs across the hole. If they were moved I’d know the beast was still alive, going in or out. Mr. Picky woodchuck clearly rejected the open pieces as they were always found tossed the other side of a rock near the hole, but having served their purpose Near the hole entrance several empty wrappers were always found, indicating he was likely consuming them. If any were left too near the entrance and got wet from rain, those were decisively rejected with the open one. For 5 days the results were pretty much the same but on the 6th day the twigs remained in place. I didn’t dare to hope I’d finally won the battle so checked again on the 7th day. Finding the twigs still in place I dared to fill the hole in and haven’t been bothered since. I never found a carcass which was fine by me. Thus it would seem bubblegum actually works if done as above. There might be other ways to do it but this method was recommended on a garden site and it was the ticket for me.

Gayle June 7, 2012 at 6:13 am

Last summer, the Groundhog ate my 380 piece bucket of Double Bubble and an entire box of peanut butter scented rat poison. After getting fat on my green tomatoes, every yellow flower from my zucchini and cucumbers, and chewing my broccoli to the ground, he ate the leaves off my peppers, beans and beets, and any bait I put in the trap as his big butt wouldn’t allow the door to close all the way to keep him in. What a sad year for my garden. This year, a 3 foot fence partially burried to avoid the “dig under” routine and a container of “fox urine granials” are my arsenal. I rarely see a rabbit in the yard, although the deer don’t seem to mind the fox urine. First sign of that fat furry vermin this year… this city girl is learning to shoot!

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