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.
It 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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