Unhappy surprise today...groundhog in my yard.

prairiemoon2 z6 MAAugust 2, 2006


I was sitting near the veggie garden and saw movement out of the corner of my eye, and turned to look and not 10 yds away coming straight toward me was a medium size groundhog. I had seen one crossing through the yard in March and was downhearted, but not having seen one since or had any damage, I thought I was home free. NOT.

Gee, just as my tomatoes, cukes, beans and peppers are starting to ripen up. I suppose I am in for it now. I don't have the energy to start trapping and attempting to relocate. Does anyone have any suggestions?



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oldmainer(z5 Maine)

Hi prairiemoon2...well now...I would come up with alittle energy or some of the goodies in your garden will provide a meal(s) for woody...if he/she hasn't chowed down already on some of it.
There are a number of things you can do...live trap...shoot...get a good yard dog...etc. What I would do is get myself a smoke bomb...made for the purpose of killing woody in his apartment...and follow the directions. They have worked well for me in the past. Franklin

    Bookmark   August 2, 2006 at 6:53PM
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gumby_ct(CT it says Z5)

Smoke bombs work great. You have to know where the den is and it is best used AFTER sundown, since that is when they are more likely to be in there.

Fox or coyote are their natural enemies - you can get fox/coytote urine pretty cheaply at a sporting goods store or any good garden center will have it for few bucks more but well worth the savings in trouble.

Wishing you the very best,

    Bookmark   August 2, 2006 at 10:14PM
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Our neighborhood groundhogs had organic buffet at my veggie gardens for three weeks, until we put out dish clothes soaked in ammonia around the garden. IT WORKS! DAY 11 and counting! At first we put each cloth in an open plastic bag, the kind you buy produce in, and poured in enough ammonia to soak. One day we saw one bag moved several feet -- the little bastards actually moved it to get at the leafy greens! Since then we've been putting the cloth on a plate with some gravel so that the thing is not so easy to push around. We refill each plate in the morning. It's been working beautifully. No more veggie stubs left over from groundhog buffet!

    Bookmark   August 2, 2006 at 11:29PM
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its more likely the groundhog got hit by a car & the skunks& racoons were moving the rags. ammonia in the garden is good for slugs but thats cuz it works before it evaporates. is predator urin not organic?
there are many myths that sound good but do not work. read the link below. juciy fruit gum, playing radios, moth balls, amonia, etc.

Here is a link that might be useful: Groundhog/Woodchuck Havahart Trap

    Bookmark   August 3, 2006 at 12:27AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Thanks to all for the many suggestions... no shooting allowed here, the relocating, I have my doubts about. Not able to have a dog right now. So that leaves smoke bombs, fox, coyote urine. Where do you get the smoke bombs? You have to locate their den, so do they have more than one opening? I tried following the groundhog when he left the yard, but I lost him. He just seemed to disappear. There was a parked car nearby and a neighbor's fence with a huge overgrown vine..I think it is bittersweet, yuck...so I wondered if he had gone under either of those, but I was afraid to look, that he might feel cornered and jump out at me.

Sparkle, didn't the amonia really smell up your yard? Will you have to do that all season?

We have a fenced in yard, two sides are six feet and two are four feet. He was coming in under the 4 foot picket. They can climb anyway, can't they? Can I expect them to NOT be in the garden at night? I think I read on the other thread, that they come out around sunrise/sundown? I ran into one about 9:30am I think. How do they know you have veggies in your yard? Do they just happen upon them in their travels, or do they smell them? I think I am one of the few people in about a 6 block radius that gardens, the rest of the neighborhood is basically trees, grass and a few foundation plants.

What about motion sensitive lights or sprinklers?

I am starting to feel like Mr. MacGregor. :-(

    Bookmark   August 3, 2006 at 5:26AM
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If your garden is in full production now,GH damage might not be too bad...I have so many tomatoes the ones that get bitten hardly matter.
Do you have a fence?Needn't be higher than 30".
My plots are too large to fence them all,so the plants that don't get bothered much go outside-'maters,okra,vines,so far.
But I'm growing sweet potatoes this year.GH's LOVE them down to the ground.So I had to shoot three so far;if you have one,you'll have another.
Maybe you could contact a bow hunter if shooting isn't permitted there.Relocating just gives someone else the problem.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2006 at 6:15AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

See, here is where I am confused. I just did a google search and found a site that suggested that groundhogs only eat the dropped fruit/veggies. Now you are saying you have enough tomatoes that they eat a few and so is that all they do? I read another post, saying they ate all her tomatoes and all her lettuce. So, which is true? Do they eat so much in the garden that you can't tolerate them, or do they just eat some of your veggies/fruits? Do they just eat dropped tomatoes? OR are they actually pulling them off the vine? I heard from someone yesterday that reported a neighbor had 25 plants that the groundhog chewed through the main stem of all of them and he lost all 25 plants. IS that what a groundhog does?

I have a fence and it is 4 ft high. I have seen a groundhog manuever his way around the fence. I have also heard they can dig and burrow right under the fence and come up inside the garden. I have seen a photo of a groundhog up in a mulberry tree eating, so they can climb.

I sure don't want to be frustrated trying to install wire a foot below ground along the entire length of my fence, only to see them figure out another way to get in.

I haven't seen any evidence of damage yet, but my tomatoes are just starting to turn a little ripe.


    Bookmark   August 3, 2006 at 6:47AM
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pablo_nh(z4/5 NH)

I can lend you a live trap. I've trapped them in a Havahart- I normally don't have-a-heart though, I have a gun :)

I fenced in the veggie garden with chicken wire, which is bent out about a foot where it meets the ground. The piece against the ground has clover growing through it (can alternatively be buried or covered in mulch). When the critter tries to dig under the fence- they hit chicken wire. That's the only effective fencing method that I've found (without digging down a foot).

One that I trapped and planned to let go, on my wife's insisitence, was barely breathing after less than an hour in the trap- I was telling him "See? If you hadn't got so fat eating my tomatoes- then you wouldn't be in this position".

Relocating causes a lot of potential issues. They may become someone else's pest. They compete with other groundhogs, which may cause health issues there. Depending on the time of year, it may require a lot of energy reserves (that would have sustained it over the winter) to dig a new burrow. Finally, as I stated above, it's stressful for the critter which can have a number of health impacts. My opinion is that outright killing them may save them from longer suffering.

My last one (ate all my lettuce and purple coneflowers)wouldn't go into the live trap, so I had to play Lee Harvey Oswald with a scoped 22 out the window (Houses are spread and separated by acres of woods here, used subsonic hollowpoints to cut down the noise and ricochet). I wasn't in a book repository, but there was reading material in the room :)

    Bookmark   August 3, 2006 at 10:02AM
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gumby_ct(CT it says Z5)

Woodchucks WILL destroy a home garden. They will take one bite from EACH tomato. A farmer told me they ate an acre of his cabbage in 2 days.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2006 at 11:39AM
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Prairiemoon,I'm no GH expert,but have made some observations.
GH's aren't too smart.My fence goes to ground level only,where there is no contact due to slope,I have placed large rocks.Plenty of them around here.I suspect there is so much forage they won't put out the effort to dig.The grid of the fence is 3x2,can't fit through.
Caged 'maters are 6' high,no they don't climb,but will eat up to the height standing on their hind legs.Never eat the whole fruit....and never eat fallen fruit either.
Yes they will completely mow off lettuce(though not deer tongue,so far),any brassica,and have chewed many leaves off summer squash,cukes etc.But they shun everything for sweet potato leaves.
Despite my frustrations,they're not malicious critters,they just like something to eat and appear to like variety.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2006 at 7:13AM
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pablo_nh(z4/5 NH)

Ya, even though I'm a hunter- I don't care to kill them. I told a buddy this- you know they're just being groundhogs when they mow your lettuce.

he told me- "Don't feel bad- you just got married- so you have to protect the family crops"


    Bookmark   August 4, 2006 at 9:18AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

pablo...thanks for the offer of a trap, but for the time being, I am not heading in that direction. :-)

gumby...that lines up with other reports I have read about how much they can do quickly. Reading up on them yesterday, I was surprised to learn they hibernate in the winter, so I guess they have to bulk up to get through the hibernation period. Makes sense. Then they have 3-6 babies in the spring and come July/Aug, the babies start moving out into homes of their own. The one I saw was small and would bet it was an adolescent moving out of home base.

alphonse...thanks for sharing your observations. I will have to try observing more. Thankfully the weather is cooling off here. I saw where he came into the yard, but couldn't see if he got through between the pickets, or under the fence. I will have to try putting rocks in front of where the fence has a little room under it and see what happens. Most of my tomatoes are in containers and caged and staked, so they are up higher. I still haven't seen anything looking like they have been eating anything. I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. But I don't have that many tomatoes ripe yet, and no melons, no lettuce. No sweet potatoe leaves, no summer squash. Just tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, not much fruit on them yet, and string beans. Basil...that's about it. Do they eat cuke leaves or cukes?

Oh, I did see a photo of a woodchuck in a mulberry tree eating the fruit.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2006 at 4:33PM
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pablo_nh(z4/5 NH)

Ya, I was surprised to hear that they can climb trees. Never seen it here. A common name for them is "whistle pig"- because of a noise that they supposedly make. Never heard that either.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2006 at 8:50PM
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prairiemoon, we have 8 rags scattered among 3 patches (average about 8' x 4') and one strip by the house (8' x 1'). Just after refilling it stinks nearby but it goes away . It's now our third week and so far it's still working - no new damage observed. In fact a dahlia plant (from seed, no less) is blooming after having a good part of its foliage eaten by groundhogs.

We haven't seen a GH, whereas before we used to run into one during the day, just leaving its buffet of course. I am thinking maybe we can refill every other or every third morning.

If you live in NJ where relocating is illegal and hiring professional animal control for the entire summer costs a bundle, ammonia ia worth a try. It's worked for me so far.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2006 at 9:29PM
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I've been taking care of rabbits with a BB gun. Idunno if a groundhog would be hurt by a BB gun but it's worth a try with a pellet gun which would have a higher FPS and better accuracy from the shape of the pellet. It's not a firearm so not illegal in town. Just be careful of the neighbors house. From what you've said, you must have a wood fence. That should easily stop a pellet or BB from leaving your yard and breaking the nighbor's window.

My gun is a Crosman 66 Powermaster BB/pellet gun - good and cheap (50 bucks) I can adjust the power of the shot by the number of pumps up to something like 950 FPS with 12 pumps. I've had to finish off rabbits with a shovel so you've gotta be prepared for getting close to finish the job. Don't let an animal suffer needlessly even if it is a garden raiding varmit.

Good luck with whichever route you take to control it.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2006 at 10:18PM
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Pablo,they're called "whistle pigs" here,too.If you whistle,unseen,they often stand on hind legs to see what's going on.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2006 at 7:20AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Thanks Sparkle for that clarification. Yes, I have been told by others in my area that it is also illegal to relocate here in Massachusetts. I wish you continued good luck with the missing groundhog.

farmerbill...Thanks for adding another option to the discussion. I actually had been thinking about what effect a BB gun would have. I would love something that would scare it away and maybe give it an 'ouch' [g], but I would not feel good about possibly injuring the animal and causing it to suffer. Plus we have never touched a gun of any kind in our lives.

I have been thinking that if it became a major problem, that I might try one of those motion sensitive water sprinklers that shoot bursts of water when it detects motion. So far, knock on wood, we haven't seen the groundhog again and are not missing any produce or see any damage. Keeping my fingers crossed.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2006 at 7:50AM
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I have found that my best defense is a happy by product of my deer fencing around the vegetable and flower gardens. The poly fencing is 7 feet tall and supported by bamboo poles so the fence wobbles if the GHs try to climb over and they don't like that. I have the poly on the ground about 8 inches folded outward at the bottom and secured by ground staples so they don't dig under. For three years I have had no damage despite the fact that "Fatboy" lives under a neighbor's abandoned outbuilding. I had previously tried underground fencing, dogs, predator urine, and loud cursing accompanied by shovel swatting (yeah, I know -- that was ust to make ME feel better) and nothing worked. Good luck!

    Bookmark   August 9, 2006 at 8:01AM
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pablo_nh(z4/5 NH)

Unless you have something higher end and powerful (probably 22 cal pellet gun)- I wouldn't go shooting a groundhog with a standard BB/pellet rifle. I have a Crossman 10 pump as well, have hit but not killed them- even with a head shot. GH skin is tough- you'll get through it, but won't have the punch left to do the job. It was used for hinges on boxes, as well as shoe soles. Rabbits are pretty wimpy when compared to GH and squirrels.

Injuring one to scare it off- I'm not a fan of the idea. It takes a lot of energy reserves to survive a Massachusetts winter. It takes a lot of reserves to heal a BB wound- they can be reasonably serious. Add the possibility of infection, and mobility issues caused by a wound- you may just end up with a GH that suffers longer before it dies. Nature isn't a warm fuzzy mother that nestles hibernating critters all winter. It's harsh, freezing cold, they lose weight, coyotes will give them trouble in the fall and spring.

Scare it off, or kill it. Most anything else is going to cause suffering, and possible death. I'm a hunter, though- this is mostly based on true hunting ethics. Quick and clean- or don't do it and cause suffering.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2006 at 9:23AM
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So...what if the ground hog is eating wires in your car? Our car wouldn't start this morning and we checked under the hood...chewed wires. And, the groundhog was running away.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2008 at 1:16PM
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Just heard of a solution in case someone else is having this problem. They said to just spray ammonia by the wheels of the car and place bags of moth balls on the tires. Hope it works

    Bookmark   April 23, 2008 at 7:03PM
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I have a daisy 880, and with pellets it will take out a groundhog at up to 50 feet or so. Shoot it either at the base of the ear, or behind the shoulder like any other animal's heart shot. Rabbits too, squirrels as well. If they eat my veggies, I eat them. You can make a dandy potroast out of mr. hog, use lots of carrots and onions, and cook him slow and low. YUM TiMo

    Bookmark   April 23, 2008 at 9:10PM
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I find all these options fascinating as I am looking forward to growing my first garden. I don't know if this helps at all, but I read in Mother Earth News that someone was having problems with raccoons eating their corn crop, until they grew squash in between the rows of the corn and that the raccoons hated the prickly leaves under their feet, so left the corn alone. Maybe groundhogs have delicate feet, too. Maybe something growing along the fence bottom that is prickly would help, too.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2008 at 9:53PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Thank you all for continuing to add more ideas on how to deal with these animals. They can be so destructive and the more ideas the better, since one might work over another for someone's circumstances.


    Bookmark   May 2, 2008 at 9:11AM
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I'm going to try some Cayenne pepper on some of the leaves in my garden. I'll report any good results.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2009 at 2:32AM
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I have finally surrendered to the groundhogs. We've been battling them (via fencing, repellants, Irish Spring soap, etc.) for 8 years now and they just don't give up. We had a family living under our gazebo. My husband dug in low border fencing at the base and then covered with melon-size rocks. Next morning I watched the mama fling the rocks away and pull up the fencing with front paws. My dog caught a young one the other day and shook him violently before I could stop him. The little guy was back the next day! At this point, I just plant enough for both of us and try to relax about it. We also have deer, rabbits, chipmunks (which WILL eat tomatoes) and raccoons in our suburban NJ neighborhood. Thank goodness our farmers market starts this week so I have another source of good veggies. I'll still keep trying though...

    Bookmark   June 20, 2010 at 1:28AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

ms fudd, very surprised and sorry to hear that. People have reported dogs as a good deterrent to groundhogs, I wonder if after awhile, the dog chasing them would begin to have the desired effect. I don't really understand why groundhogs don't find food in the wild. They eat just about anything it seems. Or maybe it is like having a McDonald's on the corner when someone starts a vegetable garden, they get a craving. [g]

I can't think of another thing to suggest, except maybe a BB gun. [g] Seriously though, not sure where your location is and whether you could trap them and relocate, but worth looking into. Sometimes in areas where they don't allow relocation, they do allow you to hire someone to trap and dispose of them. I know it doesn't really make a lot of sense, but I'd look into it before giving up.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2010 at 4:26PM
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I live on a farm in VA and have finally had to give in and allow someone to come shoot these guys. I quite love them, and have huge respect for the grand daddy, who has lived at this farm longer than I have, surviving total bulldozing of the old garden, complete rebuilding of the old farm house (under which he also used to live) and my 2 Border Collies. Besides, they remind me of my beloved Lhasa Apso who has passed away.

HOWEVER, I've been living here for 10 years and starting 2 years ago, the GH (who has since created quite an impressive giant condo complex under a pile of old wood from the old razed barn) finally started annihilating my garden.

Despite what some people here have posted I can tell you, they are quite smart & have a keen sense of hearing.

GHs live in burrows underground (like a cave). It always has more than one entrance/exit. They generally come out early in the morning and at sunset. I have an entire wire cattle fence, along with electric hot wire all along the entire bottom perimeter of my fence to keep my dogs in (who like to constantly dig under and run away whenever they hear thunder, gun shots or just feel like it!).

This hot wire is set for the highest level of shock, and will keep a horse or bull away! This is only 1 foot away from the GH woodpile den. My garden is inside this fence and then inside yet another fence, which is also hot wired at the ground level.

Yet, the GHs know full well how to go around the fence, burrow under the fence, whatever. All I know is they have started again eating every tomato I have that starts to ripen and will absolutely take every melon we are growing.

And they could care less about my Border Collies who know the word "Ground Hog" and will dive and dig at the hole if you say that to them. The GH just goes somewhere in his condo complex and doesn't give a hoot. I should say though that my 2 dogs are 2 goofy lovebugs and routinely take their balls & toys to the cows and any other critter in hopes they will play, and would never hurt any little critter intentionally (unlike most farm dogs.) If they did encounter the GH, they'd probably offer him a tomato.

After years of only seeing the old grand daddy GH, last week I saw him showing the ropes to a little one. Last night my farm tenant came over with a high powered rifle and shot the old guy, but also said he saw another giant one (probably the mom) and a smaller one. There is likely a huge family under there.

It made me feel guilty and wistfully sad, but at the end of the day, not only would I be fighting a losing battle of the garden, wild animals carry disease, fleas, ticks with Lyme, if cornered they have huge claws & fangs, and the holes they dig can cause someone (or my dogs or cows) to break their leg.

If you are going to try a humane trap (which I did), they are extremely smart and you will have a long wait and will have to create the trap to mimic a hollow den or they are not dumb enough to go into a metal contraption - LOL!

I agree with the hunters posting above that if you are going to shoot at it, get someone who knows what they are doing and will kill the animal humanely and put him out cleanly. Shooting at him with a BB gun is cruel, as it will not kill him, just cause wounds, suffering and illness.

Hope this helps! Now I'm also on the case of the bunnies, voles and whatever is now eating all my blackberries! ARGH! LOL!!!!

    Bookmark   June 29, 2010 at 1:11PM
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As big a pain as these guys may be, if it weren't for them, then the Japanese beetles would get you instead. One of groundhogs favorite foods is Japanese beetle grubs. There are two large wooded vacant lots across the street from my house that is full of groundhogs and rabbits. In my front yard, I've given up growing any flowers hardly except for iris's and daffodils, which neither one seems to like.

I have a fenced backyard with dogs, which keeps most critters out even though the dogs live indoors most of the time. The dogs going outside to play and do their business is enough to keep out the varmints for me.

When I was a kid my family had a garden next to a large wooded forest full of critters that loved our garden as much as we did. We put up an electric fence that got rid of all of our problems with deer, rabbits, and groundhogs.

Putting it up for controlling deer is a bit harder than for little critters. Electric fences hurt a bit but are not lethal. We did find one rabbit that was dead following heavy rain. It seemed that with him standing in water, the shock must have been stronger was the only thing we could figure out. Also for deer the charge had to bit a bit stronger than for rabbits.

It is probably too late to do now, but if you start ahead of time, they are not too expensive or difficult to put up. The are not unsightly and will last for years. The electric charger are about $50. The cost for posts and wire is not too much because they don't need much support for the lightweight wire. They work with other fences as well. For example where critters are climbing under a wooden fence, you can string a wire just above the ground attached to plastic insulators.

For stopping deer it was a bit harder because we had to arrange the fence so they would not simply jump over it, but it worked with some adjustments.

Here is a link that might be useful: Deer proof electric fence

    Bookmark   June 30, 2010 at 12:45AM
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