Groundhog control measures:
This article describes the various remedies for getting rid of pesky ground hogs in The Groundhog Chronicles: an ongoing report on a series of steps to get rid of a groundhog pest, testing groundhog repellents and using a groundhog trap.
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The choices are Repel the Groundhog, Kill the Groundhog, Trap & Relocate the groundhog, or Deal With It, Get Used to 'Em: a history of unsuccessful & successful attempts at removing problem groundhogs from a property
Our page top photo shows a beautiful black groundhog on the Vassar College campus in Poughkeepsie, New York at dusk (I used a flash so his beady little eyes glint menacingly - click to enlarge the image).
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Watch out: especially if cornered, a frightened animal is as likely to bite you as to run away. This article series describes the types of damage caused by groundhogs, whistle pigs, woodchucks, gophers and other burrowing animals, including building leaks, foundation damage, and even septic drainfield damage.
The groundhogs have been tearing up our trees, shrubs and gardens. They don't mean to, but they do. They dig big holes, throw rocks and dirt all over the place, trip up the deer and interfere with their own munching on our flowers, and worse, sometimes they get downright threatening. This has been going on for years. On occasion these woodchucks or whistle pigs have wandered off on their own, or they've been deported. They also are fecund.
We saw one of the groundhog grand babies leaning up its fat little paws on our sliding glass door, peering into the living room. I'm not making this up. After that aggressive land-beaver display I spent some time
re-reading ANIMAL ENTRY POINTS in BUILDINGS.
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Beginning in GOPHER HOLE DAMAGE I reported on peeing in burrows, bleaching a tree to death, and even attempts at murdering groundhogs, and even borrowing traps (illegal) or hiring a groundhog relocation service (legal and maybe pricey) to deal with what amounts to the sixteen generations of groundhogs who've been plaguing us.
I also tried big rocks (they just push them out of the way or dig around them). I also tried shouting and chasing (the groundhog ran into the neighbor's yard but it came back immediately and Ruth didn't appreciate my screaming).
We found some success spraying Shotgun® Repels-All Animal Repellent on our flowers and shrubs. They either stop eating the sprayed plants entirely (this worked for the deer) or if the animals are desperately hungry they make horrible faces and nasty sounds while gnawing on the sprayed-on plant food.
Since firing a real shotgun is not an approved activity on the Vassar Campus, I decided to try Shotgun® Repels-All animal repellent granules around the groundhog burrow outside my office.
This product is described as preventing damage to plants and property, great for all landscapes, environmentally safe, biodegradable, effective in all seasons, and harmless to plants or animals. It simply is mildly unpleasant to them, enough that they go elsewhere. Get outta town!
What we've seen in previous years is that liquid animal repellent has been sufficient to stop deer and groundhogs from snacking on plants around the home but not strong enough to convince them to move out.
I sprinkled these groundhog repellent granules liberally around a fresh excavation on a burrow to which each successive generation of the Vassar Whistle-Pig Family has returned for a decade and a half that I've been arguing with them. I did this three days ago. This morning I saw that the groundhog definitely did NOT like those granules.
She or he dealt with it by digging anew, like mad, tossing granules and dirt askew all around the burrow entrance in a big effort at covering-over or tossing the granules away from the burrow entrance. What she did not do was move out. Yet.
OK buster (as my mom says) time to get serious. In a photo earlier on this page I show both Shotgun® liquid animal repellent and Shotgun® animal repellent containers posed outside the same ground hog colony's front door.
This time I poured a big dose of the Shotgun® liquid repellent right into the hole. That whitish color in the center of my photo is the liquid soaking into the ground where I also then added repellent granules.
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To be candid here, I was in my slippers and pajamas, and I was a little scared, thinking in the early morning light: What if she's home and comes darting out to bite the hell out of me? Go ahead and laugh, then take a look at that ferocious black groundhog in my page top photo. He's her brother. Be honest. You'd think about that too.
No one emerged so I continued with my groundhog repellent treatment pouring animal repellent granules into the burrow where I had just poured the liquid. The mixture of dried blood, garlic, and other ingredients got on my fingers. It stinks. You wouldn't want to wear this to the prom.
I'll post further photos of what the groundhogs do in response to this mega-dose of unpleasantness into their summer home. I think in winter they live in one of the dorms.
More about groundhogs (also called whistle pig, woodchuck, and even "land beaver"), who they are and what they're up-to can be read in our citation for Yardman (2009).
OK so what happened to the combination of liquid and granular ground-hog repellent we sprinkled around the burrow entrance. Well first it rained. The product literature says the repellent lasts for two months.
Perhaps "lasts" bears some discussion. In my opinion it was apparent that the groundhog definitely did not like the smell of the Shotgun® repellent. She or he may have worked in shifts, I don't know, or there may have been a whistle-pig family effort.
The photo at left shows the same whistle pig burrow on day 8 with fresh soil scrabbled around the opening. The occupant(s) either scraped away or buried the repellent that they had found objectionable.
I picture the burrow family darting in, holding their breath, and digging like mad. The result: the granules and spray of groundhog repellent were tossed away or buried under a pile of freshly-excavated soil.
The WP family moved right back in to their ancestral home.
I figured what the heck, if they don't like the smell of the repellent, and if the WP (whistlepig) family didn't like a sprinkling of granules around their burrow I'd give them more of the same.
I also figured what the hell: if the repellent is not going to be effective I may as well use it up and move towards tossing the plastic container into our recycling bin.
So I've dumped half of an entire container of Shotgun® animal repellent granules at the ground hog burrow entrance. I unscrewed the cap of the container - no more piddly-wellyouknowtheword sprinkling. I poured the stuff out.
It was actually kind of satisfying to see, once I'd removed the cap of the container, that round clumps of groundhog repellent granules rolled down into the depths of the burrow.
Go ahead, make my day. Walk through a sea of Shotgun®! Take that buster!
On Day 10 I dumped that pile of granules shown above around the burrow opening in the afternoon. The WP family were out noshing on our flowers at the time.
On Day 11, before noon I checked to see what the WP family thought about mega-dosing Shotgun® repellent in their burrow opening.
The answer is in the photograph at left.
Gone! Not the groundhogs, the Shotgun® repellent granules were nowhere in sight. They'd been scraped, dug, tossed, and buried just as before.
What you see in the picture is fresh dirt. The soil is a lighter in color than some of the earlier photos because there was no rain to blame this time. No rain diluted, washed, or other wise disturbed this repellent dose. The WP family handled it on their own by digging and tossing the repellent back towards our house - saying in WP lingo "In your face buster!"
In our opinion the groundhog repellent liquid and granules are effective in preventing animals from eating or chewing on the plants, but there was no question that the repellents did not cause the groundhog to leave town. Stronger medicine is needed.
Above you see a Havahart® animal trap deployed at another active groundhog burrow on our property. Yes we have multiple burrows, not just front and back entrances, but multiple groundhog homes. The fecund WP family have so many progeny that the yard is sort of a groundhog condominium.
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A neighbor who is an animal expert and trapper lent the trap along with advice. Borrowing from Goodbye Mrs. Robinson, but deviating from the famous phrase "Plastics, it's plastics son" we were advised "Cantaloupe".
The Havahart® animal trap Model 1045 is just the right size for a groundhog. We deployed it facing the burrow entrance and baited the trap with cantaloupe chunks at the rear of the trap. To make the pathway to cantaloupe heaven more tempting we added a few chunks along the path to the rear of the trap and sprinkled a bit of cantaloupe juice around too. Enlarge the image (click it) to see a bit of orange cantaloupe This photo was taken at 8:00 AM.
The trap is placed with its open end facing the opening of the groundhog's burrow but not so close as to block access to the burrow. After all we want to give the fatsos enough space to get into the trap without a struggle.
The trapper inspected our installation and added a black cover over the rear end of the trap, darkening it and making the space still more inviting.
Early morning inspection by our licensed trapper found one of our local possums trapped with the cantaloupe. We like opossums and are happy to have them waddling around. The possum was released unharmed in the early dawn. Even though there is a residue of Shotgun® repellent around the more active groundhog opening we decided to try moving the trap there.
At left above is the tripped and now empty trap with groundhog and opossum food scattered about. Below we've relocated the trap to the repellent-treated but still busy groundhog burrow.
We cut new cantaloupe chunks, rubbed them around on the trap bottom and sides, tossed a few into the back of the trap, re-covered the trap and left it in place. This location is a bit uncertain given the soil-repellent mix. It looks as if the groundhog is still occupying the burrow but it may be using a burrow back door, having tossed leaves and soil into the opening to block the smell of the repellent.
The dark cover over the rear half of the trap is intended to make the trap interior look a bit like a whistle pig burrow, and thus an effort to make entry into the HavaHart® trap more inviting.
A nice feature of this location is the trap can be monitored by viewing from interior of a nearby home. We were a bit worried about local kitties but I figure most of the neighborhood cats prefer voles to cantaloupe.
The woodchuck takes a close look at the HavaHart® trap, even nibbles at the cantaloupe bait left outside the trap door, then turns its back on the trap. Patience is called for here. Wait another day.
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Having thought about the taste of yesterday's cantaloupe, and having gotten used to the HavaHart® trap's presence, the groundhog decides to step inside where there was a larger pile of cantaloupe chunks.
In minutes this whistle pig had had his bags packed and was ready to move on.
Just to be sure there was no whistlepig mate looking for his or her partner, we moved the HavaHart® trap to a second groundhog burrow on the property. We added a dash of vanilla extract to the foot trip plate. The only taker was this squirrel who was, of course, released. My friend Paul would have eaten it.
Today we noticed a new groundhog, aka Willard Woodchuck, aka Wiley Whistlepig rummaging around the property, possibly having come to visit with the recently-relocated groundhog who now lives far far away.
It's time to visit our local animal trapper again. You may have to trap and relocate or dispose of more than one groundhog until you have finally created an whistlepig-free island.
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