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Groundhog Facts: How I Live with a Groundhog in the Garden
Research on Groundhogs and Bribes to Save a Garden
Sometimes inspiration just wanders into the garden. This particular inspiration was a groundhog that I discovered selectively nibbling the tiny new spring flowers in the otherwise barren garden. My love of gardening was on a direct collision course with my love of animals!
My first thoughts were, "I need to get this groundhog out of here!", followed by, "What do groundhogs eat besides flowers?”
A little research later, I was thinking: Perhaps I can live with one groundhog and bribe it into eating something else.
Groundhogs are Mostly Vegetarian
First of all, I wanted to find out “what” and “how much” one groundhog eats.
Groundhogs are mostly vegetarian, consuming grass, bark, flowers and any vegetation they can find; oh yes, the occasional grub or bug for a bit of protein. They don’t drink water, getting their moisture from the vegetation they eat.
The answer I really wanted though, was, exactly how much one groundhog ate each day and would I have any flowers left?
The answer: one to one and a half pounds of vegetation each day. Fresh spring flowers are a delicacy! Yikes! They also like fruit and vegetables... that would be why farmers are not exactly fond of them.
Not so sure my garden will survive this year!
How many pounds of flowers in my garden?
Ms Groundhog Pays a Visit
Is It a a Groundhog? I Checked it Out...Yep
I identified Ms. Groundhog on the net. Her likeness is posted all over. Gardeners and farmers alike do not have a great fondness for groundhogs.
However, the animal lover in me says, “She is kinda cute”! I took a photo of her. She is kinda photogenic.
Stay away from those claws though, she sports a formidable set of long ones on both front and back paws; besides a set of choppers that keep on growing and growing. That cute little varmint can deliver a nasty bite. I am keeping my distance.
I also found out, the groundhog is a member of the squirrel family, a biggie,in fact, weighing up to 13 pounds and measuring about two feet in length including the six inch bushy tail. Powerful legs with fleshy hands; on the front paws, there are four fingers and five fingers on the hind feet. With those meathooks she makes burrows up to four feet deep and 25 to 40 feet long. Not only a summer burrow, but a winter one as well. Now that is digging! .
The groundhog isn’t a bad animal; it is just built that way to survive in nature.
They are usually very shy and fast as greased lightning. One crack of the door and this one sprinted into hiding.
So...What's Good to Eat, Eh?
Now for Some Bribes; Will They Work?
Sooo, I decide, perhaps, Ms Groundhog and I can reach reach a bargain. She can eat all the grass, twigs and bark she wants and I will provide her with incidental “groceries” for variety. Maybe some vegetable peels, apple cores, wilted lettuce, carrots and other raw vegetable goodies with the hope she will not be tempted to visit my garden? It is worth a try.
She even inspired this Hub.
Progress... It seems Ms Groundhog is thinking about it... Let’s hope we have a deal!
BTW.. Now I know first-hand that groundhogs do eat raw carrots,lettuce, sweet potatoes, banana peels and apple cores. At least, some of the newer plants popping up shoots are still surviving in my garden!
What Else I found Out About Groundhogs
I was eager to know this critter better. In order to not have a conflict.
The groundhog is a true hibernator, sleeping all winter coming out about March or April, hungry after a winter of living off it's own fat. When the male comes out of hibernation, he starts looking for a mate,
I have seen two...the tail end of one and the eyes and nose of another at the woodpile. So I agree with that research, first hand.
One of them is certainly a female since these critters are loners. They only cohabit during the mating season which by now is probably over. The female chases off the male after the courting is done and makes a nest for her babies...generally around four to a litter! So I am assuming perhaps I only have one groundhog to contend with at this point in time.
I would settle for the male if I had a choice, but seeing as I saw both, I am betting this is a female. The “he” may have gotten the boot! I shall have to wait and see if there will be tiny critters in my garden in about two months...
I wonder how many plants those little ones will consume?
More Groundhog Info
The female’s gestation is 32 days after which she bears tiny furless and blind babies. That would take me to the end of May, more or less. In two weeks, they develop fur and by four weeks they are no longer blind. By five weeks they begin moving around and learning to eat vegetation. ..say, the first week of June?
Mom nurses them until six weeks...that would be mid June and then relocates them to another den away from hers. So, ideally, I will only see the little ones for about two weeks just at the time when my garden is most susceptible with tender new growth. Sigh.
The up side of all this is that groundhogs, though a bother in a garden, do not multiply like other rodents so the density will remain at one or two groundhogs to an acre. That is how they like it....so the babies will move on to their own territory because the adults won’t have them around. Tough love.
All sorts of literature exists on trapping and relocating groundhogs. I even found a recipe for cooking groundhogs....Ewww. Trapping or eating groundhogs would be illegal in my neck of the woods.
If relocated the groundhog burrows become targets for less desirable varmints who are not so adept at burrowing. Would I prefer a skunk in the backyard? Maybe not.
This groundhog is safe; the garden, well, not so sure. Plastic flowers?
Now a Side View, Eh
The Bribe was Accepted
Plant Flowers Groundhogs Hate
I thank "Just ask Susan" for providing me with the obvious... a link to flowers groundhogs will hopefully leave alone. I have marigold seeds planted, so this may help ward off Ms Groundhog.
Susan also says dianthus, sweet alyssum, annual poppies are good choices. See her comments for more flowers and the the link.
The great groundhog experiment begins!
What is in the Garden Now; an Experiment
The groundhog hasn't been seen lately. Apparently it isn't happy with all the attention.
Also the surrounding area has been cleared of vegetation making more open space. The groundhog is shy so it likes easy escape routes and hidden grasses.
I have planted Miniature Roses, Marigolds from seed, Petunias, Sweet Alyssum from seed, Ageratum, Sweet William, Columbines, Hostas, Forget-Me-Nots, Dahlias and Black-eyed Susan.
So far they are surviving. Perhaps there is better tasting edibles elsewhere? I do not have any unrealistic expectation that the garden will remain untouched. I plan to find some pinwheels from the dollar store to place in the garden for sudden motion and anything else to make my garden less appealing.
I will keep you posted on what survives!
Living with a Groundhog in the Garden
Since I wrote this Hub, time has passed. I am happy to report Ms Groundhog and I are fine with each other. She likes to eat the neighbors pansies according to the neighbor. However, I found out the neighbor feeds rabbits and I caught a rabbit red-handed eating my rose blossoms.
So I think the garden raiders are bunnies... and they multiply! Think that is a far worse threat than one groundhog.
I sprinkled cayenne pepper on all my roses then watched as a bunny tried to eat another rose.
It was comical to see the rabbit suddenly stop munching in mid bite when a shot of hot cayenne pepper hit it's taste buds.The half-eaten rose was dropped..So far I still have a garden... despite all the wildlife!
The groundhog has been vindicated.
2017 Update: The groundhog is gone!
My flowers may be happier but this spring I have not sighted the groundhog. Last year I spotted two young ones and the parent once in awhile but now the burrow appears to have been abandoned altogether. It has caved in. Not sure what has happened.
It is with a tinge of sadness, I pass by the burrow's entrance so close to my flower garden. I will miss the furry critter this year, but maybe I can finally add a few new flowers to the garden....provided I keep sprinkling cayenne pepper on buds to stop the rabbits!