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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

Look at those paws and claws!

Look at those paws and claws!

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?

This one doesn't look too skinny. Note the tail.

This one doesn't look too skinny. Note the tail.

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!

Scroll to Continue

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 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

Who is checking out whom?

Who is checking out whom?

The Bribe was Accepted

A yummy slice of apple is accepted and a portrait photo allowed!

A yummy slice of apple is accepted and a portrait photo allowed!

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!


Niki Ross from USA on August 10, 2017:

Nice post.

Maggie Griess (author) from Ontario, Canada on February 20, 2016:

Hi MizBejabbers

As far as I can tell, I still have the same groundhog and when I chased it last summer as it was about to pop a flower into it's mouth it ran to it's burrow entrance and then popped back out and looked at me with a face that showed surprise that I should be so rude as to chase it. I think it has become rather tame and I am resigned to just growing flowers it doesn't like...which so far seem to be Geraniums, Marigolds and Black-Eyed Susans. Thanks for visiting!

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on February 18, 2016:

How did I miss this hub?! It's great, and perhaps I sympathize because I'm a fellow sufferer. I have a groundhog that lived on my roof! (underground house) In fact, I've written a hub about her and her babies. The info that I've found says that groundhogs may dig several dens, but it doesn't say if the mother abandons a den after one season like some animals do. Do you know? I haven't see our mother for a couple of years now, but her children certainly are giving us a hard time. One has taken up residence in our attached greenhouse. Great hub. Wish I'd found it sooner.

Maggie Griess (author) from Ontario, Canada on November 20, 2015:

Hi RonElFran

That is a huge problem and I sympathize. So far, my particular groundhog burrows away from dwellings, but goodness knows where the underground tunnels go! I am hoping the tunnels are situated where it doesn't matter and since they are territorial (one to a large area) it will discourage others from settling and creating more destructive tunnels. I am keeping my fingers crossed. :)

Ronald E Franklin from Mechanicsburg, PA on November 19, 2015:

We have a continuing groundhog problem in our back yard, and it has nothing to do with flowers. In fact we don't even have a garden. The problem for us is that groundhogs like to dig. And in our experience, they like to dig under decks and even houses. We've spent a lot of effort trying to plug groundhog holes, and been entirely unsuccessful. Finally we trapped the current tenant in our groundhog hotel and moved him elsewhere. But I'm sure the war is not over. Other groundhogs probably look at our yard and see a big "Vacancy" sign there.

Maggie Griess (author) from Ontario, Canada on April 29, 2015:

Hi ologsinquito

He is darn cute and he is till around! Unfortunately he has made some unsightly burrows, but other than that, we live in harmony. This spring I have not fed him, because my garden is yet to start sprouting and there is green grass in abundance. He seems to leave the garden alone but he does wander around in it. Maybe he was appreciating the garden last year? LOL

ologsinquito from USA on April 29, 2015:

What a cute little guest. I'm not sure what I'd do if one wandered into my garden. If I knew it was a groundhog, and not a big rat, I'd leave some food out.

Maggie Griess (author) from Ontario, Canada on July 17, 2013:

Hi Les Trois Chenes! My cat is unfathomable as well...he has a sweet tooth (???) and he loves certain grains, grass and specific cheeses only and loves junk food (Cheesies)...the groundhog was easier to figure! Now I have a rabbit in the garden as well...back to square one! What do rabbits hate to eat?

Les Trois Chenes from Videix, Limousin, South West France on July 17, 2013:

I'm afraid I didn't even know what a groundhog was (but I had heard the word and knew about groundhog days), so it's little wonder that I had no idea what they eat. What eats what is a constant mystery and although I have a fair idea about my dog's diet, I still don't know what the cat will or won't eat.

Maggie Griess (author) from Ontario, Canada on July 08, 2013:

Thank you pinto2011, I was motivated to learn and thought I should far I have been successful living in harmony with the groundhog.

Hi Rose! I was taken aback in the early spring when I saw it foraging in the flower garden, but I think maybe some one else has more delectable flowers since he/she has left my garden relatively "nibble-free". I do sympathize with your mother because if I could not keep flowers blooming in the garden, I would be of an entirely different

Maggie Griess (author) from Ontario, Canada on July 08, 2013:

Hi Peggy! He/she is cute, I agree. So far, we have lived in harmony...I think it dashed out of the garden this morning when I surprised it, but it was so fast all I saw was a streak of brown!

Thanks so much for the votes, sharing and pin! :) Always appreciated!

rose-the planner from Toronto, Ontario-Canada on July 07, 2013:

Great article! I found this really interesting. I must admit that as adorable as they are, I really don't like what they can do to my garden. However, much like you, I find them to be an interesting creature so it is nice to know exactly what they enjoy eating. Anytime I have had one in the garden, they didn't visit for long. My poor mother on the other hand is having a problem with one in her garden right now. Unlike me, being the avid gardener that she is, she does not appreciate this furry little creature at all, lol! Thanks for sharing. (Voted Up) -Rose

Subhas from New Delhi, India on July 07, 2013:

HI Scribenet! This is a must read for an animal lover. Full of knowledge.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on July 07, 2013:

What a cute looking animal. You got some great photos of it. Hope your garden survives and that you and your groundhogs can live in harmony with one another. Up votes, sharing and pinning. :)

Maggie Griess (author) from Ontario, Canada on June 24, 2013:

Hi Elias! So far, my garden has bee left alone... maybe it is the plants I planted, but no matter what, I am grateful we are living "in harmony"!

Elias Zanetti from Athens, Greece on June 24, 2013:

Very cute little creature, Scribenet and the story you shared is wonderful. I'm glad to hear that you manage to get along with your little friend without damaging your garden.

Maggie Griess (author) from Ontario, Canada on May 28, 2013:

Thanks b.Malin! I am happy to report my garden is fine now that there is more to eat out there and I made an effort to plant what groundhogs do not far so good and groundhog gets to enjoy his/her own habitat and I get to enjoy the wildlife once in a while!

b. Malin on May 28, 2013:

Well who knew? You're a Good Person Scribenet...I think I'd react the same way. After all I put up with Crazy "Nutsy" the Squirrel and all his antics. I loved ready this story, for I love Animals of all kinds too. I wish you Luck with the Garden this Spring. Keep us posted!

Maggie Griess (author) from Ontario, Canada on May 24, 2013:

Hi Stephanie! Jeez, your comments made me glad I haven't been aggressive trying to get the groundhog to go away... It seems to have so much personality and really is just looking for food and I can relate to that! ( I am a foodie too)

Hey, maybe I need to put out all the old socks for it to gather! I have a small patio tomato plant I guard and bring in when I am not around!

I enjoyed your comments...Sam sounded like an adorable pet...hope there are no orphans here or I am in trouble since I have a definite weak spot for little animals!

Maggie Griess (author) from Ontario, Canada on May 24, 2013:

Hi Jools! I did think about that and have cut back on the However, this morning it had sat and flattened some flowers ( not eaten them) I have my work cut out for me! :)

Stephanie Henkel from USA on May 24, 2013:

I have a soft spot for groundhogs as my husband and I found a baby many years ago whose mother had been killed. We bottle fed it and raised it as an indoor pet until it grew to adulthood and wandered off to answer the call of the wild.

Sam got along with our cat and dog and even used the litter box! He liked to gather socks, tissues and any other soft items and hide them under the couch, and played with us much like a kitten would. I can attest to the fact that groundhogs love fruit and vegetables. Sam's favorite food was tomatoes! Sorry for rambling on, but your hub brought back some pleasant memories of our unusual pet. Thanks for a very nice hub!

Jools Hogg from North-East UK on May 24, 2013:

Very interesting hub - and your photos really brought this to life; careful though, your little (not so little) groundhog might end up being like some wild pet!

Maggie Griess (author) from Ontario, Canada on May 07, 2013:

Thanks Alicia. She is interesting to watch. I sort of enjoy having "animal kingdom" in the back!

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on May 06, 2013:

Thanks for describing your interesting experience, Scribenet! Good luck with your garden and with your visitor. She is a very handsome animal.

Maggie Griess (author) from Ontario, Canada on May 06, 2013:

Hey, drbj...LOL, I like your style! Your advice is pretty funny so I wouldn't mind doing all the work! :)

drbj and sherry from south Florida on May 06, 2013:

Ooooh! I like that drawing idea. Lemme know if it works. We could start a business and call ourselves the G.E.E.s - Groundhog Eradication Experts. You could do all the work . . . and I could provide all the advice!

Maggie Griess (author) from Ontario, Canada on May 05, 2013:

Thanks Susan! That was the obvious thing to do, so I thank you for providing a link. I'll have to add an extra capsule with your link!

Fortunately I do have marigolds coming up and I hope Sweet William is part of the dianthus family since it tossed that foliage. Poppies are lovely and Sweet Alyssum is a nice addition...the other two I am not familiar with, but you can bet they will be checked out!

Later on I will plant some minature roses and I am assuming they will be safe because of the thorns.

Maggie Griess (author) from Ontario, Canada on May 05, 2013:

Hi drbj! LOL, I sure would rather have the groundhog over a skunk and even raccoons that get into garbage! Seeing as Ms Groundhog is probably illiterate, perhaps a drawing with a groundhog on it's back, legs stiffly up in the air with a flower dangling from its mouth?

I imagine by summer's end I'll have tried a few tactics! :)

Susan Zutautas from Ontario, Canada on May 05, 2013:

I had to go and see if I could find out what flowers they don't like and here is what I found: snapdragons, annual poppies, dianthus, marigolds, nicotiana, ageratum, sweet alyssum.

Good luck :)

drbj and sherry from south Florida on May 05, 2013:

I guess, Scribenet, that compared to skunks and other larger burrowing animals, groundhogs are a more desirable garden tenant. At least they do hibernate part of the year. Maybe you could put up some signs in your flower garden: WARNING. Flowers are poisonous to your health!

Maggie Griess (author) from Ontario, Canada on May 05, 2013:

Thanks Sharky! You give me hope that I can live in harmony with this groundhog...since I am pretty sure I won't be overrun with dozens of them! I guess she will become my composter. of choice, not a bad deal

Jayme Kinsey from Oklahoma on May 05, 2013:

They had about 20 acres, I think, and the flowers they had were close to the house. I think because there were plenty of wildflowers and other goodies, the groundhogs chose to stay in the field rather than coming to the flowerbeds. Not sure though...they might have if they hadn't been so well fed!

Maggie Griess (author) from Ontario, Canada on May 05, 2013:

Hi Sharky! I wonder if your step grandparents were able to keep the family of groundhogs out of the flower garden by feeding them? I am hoping this works, but it is just early days and the gardens up here just don't have much growing in them yet. What spring flowers I had are in the groundhog's

Good thing they are kinda cute so I am loathe to scare them or try any other techniques to get them or just her to move.

Maggie Griess (author) from Ontario, Canada on May 05, 2013:

Hi Susan...That is what I am worried flowers! Not sure if my intervention will work, but thought it might be worth a try. Alternately, I am hoping there are some flowers that taste yucky...but that will be a real trial and error solution.

So if anyone knows of flowers groundhogs dislike...please post!

Jayme Kinsey from Oklahoma on May 05, 2013:

Cool hub about groundhogs! I remember the first time and only time I saw one. We had gone to South Carolina to visit my step-grandparents. We were on the back porch enjoying their quaint country view, when this incredibly weird looking creature went galloping across the field. To me it looked like a cross between an overgrown prairie dog and a beaver. "What the heck is that??" My grandmother explained that they were her "pet" groundhogs. She had a whole family and they would often dump extra produce down in the field for them.

I had no idea they could eat so much or were such a nuisance to gardeners. Great facts about these strange creatures. And yes, they are kinda cute. :)

Susan Zutautas from Ontario, Canada on May 05, 2013:

Had a groundhog a few years back and came home one day to find he'd eaten all my flower tops that I'd just planted. They're cute but ..... :)

Voted up shared and more.

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