Getting Rid of Groundhogs, aka Woodchucks and Whistlepigs
If only. As a species of aggravation, Marmota monax, the largest and most pestilential member of the squirrel family is impossible to get rid of. There are a number of reasons we will get into in a moment.
First, however, the good news: you can get rid of one or more individuals, and that can often make the difference between having a harvest and not. Furthermore, you can get rid of them using a live trap, especially if you use one from Williams Trapping Supply.
Williams traps are just as sturdy as the more common option while being much easier for the trapper to set and for the trappee to trigger. They’re also easier to empty – the door opens when you turn them upside down, which you can do with a long stick when that seems called for.
You do have to anchor the trap with a stake, so only you can turn it over, but other than that the thing is just about perfect.
Williams Trapping Supply does not have a website. For sizes and prices, call Mr. Williams at 260 672 3721.
Tips for success trapping groundhogs:
* Set the trap as close as possible to the most-used entrance to the burrow. There is always more than one entrance, but there is usually a favorite close to whatever is being eaten. The dirt in front of it will look freshly disturbed.
* Bait the trap with whatever brought the damage to your attention, plus some lettuce or other juicy greenery and a bit of fresh fruit that will not instantly spoil – an apple wedge or a couple of cherries, for instance.
* Change the bait daily; groundhogs are used to eating plants that are still actively growing so they’re quite fussy about freshness.
One warning: Catching the creature alive and unharmed, then turning it loose somewhere far from human habitation seems much kinder than killing it, either instead of or after trapping. But trap and release is illegal in many places where killing is not, and you may well be condemning the groundhog to a long, difficult fight for survival that it may not win.
These large rodents are fierce and highly territorial, and they are also near-ubiquitous. There is almost surely a groundhog in residence wherever you dump yours. That said, we figure we might as well give ’em a shot (as it were).
Why You Can Never Get Rid of Groundhogs
* They can and will eat almost anything: grasses, cultivated plants, insects, tree bark, snails, berries…
* Groundhogs expand to fit the feed allotted. Minimum adult weight is about 5 pounds; common adult weight is 12 – 14 pounds, groundhog-in-clover (actually alfalfa) weight may be as much as 30 pounds, and of course the bigger they are the safer they are are from smaller predators like hawks, owls, foxes and snakes.
* Although predators also include humans, dogs, bears, wolves, coyotes, and bobcats, groundhogs are skilled at self-preservation. They never stray far from the burrows; they can swim or climb trees as necessary, and they gather in family colonies that post sentinels. When danger threatens, the sentinel whistles and everybody heads for the holes.
* Only one litter a year, but there are as many as 6 babies and both parents take care of them for several weeks, getting them off to a strong start. Adults in the wild live only 2 or 3 years as a rule, but up to 6 is not uncommon and if they got lucky they could (in theory) enjoy the 20 years and more possible for groundhogs in captivity.
* Groundhogs are edge dwellers, happiest when living in undisturbed ground but very near fields, gardens and yards. The undisturbed ground is classically forest or scrubby swampland, but an abandoned gravel pit, space under a seldom-used barn or similar is fine too. The more woodlands disappear, the more edge there is. All of it full of groundhogs.
They do not throw lumber, by the way. Woodchuck is usually identified as a corruption of the Algonquian – or Narragansett – wuchak, a creature that digs.