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Groundhogs

By: Garden Gate staff
Punxsutawney Phil may be cute, but a wild groundhog in your garden can be a problem.

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Groundhogs Marmota monax

IDENTIFICATION — Punxsutawney Phil may be cute, but a wild groundhog in your garden can be a problem. Though dandelion greens, clover and grasses are some of their favorites, garden vegetables and fruits often disappear when these furry pests are around. Their enthusiastic burrowing can cause nearby plants to suffer, too.

Sometimes called woodchucks, groundhogs are 16 to 27 in. long with dark red-brown hair, short, bushy tails and sharp teeth. Widely distributed in North America, groundhogs are particularly common in the eastern United States up into northern Quebec and Ontario. In the West, they are found in Alaska and southern Yukon and Northwest Territories.

LIFE CYCLE — Groundhogs can live up to 10 years However, the average life span in the wild is probably less since they are on the menu for such predators as coyotes, owls and hawks.

Each spring, females give birth to a litter of four to six helpless kits. They grow quickly and spend all summer binging on greens to put on weight for winter hibernation. Around October they retire to their dens and sleep until spring.

But how do they know when to wake up? The groundhog’s internal clock is affected by annual changes in daylight.

CONTROL — To keep groundhogs from settling in your garden, clear areas with tall grass and remove brush piles, where they like to hide. Groundhogs are timid and can be frightened away by changes in their environment. If you already have groundhogs, try a repellent, such as Messina Wildlife Management’s Groundhog Repellent. It smells and tastes bad to the groundhog.

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