Use Groundhog Day to Learn How to Keep Them Away

Groundhogs are known for sneaking into gardens and eating the goods.

Groundhog Day is Feb. 2. Instead of wondering what Punxsutawney Phil is up to, why not get educated on how to keep his cousins out of your garden this spring?

Groundhogs everywhere will emerge from hibernation around Groundhog Day and will be looking to gardens for a good meal after their long slumber, according to the Humane Society of the United States.

“People are excited to see Phil on Feb. 2, but within weeks, some homeowners will complain about groundhogs eating flowers and garden vegetables,” Laura Simon, field director of Wildlife and Habitat Protection community programs for the Humane Society.

Groundhogs hibernate from October until February and usually began mating and breeding after that.

By spring, there are lots of groundhogs, also known as woodchucks, sneaking into gardens where they dig burrows and eat vegetable, according to the Human Society. 

But there's a way to coexist peacefully with the creatures.

“With the right tools and a little tolerance, people can easily discourage unwanted groundhog activity in their gardens," said Simon.

  • Harassment: If the groundhogs have already began burrowing, block the entrance with a strong-smelling object, such as soiled kitty litter, according to the website, humanesociety.org. Loosely block the entrance to keep the unwanted smell inside. You can also clear vegetation away from the burrow entrance or partially dig the entrance out. 
  • Be Scary: Use objects that reflect sunlight or that are constantly swayed by the wind to scare the little visitors away from your garden. Dangling tape or big party balloons should do it.
  • Lock Them Out: Groundhogs can climb, but they don't like to climb on unstable things, according to the Humane Society. Install a wobbly 3 to 4 foot mesh barrier to keep them out.  

Before "evicting" a groundhog from a burrow, consider the time of year. Forcing a groundhog that's a new mother from her home could be considered inhumane, according to the Humane Society.

The animal organization has a program called, "Wild Neighbors" that promotes non-lethal means for resolving conflicts humans may have with animals.

Read more about the Wild Neighbors program by clicking here.

Groundhogs: Are they celebrities or pests? Tell us what you think in the comments. 

DebyWine February 01, 2013 at 04:25 PM
Come on Patch...why write an article on Goundhogs, but post a picture of a Prarie Dog.
Ed from Manassas Park February 01, 2013 at 06:51 PM
I grew up about 15 miles from Punxsutawney Phil and never met anyone from our western PA area that had every gone to see the old boy at the crack of dawn on Feb. 2. I guess the lure of seeing an overgrown vegetarian rat being pulled out of a tree stump where he didn't live, give a questionable weather prediction on a freezing February morning just didn't tempt locals...60+ years later I did find someone who went there, but they were from the Northern VA area. If you want to catch all the "action" tomorrow, check out http://www.groundhog.org/ Me, I'll be sleeping in...
Paul Gibson February 01, 2013 at 08:24 PM
Have a good sleep-in, Ed. I'll be getting ready to teach part 1 of the Sustainable Vegetable Garden series starting at 10am til noon at the old Manassas Courthouse. All are welcome, but call the Cooperative Extension Help Desk to register (703 257-7747) so you'll get a handout of the presentation.
Jamie M. Rogers February 02, 2013 at 02:47 AM
Hi Deby, The file photo we used was incorrectly marked "Woodchuck." I spent 26 of the 28 years of my life in South Carolina, where we unfortunately don't get to see woodchucks or prairie dogs very often if at all. :) Thanks to Ed Rishell for emailing me and pointing that out.
Jamie M. Rogers February 02, 2013 at 02:48 AM
Sounds interesting Paul Gibson! Be sure to post this event on Patch so it'll show up on our events calendar. Also inbox me for with more information about the Sustainable Vegetable Garden jamie.rogers@patch.com


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