Groundhogs, Woodchucks, Whistle Pigs…Oh My!
Whether you call them groundhogs, woodchucks, or whistle pigs, these animals are actually rodents and part of the squirrel family. Here in Canton, Georgia, we sometimes get frantic calls from customers asking us what to do about a fuzzy, brown, animal that seems to be digging holes under and around the house. And our customers have a right to be frantic. After all, a groundhog generally excavates up to 700 pounds of dirt just for one den…and their home space could include 4 or 5 dens!! Good grief, that is a lot of dirt. At an average of 45 feet long and 5 feet deep, those tunnels beneath your house or around your garden could be quite extensive. Extensive and damaging.
Let’s first learn a little bit about our woodsy neighbors. These mammals have 2 uppers and 2 lower incisor teeth in the front and no canine teeth. And can they chew! Their teeth are incredibly powerful and can chew right through roots, bark, and hard nuts with ease. The teeth continue to grow throughout their lifespan and must be kept in check by constantly gnawing to keep them trimmed. Honestly, though, they are kind of cute, especially the babies. But don’t let that cute exterior fool you; they are quite able and willing to defend themselves if they feel threatened. So no groundhog pets, pretty please. Besides…Ummm…rabies. Enough said.
If you ever hang around the groundhog, you might hear the squealing or whistling sounds they make. If they are alarmed, they send out a whistle as an alarm system for family members. When they feel afraid, they try to get to their burrows. The burrows can have 10 or more entrances. Another interesting thing about the groundhog is that they hibernate by storing fat and not eating until springtime. They eat insects and nuts and leaves and sometimes snails. And here is a cool fact: they are the biggest of the squirrel family but climb trees with ease when they need to get food or forage! I’ve never seen it occur (but now really want to), but there you go.
So what’s the problem? Well, the problem is when Mr. and Mrs. Groundhog decide to set up housekeeping in our gardens or under our houses. They are a little bit on the lazy side and prefer freshly tilled soil, making your spring garden a perfect spot. Beans, pumpkins, peppers, and most any veggie or fruit is popular for the woodchuck family diet. Oh and remember the climbing thing? They will climb an apple tree to get some fruit. Yep!
Don’t mind sharing your crop? If you’re feeling particularly generous and don’t mind sharing, you might want to think again. This particular animal doesn’t feel the need to clean its plate before going back for more. What I mean is they are well-known to take a bite out of each veggie or fruit and move on down the line! What a waste, right? Now that will make a hard-working farmer angry. Then let’s talk about that burrowing habit. Remember before I said that the tunnels could be 45 feet long and 5 feet deep? Well, you probably won’t be surprised that this can cause some water damage to the foundation of your house as well as draining issues. One of the signs of a problem is noticing increased moisture in your crawl or basement area. And my allergy nemesis…mold is definitely a by-product of water issues in a home. Erosion and damage to your foundation are big problems you want to avoid.
What to do, what to do…At Canton Termite and Pest Control, we know your home is your biggest investment, and we want to help you protect it. We also want to do all we can to protect the animals that simply stumbled into the wrong neighborhood to build a home. Our wildlife experts have training and experience and can assess each specific situation for a remedy. The process takes time, so keep your patience hat on your head at all times. Initially, we do a full inspection of the property, speaking with the homeowner about where and when the groundhogs are being seen. Our techs then examine the area to find the burrowing spots and the secondary home, which is usually close. We do this in order to find the area that is most well-traveled by the animal. After assessing the situation thoroughly, our techs work to find the ideal spots for traps to be set. Don’t worry, the traps are not meant to harm the animals in any way. In fact, our team knows that groundhogs have poor sweat glands and therefore the traps must be placed in a shady area or create a shaded area to protect the animal from the excessive sun until release. The technician brings bait material such as bell peppers, apples, or carrots to encourage the animal into the trap. The bait depends on the individual area and what the groundhog is accustomed to searching for as a food source. When we finish, we let the homeowner know where the traps are and to call us immediately with any activity. The technician will check back at regular intervals for any animals captured. If the groundhog is trapped successfully, we then take the animal to a safe area for release. This is usually a wildlife preserve area because we know it will not be developed with homes, and so both animals and humans are safe. If not, we look for new activity from the animal and reset the traps. As I said before, patience is important in this process. It is important to understand that it is usually the third day before we see activity with the traps since the animals have to get used to the scent and presence of the unfamiliar trap.
In the end, groundhogs are certainly interesting to look at and learn about, but they are not the welcoming committee we want under our homes. If you have a groundhog or any other wildlife, termite, or pest control issue, call us at Canton Termite and Pest Control at 770-479-1598 for a free estimate! Let us help you live groundhog-free.