This guide will take you through everything you need to know about what plants groundhogs eat. You'll learn about the different kinds of plants they consume and which ones are groundhogs' favorites.
Groundhogs, those adorable little creatures we all love to watch in the garden as they forage for food, can be a gardener's worst nightmare. These critters can wreak havoc on a vegetable or flower garden in a short period of time. But what plants do groundhogs eat? What species do they like to munch on? And is there anything you can do to prevent them from eating our plants?
In this article, we'll take a closer look at these questions and more so that you can better understand groundhogs and their eating habits.
Groundhogs and their Characteristics
Groundhogs are also commonly known as woodchucks. They generally live in North America and parts of Canada. Groundhogs are famous for building their homes in burrows and for their destructive behavior. You might be surprised to know that these large rodents are a type of squirrel. In fact, they are a rodent from the Sciuridae family and hail from the Marmota genus. The species is famous by several names, such as a chuck, red monk wood-shock, thick wood badger, weenusk, Canada marmot, groundpig, monax, and land beaver.
Scientifically named Marmota monax, the groundhog is a very intelligent animal. Groundhogs are also one of the largest members of the squirrel family. Considered an "edge" species, you can encounter them on the outskirts of woodlands. Though they spend most of their time underground building complex burrows, they come out to forage for food during the day. They are generally solitary animals, but you might see a few together during the mating season. Groundhogs are usually active from March to October and hibernate during the colder winter months.
Characteristics of Groundhogs:
These are the basic characteristics of groundhogs:
- Groundhogs are heavy-bodied and short-legged.
- Their fur is reddish to grizzled brown.
- They are about 50.8 cm (20") long and 15.24 to 17.78 cm ( 6' to 7') tall.
- An adult groundhog's average weight is between 4 to 10 lbs (1.8 to 4.5 kg).
- They have a furry tail around 10.16 cm (4") long.
- Their eyes are large and black, while their ears are small and round.
- Their front feet have claws that help them dig through the soil.
- In the wild, these rodents can live up to 6 years, but their lifespan is usually shorter in captivity.
- They can also climb trees with ease.
- Groundhogs are mostly active during the day and spend most of their time foraging for food.
- They are also excellent swimmers; you can spot them near streams, swimming pools, and ponds.
- Groundhogs communicate with each other by making vocalizations, such as chattering, whistling, and grunting sounds.
Diet of Groundhogs
Groundhogs are categorized as omnivores, but the primary food sources for these animals are plants. During the spring and summer, they spend most of their time grazing on different grasses, herbs, and other vegetation. In fact, it is not uncommon to see them munching on dandelions, clover, and plantain.
They also eat varied fruits and vegetables, such as beans, peas, tomatoes, melons, and berries. Groundhogs have also been known to eat insects, snails, slugs, and other small animals.
What Plants Do Groundhogs Eat?
Groundhogs have a varied diet and eat plants and animals. In this section, we will look at some of the plants groundhogs like to eat.
Dandelions are among the most common plants that groundhogs like to eat. In fact, these flowers are found in almost every yard and garden. Groundhogs love to eat the leaves and flowers of the dandelion plant.
Tomatoes are a vegetable that groundhogs absolutely adore. Be it the fruit, leaves, or stem; groundhogs will eat any part of the tomato plant.
Clover is another plant that groundhogs enjoy eating. These plants are generally found in meadows and fields. Groundhogs like to eat the leaves and flowers of the clover plant.
Plantain is a common weed found in almost every lawn and garden. Groundhogs enjoy eating the leaves and flowers of the plantain plant.
Beans are one of the most common vegetables that groundhogs cherish. They are enjoyed by these animals raw, cooked, or canned. Groundhogs also like to eat the leaves and stems of bean plants.
Another addition to the groundhogs' diet is peas. These animals like to eat both the peas and the leaves of the pea plant.
Melons are another fruit that groundhogs enjoy eating. They love to eat watermelons, muskmelons, and cantaloupes. These sweet fruits are a favorite among these animals.
What Do Groundhogs Eat Apart From Plants?
Apart from their plant-based food sources, groundhogs are also known to eat insects, slugs, and other small animals. Let us look at some other food that constitutes their diet.
- Insects: Groundhogs feast on different insects, such as beetles, crickets, and grasshoppers.
- Snails: Groundhogs also like to eat snails. They use their powerful front claws to dig through the soil and look for these animals.
- Slugs: Slugs are a common food source for groundhogs. They like to eat these slimy creatures raw or cooked.
- Other small animals: Groundhogs have also been known to eat small mice, juvenile birds, and grasshoppers.
- Barks and Twigs: Groundhogs also like to eat the bark and twigs of trees. This is generally done during the winter when other food sources are scarce.
What Plants Don’t Groundhogs Eat?
Just like any other animal, groundhogs also have certain plants that they do not like to eat. Some of the plants that groundhogs avoid are:
- Butterfly weed
- Fountain Grass
- Bleeding Heart
There are a lot more plants that Groundhogs despise, but these are some of the most common ones. Groundhogs are known to cause chaos in gardens, and many use these plants to keep them off their property as Groundhogs will not go near them.
What Seasonal Eating Patterns Do Groundhogs Follow?
Groundhogs have a unique eating pattern that is subjected to seasons and their hibernation cycle. Let us understand the different seasonal eating patterns of groundhogs.
- Spring: During the spring, groundhogs wake up from their long winter sleep. They come out of their burrows in search of food. The first thing they eat is the tender shoots and leaves of plants. These are rich in nutrients and help the groundhogs to get back on their feet.
- Summer: During the summer, groundhogs feast on various fruits and vegetables. They also eat insects, small animals, and barks. This is when they put on the most weight as they need to store food for the winter.
- Autumn: Autumn is when groundhogs start preparing for their long winter sleep. They eat a lot of food and build up their body fat. This helps them to survive the cold winter months without food.
- Winter: During the winter, groundhogs are in a state of hibernation. They do not consume anything during this time and survive on their body fat.
Factors to Identify Groundhog Damage
Groundhogs can be a nuisance to farmers and gardeners as they can damage crops and gardens. Their eating behavior and burrowing habits can be destructive and cause a lot of problems. To find a solution, you must first confirm groundhogs' presence. Some of the factors that will help you identify groundhog damage are:
- Burrows: One of the most obvious signs of groundhog damage is the presence of burrows. Groundhogs are known to dig burrows that can be up to 30 feet long. These burrows have several entrances and exits and are generally found near food sources.
- Damage to crops: Groundhogs like consuming fruits, vegetables, and nuts. If you find that your crops are being damaged or eaten, it is most likely the work of a groundhog.
- Mounds of soil: Another sign of groundhog damage is the presence of small mounds of soil near their burrows.
- Tracks: Groundhogs leave behind tracks that can help you identify their presence. These tracks are usually 7 to 10 cm (3” to 4”) inches in diameter and have five toes.
- Droppings: Groundhogs also leave behind droppings 5 to 7 cm (2” to 3”) inches in diameter. These droppings are generally found near their burrows or where they have been feeding.
If you find any of these signs on your farm or garden, you likely have a groundhog problem.
How to Get Rid of Groundhogs?
If you have confirmed the presence of groundhogs, the next step is to get rid of them. Groundhogs can be a nuisance and cause severe damage, so it is important to take measures to contain the problem. Some of the ways to eliminate groundhogs are:
- Trapping: Trapping is one of the most effective ways to get rid of groundhogs. You can install live traps to catch them and then release them in a remote location.
- Eliminate the attractions: One of the reasons why groundhogs come to your property is because of the attractions. Eliminate the attractions by removing food sources and fixing any holes or gaps in fences.
- Use groundhog resistant plants: We listed a lot of plants that groundhogs don't like. You can use these plants to keep them away from your property.
- Use repellents: You can also use repellents to keep groundhogs away from your property. There are a variety of repellents in the market that you can use. You can also find electric repellents that will keep groundhogs away.
- Install fences: Fences can also be used to keep groundhogs from entering the premises. The fence should be 121 cm (4’) high and buried 30 to 60 cm (1’ to 2’) feet into the ground. Make sure the openings are small enough so that groundhogs can't enter.
- Get professional help: If you don't want to get into the hassle of getting rid of groundhogs yourself, you can always hire a professional. They have the experience and knowledge to drive out the groundhogs effectively.