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Everyone Loves Punxsutawney Phil—Living With Groundhogs, Not So Much

On Feb. 2, The Humane Society of the United States is encouraging people to celebrate Groundhog Day by learning more about our wild neighbors and ways to peacefully coexist.

A press release from the Humane Society of the United States

As Punxsutawney Phil comes out of his hole after a long winter sleep on February 2, groundhogs everywhere are reemerging in gardens and yards throughout the country. 

“People are excited to see Phil on Feb. 2, but within weeks, some homeowners will complain about groundhogs eating flowers and garden vegetables,” said Laura Simon, field director of Wildlife & Habitat Protection community programs for The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). “With the right tools and a little tolerance, people can easily discourage unwanted groundhog activity in their gardens and peacefully coexist with them.” 

Groundhogs – also known as woodchucks – hibernate from October through February and start breeding shortly thereafter. That means an abundance of groundhogs setting their sights on eating gardens, digging burrows and coming into conflict with their human neighbors. Here are a few simple solutions to keep groundhogs from hogging their way into your garden

  • Scare Them – To temporarily discourage frequent visits to your garden, place objects in the area that will reflect sunlight and continually move in the breeze, such as tethered Mylar party balloons, “animal scaring” balloons with faces and big eyes or dangling pieces of Mylar tape.
  • Exclude Them – Since groundhogs do not like to climb unstable fences, installing a wobbly 3 to 4 foot-high mesh barrier around a garden keeps them away permanently. The HSUS recommends using regular green garden fencing, which comes in 16 gauge, 4-foot-tall mesh rolls. This mesh is available at most garden, hardware and home building stores. A trick for success when installing is to extend the bottom 12 inches of mesh outward, parallel to the ground, and pin this portion securely to the ground with landscaping staples. This “apron” will discourage them from digging under the fence. Also, make sure the top portion of the mesh is not taut when securing to fence posts, so it wobbles when challenged, which discourages the groundhogs from climbing over. 

The HSUS Wild Neighbors Program promotes non-lethal means for resolving conflicts between people and wildlife and cultivates understanding and appreciation for wild animals commonly found in cities and towns. The program's book, Wild Neighbors: The Humane Approach to Living with Wildlife is a useful reference for individuals and communities faced with resolving encounters with wild animals who find their way into yards, gardens, houses, parks and playgrounds.

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