Win tickets to see the smash hit musical Mamma Mia at the Roanoke Civic Center. Two winners will each receive four tickets!
TOM LANDON | Special to The Roanoke Times
Gopher Scram is one of several off-the-shelf pest repellents.
Monday, July 15, 2013
Q: What can we do about the groundhogs in our garden? There are whole families of them. We’ve tried red pepper and they just kind of eat around that. Help!
Janet Otey, Roanoke
A: I feel your pain, Janet. You spend all spring prepping the soil and carefully planting crops in anticipation of a summer filled with fresh cucumbers and tomatoes only to see those fat little suckers literally steal the fruits of your labor.
I called Roanoke Animal Control and they don’t deal with wild pests like groundhogs. They suggested that you contact one of the local wildlife management companies licensed to come to your property and trap and dispose of animals like skunks, raccoons and groundhogs.
The folks at one of these companies, Blue Ridge Wildlife Management, told me that they haven’t heard of a reliable groundhog deterrent except for trapping.
You could try to trap them yourself, but then what to do with them?
Unfortunately, the money you spend in rodent removal might be more than the value of your fresh produce.
Jeff Hudspeth at Northwest Hardware had a few suggestions. “You could trap him, but unless you are going to illegally haul him, all you can do is kill him,” he said. “There are smell repellents — you just sprinkle them down where they are nesting.”
I asked, “Do you think they work?”
“People say they do. One product is a mix of oils and dried blood. Another is a mix of oils and egg solids.” In addition to the repellents, there are poisoned peanuts, grubs and other things gophers like.
For the record, gophers and groundhogs are related, but not the same animal — gophers are a little smaller and are more likely to be found out west, but the same strategies for removal apply to both.
I did even more research by recalling two of the best groundhog and gopher stories ever told, both from classic movies starring Bill Murray. In “Caddyshack,” Murray resorted to plastic explosives, but the gopher prevailed, dancing his way behind the closing credits.
“Groundhog Day,” despite the title, offers little helpful advice either, though perhaps if your groundhogs saw their shadows, they’d hibernate for another six weeks, which might allow you time to harvest your crops.
According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac (almanac.com) you’ve got a few other options, none of which will work as well as a .22, which would not be legal within city limits. Here are some things they recommend you try:
1. Get a big dog.
2. Plant a line of garlic near the intruder’s entrance to your garden.
3. Sprinkle mothballs down each hole.
4. Sprinkle blood meal or talcum powder or hair from a dog, cat or human around the edge of the garden.
5. Eliminate obvious hiding places like woodpiles.
6. Build a fence 3 feet high that is buried 1-2 feet deep to prevent burrowing under and climbing over. (Wait: groundhogs can climb???)
A quick Web search revealed a few other options, none of which seemed likely to work, like running a hose from your car exhaust into the groundhog holes or attempting the same technique using a garden hose. Unfortunately, because the animals have legs, I would think that your success rate using either of these methods is likely to be pretty low.
Here’s a chance for the rest of you to weigh in: if you have a humane method of discouraging groundhogs, please post your thoughts on the What’s On Your Mind blog (blogs.roanoke.com/whatsonyourmind/). Failure stories might be instructional and entertaining as well, so let’s hear them.
One final thought: The recent arrival of a black bear along Peters Creek and in Raleigh Court demonstrated that law enforcement will get involved when bears invade the city, so perhaps you can convince animal control that your groundhog is actually a tiny bear. Then, when the sharpshooter comes and tranquilizes him, your problem will be solved. Good luck!
Have a question? An answer? Call “What’s on Your Mind?” at 777-6476 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t forget to provide your full name, its proper spelling and your hometown.
Look for Tom Landon’s column on Mondays. Read the WOYM blog on roanoke.com anytime.
Weather JournalStorm track isn't very snowy for us