What Do Groundhogs Eat? The Complete Guide on Their Diet and Eating Pattern

We cover the types of foods groundhogs usually eat depending on the season and other factors
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Phyllis McMahon
Phyllis McMahon
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Phyllis teaches English Literature at a local college and loves writing in her free time. She’s also a great cook – her British beef Wellington is something the best res read more
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Last updated: December 20, 2022
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Groundhogs, also known as ground pigs or woodchucks to some people, are harmless creatures associated with groundhog day and the beginning of spring. To farmers, however, these furry animals are a major pest. Groundhogs, because of their eating habits, have been known to destroy properties and gardens.

To understand the eating habits of these groundhogs, we first have to ask the question, what do groundhogs eat? Groundhogs are omnivores that mostly eat grasses, vegetables, some types of garden fruits, etc. Groundhogs are also known to occasionally eat smaller animals like snails and insects. Although the groundhog might appear small, these rodents will eat about one-third of their weight daily.

Groundhogs will feed on farmers’ crops and vegetables in people’s gardens to survive their hibernation during the cold winter months. Groundhogs live close to their source of food, usually around one hundred and fifty feet from their burrows. Due to their damage to agricultural crops, farmers in the United States and Canada, where this rodent is present, are always looking for the best ways to get rid of them.

What Type of Food Do Groundhogs Eat?

You might want to know what groundhogs eat in a garden or what they eat so you can trap them. Groundhogs are known to have a mostly herbivorous diet Trusted Source Groundhogs Fact Sheet | Blog | Nature | PBS Groundhog (Marmota monax): one of 14 species of marmots, a group of large ground squirrels AKA: woodchuck, groundpig, whistlepig Kingdom: | Animalia www.pbs.org and feed on several vegetables, grasses, flowers, barks, fruits, roots, etc. They also do not drink water but get their dietary rations through eating succulent plants.

These sciurades, like their close relatives, the squirrel, also eat nuts. While some people have occasionally kept groundhogs as pets, they are often left in the wild due to their aggressive nature. The food groundhogs eat in the wild and those in captivity like to eat are similar.

The major difference in their diets is that the groundhogs in captivity will consume fewer insects and nuts compared to their wild living counterparts. While groundhogs mostly eat vegetables, flowers and other plants, they are occasionally known to eat insects and small animals. Below we have listed the main types of food that groundhogs eat.

Vegetation

What Do Groundhogs Eat? The Complete Guide on Their Diet and Eating Pattern

It is common knowledge that groundhogs do not eat wild plants alone. Groundhogs are known to consume a wide array of vegetables, plants, grasses, and even flowers. Some of the vegetables that Groundhogs eat in the garden include Maple leaves, Clovers, Chicken Weeds, Ferns, Daisies, Dandelions, Broccoli, and Sorrells.

Some of the cultivated plants that groundhogs like to eat include corn, cabbage, lettuce, carrots, squash, broccoli, plantain, squashes, peas, and soybeans.

Fruits

Groundhogs can climb trees and will do that to get fruits that they want to eat. Some of the fruits that groundhogs eat are apples, pears, red berries, cherries, hackberries, mulberries, and blackberries

Flowers

Groundhogs are known to eat flowering plants as well. Some of the flowers that groundhogs like to eat include sunflowers, marigolds, snapdragons, and asters.

Insects, Small Birds, and Other Sources of Protein

Insects are a good source of protein for groundhogs. Some of the insects that they eat include the larvae of most insects, grasshoppers, crickets, and June bugs.

Groundhogs also eat other small animals Trusted Source DNR: Fish & Wildlife: Groundhog www.in.gov like snails, grubs, eggs of birds and small birds.

Barks and Twigs

Groundhogs will usually eat barks and twigs during the fall seasons, replacing the vegetables and grass from the summer and spring.

How do Groundhogs Find Food

Like most rodents, groundhogs rely on their keen senses, especially their hearing, sight and smell, to survive in the wild. While they use their good sense of hearing to avoid predators, they use their other senses to search for food.

Groundhogs will usually rely on their good sense of smell and sharp vision to find food. while their sights are good enough to spot moving objects from afar, they can use their nose sensitivity to smell ripe fruits and vegetables.

Groundhogs spend most of their time either searching for food or underground in their tunnels resting. Groundhogs usually have their burrows close to the garden, farms, and orchards they feed from.

What Do Groundhogs Eat Depending on the Season

Seasonal availability of food is a major factor that influences what groundhogs eat and drink. Groundhogs have different dietary patterns during the different seasons in a year due to the availability of the foods during the different seasons. There are differences in the foods that groundhogs eat during the spring, summer, fall, and winter seasons.

Spring And Summer

What do groundhogs eat in the summer? Some of the things that groundhogs eat during the summer include fruits and vegetables such as apples and bananas. Groundhogs are day creatures and will usually be out of their burrow searching for food in the mornings and evenings; they usually come out during the day to eat for about two hours.

Fall

Early in the Fall, when plants start to dry, groundhogs will start to feed off nuts, grubs, barks, insects, and other small animals they can get their hands on. The insects and small animals will serve as a better source of fat and protein during winter.

Winter

During the winter, groundhogs hibernate. However, unlike most of their relatives, groundhogs do not wake up to eat during the winter. They have to depend on their large

Baby vs. Adult Groundhogs Eating Pattern

What Do Groundhogs Eat? The Complete Guide on Their Diet and Eating Pattern

Baby groundhogs are called kits or sometimes pups. When they are born, these pups have almost no hair and cannot see. The pups weigh around an ounce and will be about 4 inches long. In adulthood, these groundhogs will weigh up to 6kg.

So what do baby groundhogs eat? Baby groundhogs spend the first two months of their life with their mother feeding on her milk only for the first three weeks, after which they eat soft grasses and flowers.

Usually, when they stop taking their mother’s milk, they can eat the same meals as the adults. Groundhogs living in captivity are usually fed esbilac powder until they can eat other foods. They are then introduced to other foods like mashed fruits like bananas, fresh vegetables and apples.

Do Groundhogs Store Food?

While groundhogs are sciurades and closely related to rodents such as squirrels, they do not store food for the winter. Even though groundhogs prefer to eat fresh vegetables, roots, barks and sometimes nuts, they do not store them to eat over the winter. While they might return to their burrows with the food, they devour them.

Groundhogs are called true hibernators because once they start hibernating for the winter, they do not wake up to eat but have to depend on the fat they accumulate during the spring, summer, and fall until they wake up. The large food consumption incurs the anger of farmers and gardeners. Their hibernation periods vary depending on the climate, usually between three to six months.

Can Groundhogs Damage Your Property?

Groundhogs are notorious for the damage they cause on farms and in gardens. They have sharp claws on their front feet, making it easy for them to dig burrows. These burrows that they dig can pose problems to property when they are too close to the house. The burrows they construct can be as wide as eleven inches in diameter. This can lead to some minor hazards such as twisted ankles and sometimes broken bones when people step into these burrows.

Groundhogs usually have their burrows close to the gardens, farms, and orchards they eat from. If the burrow is close to the house, the accumulation of rainwater in the tunnels can weaken the foundation.

Even though groundhogs are known to mostly eat plants’ water, they sometimes nibble through hoses, electric cables and irrigation systems. The mound-less burrows that these creatures dig to escape from predators make it difficult to deal with them.

How to Deal with Groundhogs

What Do Groundhogs Eat? The Complete Guide on Their Diet and Eating Pattern

Groundhogs might be a bit difficult to deal with. These creatures will tenaciously try to get their hand on any food they find. Some simple steps prevent groundhogs from eating what’s in your garden.

  1. The first thing to do to prevent groundhogs from entering your garden is to install four feet tall fence. Tal fences will discourage grounds from getting onto your property.
  2. Spray groundhog repellent around your property. Groundhogs have sensitive noses. Spraying chemicals that groundhogs find repulsive will keep them off your property. If you’re looking to buy some groundhog repellent, it is best to compare different brands to pick the best repellents for groundhogs.
  3. Installing an electric fence is another way to keep groundhogs off your property. With this type of fence, the shocks will deter the groundhogs from coming to your property.
  4. Harvest crops as soon as they are ripe. Another way to prevent groundhogs from causing damage to your property is to harvest ripe crops as soon as they are ripe. If they do not have anything to eat, they won’t come around.
  5. By using animal traps.  Another good method of getting rid of groundhogs is to set traps. To use these traps, one just had to use some of the best baits for groundhogs. The size and quality of the traps matter, too, so you might want to consider getting some of the best traps for groundhogs on the market.
  6. Another method of getting rid of groundhogs is to call an exterminator. Getting rid of groundhogs from your garden or field can be difficult without professional help so it would be advisable to schedule an appointment with one.

Final Thoughts

Groundhogs might appear to be adorable little creatures, but due to their destructive eating habits, they are mostly regarded as pests. There are many ways to get rid of these rodents if they affect your property.

The Havahart 1085 easy-set cage-style animal live trap is an easy-to-set-up trap that property owners can use to get rid of groundhogs. It has high tensile wires that provide durability while reducing the weight of the trap. This model is best used with a lure like Pro-Pest professional lures for woodchucks and hedgehogs.

Hopefully, after reading this, you know the answer when someone asks you what groundhogs eat or how do groundhogs find food? You will also be able to protect your property and crops from groundhogs and even be able to identify the types of food that groundhogs eat.

References

1.
Groundhogs Fact Sheet | Blog | Nature | PBS
Groundhog (Marmota monax): one of 14 species of marmots, a group of large ground squirrels AKA: woodchuck, groundpig, whistlepig Kingdom: | Animalia
2.
DNR: Fish & Wildlife: Groundhog
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