If you have a groundhog popping up in your yard in early spring, chances are you’re not worried about how much longer winter will you be - you’re worried about getting the animal off your property. Groundhogs are much loved in American culture and movies, but they pose a huge problem for landscaped yards, homes and gardens. Their burrow systems can be extensive, and they multiply quickly, leaving more groundhogs to make more holes and eat more of your lettuce. It’s time to get rid of them, but what to do first?
You should decide if you want to do the work yourself, or hire a pest control company to handle it. This is often less of a hassle, but definitely more expensive. So if you have a bone to pick with the groundhog in your yard, or you’re on a budget, it’s time to do it yourself. Before setting up a trap, though, do your research. In some states it’s illegal to trap a wild animal on your property without a trapping license, so make sure you call your local wildlife game and fisheries department, or animal control.
Find out more: What do wildlife rehabilitators do with groundhogs?
It is also very important to take note that many states allow you to trap a groundhog, but not release it. Most states require you to trap and kill the groundhog. If you still want to do it yourself, you need to keep a few things in mind. There are humane kill laws in place, so you can’t just let the poor animal starve to death in your cage. You also cannot just shoot the groundhog from your back porch in the suburbs.
If you decide you are going to trap and kill the groundhog, consider buying a live trap. It’s like a bear trap, only lethal. Once the animal steps inside, it is either immediately bludgeoned or pinned by multiple teeth, and will hopefully die quickly thereafter. Unfortunately, not all animals die from a live trap. At this point, you will be forced to end its suffering, usually resorting to blunt force or shooting it at close distance.
If this sounds all too horrible to you, call a professional. Or, if you so desire, bait a trap with cantaloupe or watermelon, and lace the food with poison. The animal should hopefully die quickly, but there are cases where you will be forced to put it down humanely by hand if the poison doesn’t work. Also, you run the risk of catching an innocent animal with any of these options, so make sure you place the trap close to the problem groundhog, not just out in the open where any poor squirrel or raccoon can wander.
In general, humane kill is still rather unpleasant, and if you can try to prevent groundhogs from entering your property, or convince them to leave, you and the groundhog would be better off.
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