Nova Scotia

Groundhog-related problems in Halifax 'dramatically increased' over 3 years

Groundhogs are increasingly becoming a problem in some Halifax-area communities, say residents, and pose a threat to yards, gardens, driveways and even septic beds.

Best to use live traps to catch groundhogs in the spring, fall says Animal Wildlife Control

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      Groundhogs are increasingly becoming a problem in some Halifax-area communities.

      In Fall River, homeowner Sandy Balcom sees the groundhogs on her property on a regular basis.

      "There's three of them," Balcom said. "A mother and two babies and they're very comfortable here but we want them gone."

      The groundhogs have burrowed under her home and eaten her flowers and vegetable garden. 

      "I caught him yesterday eating the hostas," she said.

      Balcom says the groundhogs can often be seen cavorting on her lawn or enjoying the sun on her deck. But that's not her biggest concern.

      "They're underneath our house, so we're afraid the house is going to drop or something. But luckily for us there's no holes we fall into. But our neighbours do have holes in their front yard because of them," she said. 

      Balcom was so frustrated she took to Facebook and asked friends how to get rid of the critters.  

      Digging in

      The Ray family lives in another part of Fall River and they had a family of seven groundhogs this spring.

      "The female and babies have disappeared, but the male is still around and he comes out every night and does a tour around," said homeowner Bill Ray.

      The family has been forced to relocate their vegetable garden from a spot beside their house to an upper deck in an effort to keep the groundhogs from eating the fruits of their labour.

      "Even when we're out cutting the grass they'll peek their head out of their holes and say 'Hello,'" said Bryan Ray, adding that they don't seem afraid of humans.

      Ray has taken numerous videos and pictures of the groundhogs basking on the ground-level deck and gobbling up his mother's flowers.

      Mike Larade with Advanced Wildlife Control says groundhog problems are growing in some areas.

      "We're getting a lot of calls in Hammonds Plains, Tantallon, Waverley-Fall River area," he said. "It's dramatically increased over the last three years."

      The Rays and Balcom say they don't want to hurt the groundhogs. They just want to be rid of them.

      Live traps, however, haven't worked so far, Balcom says. 

      From driveways to septic beds

      Larade said groundhogs can do a lot of damage. He says he's encountered situations where groundhogs have tunnelled under driveways causing them to collapse.  
       
      He also gets calls about groundhogs burrowing into above-ground septic systems because of how sand is used in their installation.

      "This has been more or less a God-send to groundhogs," Larade said.

      "It's easy to tunnel into and once they get deeper into solid earth they can build their little tunnels."

      He said groundhogs can compromise a septic field with their digging and it's important to remove them if that has happened.

      Removal regulations require the groundhogs to be released on Crown land 15-30 kilometres from a residential area. 

      Since groundhogs usually cover an area of about a hectare, Larade says relocation often solves the problem.

      In the meantime, Larade warns that while groundhogs may look cute, they are still wild animals and potentially dangerous if cornered.

      He said it's easier to trap them in the spring and fall when their food supply is less abundant.

      The cost of having ground hogs removed can vary depending on the number of them, but it generally starts at $100 to $200.

      About the Author

      Yvonne Colbert

      Consumer Watchdog

      Yvonne Colbert has been a journalist for nearly 35 years, covering everything from human interest stories to the provincial legislature. These days, she's focused on helping consumers get the most bang for their bucks and avoid being ripped off. She invites story ideas at yvonne.colbert@cbc.ca.

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