The Q&A Archives: Whistlepigs In Vegetable Garden

Question: I am brand new at gardening and just moved to Mtn. Home, Idaho, which is in the high desert. Our backyard fence borders open desert and I have heard that in the spring there will be literally thousands of "whistlepigs" (like small gophers, I think) out in the field. Apparently they can destroy your garden. I know our fence will be easy for them to get through and they can dig underground.

I was planning on creating some raised beds, and I wondered if lining the bottom of the beds with 1/4 wire mesh would do the trick? Any suggestions? Thank you!

Anna-Lee Higgins

Answer: Whistlepigs are groundhogs, sometimes called woodchucks - depending upon where you live. These critters eat many plants, including carrot tops, beans and peas. They can eat lots of plants in a short time and can feed through
a whole row of plants in just a few hours. Plants suffer most when young animals start feeding in midsummer. They may leave your garden unharmed for a while, only to devastate it in one day.

Groundhogs or woodchucks can also damage trees when they gnaw to keep their teeth from growing. They can climb low-branched trees, and sometimes damage smaller branches in the process.

Taste repellents can be used to reduce damage. Or, try
building a sturdy fence four feet tall. Bury it one foot in the ground. Eliminate tall grassy areas and brush piles to discourage these, and other problem animals.

Or, try live trapping them. Use a large box trap baited with lettuce, carrots or apples. Set the traps as close as possible to the burrow entrance. They almost always follow the same route, so you should set the trap on their path. To solve your problem, you may have to trap the whole family. It is more humane to trap them in early spring before the young are born or mid-summer when the
young are more independent.

Using 1/4 hardware mesh will certainly keep these critters from burrowing up into your raised beds, but you might also want to fence the outside of the beds as well.

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