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Groundhog Damage in Your Yard Is Predictable

Predictions of a "Groundhog Day" of Garden Destruction


Groundhogs are garden pests.

Picture: Punxsutawney Phil, the star of the Groundhog Day movie.

Courtesy of the Postcard Service at PunxsutawneyPhil.com

In Harold Ramis' Groundhog Day movie (1993), Punxsutawney Phil, the Groundhog, is pulled out of his burrow on February 2 and asked for his famous prediction: will spring arrive early this year, or procrastinate until March 21? The guru in charge of consulting this prognosticator of prognosticators claims to be translating from "Groundhogese" when revealing Phil's mystic message to his adoring human audience. Presumably, Punxsutawney Phil tells the guru whether or not he has seen his shadow in Groundhogese. Then the guru informs us ordinary mortals of the prediction, translating it into English.

In real life, Punxsutawney, PA is the home of Phil and of the Groundhog Day activities of which this furry oracle is the center. It is also home to the "Punxsutawney Groundhog Club" that pays homage to Phil. And Bill Cooper, President of the "Inner Circle" of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, is officially listed as the Groundhogese expert responsible for the translations from Groundhogese into English every Groundhog Day -- just like the Groundhog Day movie's guru. I do not jest; the following comes from the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, itself:


Bill is the man charged with the daunting task of translating Phil's message in Groundhogese on Gobbler's Knob so that the forecast can be accurately delivered to Phil's followers.


If ever there were a personage who could answer the immortal question, "How much wood would a woodchuck chuck, if a woodchuck could chuck wood?" then President Cooper would be the man.

Predict Damage in Your Yard by Knowing Woodchuck Sign Language

"Woodchuck" (Marmota monax) and "whistle pig" are other names for this creature, a rodent related to squirrels. And while this rodent's wood chucking abilities shall remain a mystery to all who are not fluent in the Groundhog Day language of Groundhogese, many a gardener is all too aware of the woodchuck's ability to damage a garden. It thus behooves anyone considering gardening in woodchuck territory to learn at least the sign language of woodchucks, if not Groundhogese itself. For, fortunately, gardeners don't have to communicate directly with woodchucks. It is enough for the gardener simply to be able to recognize woodchuck sign language. If you recognize the signs, then you can make accurate predictions about future woodchuck incursions (and prevent the resulting damage to your plants).

So don't be like Bill Murray's character (Phil Connors) in the Groundhog Day movie and ignore the signs that are all around you. For if you do, your garden, like the protagonist in the movie, will have no future. Through a sign language readily understood by wise gardeners, the woodchucks, themselves translate all the Groundhogese of concern to gardeners into tangible signs in your yard:

  • Woodchuck Sign Language: A 10"-12" hole appears in the ground in your backyard or under your shed with mounds of dirt outside it.
    • Translation Into English: "A woodchuck lives here."


  • Woodchuck Sign Language: A cucumber in your garden has had a good-sized bite taken out of it.
    • Translation Into English: "Woodchucks like to eat vegetables."


  • Woodchuck Sign Language: The feathery tops of the carrots in your garden have been mowed down.
    • Translation Into English: "Woodchucks don't just eat vegetables. We like to eat green succulent things, too, whether growing wild or in your garden."


  • Woodchuck Sign Language: Your young fruit tree is being damaged by something gnawing at its trunk.
    • Translation Into English: "Remember, we're rodents. That means we have to gnaw to keep our teeth from growing too long. When I picture a perfect tooth-filer, what I see is your tender young fruit tree."


  • Woodchuck Sign Language: The rat poison that you set out to try to kill the woodchuck that's been raiding your garden hasn't been touched -- and you continue to observe damage in your garden.
    • Translation Into English: "You'll have to do better than that. I'm a woodchuck, not a rat. I'm not stupid enough to eat poison. If you're going to set a trap for me, you'd better bait it with the same foods I'm raiding from your garden."


Assuming that you are grasping the essentials of woodchuck sign language, on Page 2 we'll have a look at strategies for woodchuck pest control in the garden. If you fail to take effective control measures against these garden pests, you'll find yourself reenacting the Groundhog Day movie in your own yard. And while I adore that particular movie, personally, this is not a reenactment I recommend....

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