Groundhogs are mostly herbivores. They are also known as woodchucks and are mostly found in North America and Canada.
The groundhog’s diet consists of over 98% plant matter including grasses and other low-lying vegetation. They also consume many types of human-grown vegetables, fruits, and nuts and will eat insects, including crickets, beetles, butterflies, moths, and grubs. But depending on the season, their diet varies around what is available at that time of year.
Groundhogs are sometimes considered backyard intruders, but are they equally likely to eat your produce all year round, or are their diets depending on the seasons? Let’s jump into it!
What do groundhogs eat in the spring?
Spring is the time of year when groundhogs are coming out of hibernation, so they are hungry and will rapidly be looking for food to consume. When it comes to what groundhogs eat in the spring, one has to remember that their stomach acidity has weakened during hibernation and may not be up to the task of processing too much, especially animal-based proteins, too fast.
A groundhog’s diet in the early spring may be made up of dry plant materials, nuts, trees, and flower buds. They also eat certain types of tree leaves such as maple and oak. Other items from their diet during the spring months are insects, clovers, and different types of grasses and flowers.
As spring transitions to summer, groundhogs will begin foraging for more fruits, vegetables, and flowers. Grasses are still prevalent in their diet but they may also be eating a wider variety of plant matter.
What do groundhogs eat during the summer?
During the summer months, a large portion of their diet comes from vegetation. Their diet during the summer may include plant life like grasses, leaves, clover, and flowers as well as many cultured vegetables like zucchini and tomatoes.
They also eat other types of fruits such as apples, mulberries, raspberries, and strawberries. This is when they are most likely to consume insects since they are so plentiful during this time of year.
Grubs, beetles, and grubs are all on their menu. They may also be munching on grasshoppers, crickets, and caterpillars.
What do groundhogs eat in the fall?
For the first few weeks of autumn, when acorns begin falling to the ground, acorns, chestnuts, and other nuts will be one type of food on the groundhog’s menu.
They also eat green vegetation, fallen leaves, and berries at this time of year including blackberries, grapes, and grasses. Insects are still an important part of their diet during the fall months as well.
The remaining backyard-grown vegetables such as onions, or pumpkins and squash will be eaten by groundhogs in the fall.
Grasshoppers, crickets, beetles, and caterpillars are all on their list of items to eat. It is also common for them to dine on blackberries, grapes, and apples.
What do Groundhogs Eat before Hibernation?
In the weeks leading up to hibernation, a groundhog will begin to store fat and pack on as much weight as possible. This period of hyperphagia is used by the groundhog to prepare for its time spent in hibernation.
They use the stored fat from their belly as well as from fat deposits around their body when hibernating. During this time, they will mostly feed on their stored fat and muscle tissues so they don’t have to come out to forage.
Grasses become a very important part of their diet at this time because it is high in protein and low in fat. They may also begin to roam into other animals’ dens and steal eggs from nests as well as ingest insects such as grasshoppers, crickets, and beetles.
What Do Groundhogs Eat in the Winter?
Groundhogs go into hibernation in late fall. During these months, their bodies slow down and they are not taking in nearly as many calories as they do during other periods of the year.
As they are hibernating, they will mostly use their body’s stored energy in the form of fat.
However, should the groundhog wake up early while the winter is still around, it will eat any food it can find if it is easily accessible, but most of its time during this period is spent sleeping. This does not mean that a groundhog’s diet in the winter consists of only twigs and grass in case it wakes up.
They are just not taking in very many calories at this time so their diet does not consist of anything more than low-calorie foods that are easy to get to. Some grasses and insects become the main food source for groundhogs during late winter since they are easily accessible.
A groundhog will also eat bark and twigs from certain types of trees like willow, pecan, and oak. Additional items on their winter menu are a few mushrooms and fruit such as mulberries and the types of apples, such as Arkansas Black apples, Baldwin apples or Cox’s Orange apples, that are still around.
How can I attract groundhogs to my yard?
As I have written above, groundhogs are likely to be attracted by foods found in most backyards, but will usually not come by in the winter unless they are hibernating in your garden.
Groundhogs are living in a specific region because their environment meets all of their needs. If you want to attract groundhogs to your yard, you will need to make sure your yard is a hospitable environment for them.
This means that you should have lots of low-lying vegetation and shade trees for them to hide from predators. If you have an area of your yard that is more shaded, groundhogs may be attracted to it.
You should also make sure that there are entrances where they can hide. Accessible hiding places for groundhogs could be dens, piles of thin branches, or other forms of ditches and holes on your property.
Groundhogs may be tempted to use these areas as a place to sleep or hibernate if they exist on your property. If you are able to provide these conditions for them, groundhogs may be more willing to make your property their home.
Another method to attract groundhogs is simply putting out the foods that they like.
Should I Feed a Wild Groundhog?
It is a good idea to feed a groundhog if it is in your yard. When a groundhog senses danger, it will typically choose to flee from the area rather than look for food or fight with an animal that wants its territory.
If you are feeding a groundhog on your property, you are making the territory more hospitable for them and they may decide to stay on your property. This can be good or bad!
However, if you are trying to get a groundhog out of your yard and do not want it there, feeding it is unlikely to make it leave.
You can feed them with items such as fruit, vegetables, and bread. You should make sure that the food you are putting out has a low amount of sugar and does not come from a can or package.
To sum up
Groundhogs, like all animals, need to adjust their diet based on the foods available throughout the year.
Spring is a delicate time for these animals as they come out of hibernation, but thanks to human’s plentiful backyards, ants, and other insects; groundhogs are able to get the food they need to survive.
Groundhogs are often considered pests, but there are a lot of people who enjoy watching them eat their way through the summer and winter months.
If you are trying to get rid of groundhogs in your garden, see my list of advice on how to get rid of groundhogs in your backyard!