Havahart® This Holiday Season

Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a retail nursery located in Bryn Mawr, PA, specializing in showy, colorful, and unusual plants for shade.  The only plants that we ship are snowdrops and miniature hostas.  For catalogues and announcements of events, please send your full name, location, and phone number (for back up use only) to carolyn@carolynsshadegardens.com.  Click here to get to the home page of our website for catalogues and information about our nursery and to subscribe to our blog.

The woodchuck we caught was a lot cuter than I expected.  He looked and acted like he was trying out for a part in Wind in the Willows.

Last spring Havahart®, the manufacturer of live animal traps, contacted me regarding a potential product review.  Their representative expressed an interest in having a review appear on my blog because I advocate gardening  organically.  He thought my customers would be interested in their humane traps and other products.  Havahart® would send me any of their products for free, and I could try it out and say anything I wanted about it.

Never one to go half way, my husband baited the trap with a whole cabbage.

We had previously used small Havahart® traps to catch and release chipmunks, which were tearing down our 10 foot stone walls with their tunnels.  We were very pleased with the results, but our current cat has the chipmunk problem well under control.  Now we were being plagued by a woodchuck (AKA groundhog)—the most persistent animal pest I know.  For the review, we chose the Havahart® One-Door Groundhog & Raccoon Trap.

The trap is set with the door open and the cabbage behind the trigger pad.

Our current woodchuck was living under our deck so we placed the trap near his entrance and exit hole.  The trap door is held open by a trigger rod attached to a trigger pad and snaps shut when the woodchuck presses the tilted trigger pad on his way to the bait.  We didn’t have to wait long—two days later a sad little face greeted me when I checked the trap.  I expected a vicious varmint, and what I got was Beatrix Potter’s Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle.  You will notice that he ate the whole cabbage.

Success occurred immediately.

I felt so sorry for the little guy that we decided an immediate transport and release was necessary.  It was easy to carry the cage to our van and place it on a tarp in the back.  The woodchuck remained passive during this ordeal.

As recommended by Havahart®, we drove to “an isolated location five to ten miles away,” insuring that the woodchuck would not return to our property.  We stopped the car, unloaded the trap, and prepared to release our little friend—that was when the fun began.  The fat little woodchuck sat firmly on the trigger pad preventing the door from being released into the open position.  Even when my husband manually opened the door and held it open, the woodchuck would not leave the trap.

While my husband holds the trap open, the woodchuck resolutely faces the back of the cage refusing to vacate his new found home.  Thanks to my customer, Ben Hayward, for pointing out that my husband should not have had his fingers near the cage opening without wearing protective gloves.  See my reply to Ben’s comment about why the gloves didn’t make the trip.

I wish I had a video of what happened next because it would be hysterical.  Without warning me, my husband picked up the whole trap, tipped it perpendicular to the ground, and shook the woodchuck out right at my feet.  If only I could say that I stood my ground like a brave photographer, risking an angry woodchuck to get THE photo.  But instead I turned and ran for the car as fast as I could, convinced that the woodchuck would climb the nearest upright object, which was me.  I regained my senses just in time to get this photo of the little woodchuck fleeing for the hinterlands.

Overall I think Havahart® traps are very useful for humanely removing unwanted animals from your property.  And upon reading the manual to write this article, it does recommend inserting a stick through the cage to prop the door open.  That would have solved the problem with our unusually passive and docile woodchuck who seemed happy to live in the trap indefinitely as long as we fed him cabbage.  However, I do not think I would want to get my hands that close to the cage (see photos above) with a more aggressive animal inside it.

Happy Holidays,  Carolyn

Notes: Every word that appears in orange on my blog is a link that you can click for more information.  If you want to return to my blog’s homepage to access the sidebar information (catalogues, previous articles, etc.) or to subscribe to my blog, just click here.

Nursery Happenings: The nursery is closed for the year.  Look for the snowdrop catalogue (snowdrops are available mail order) in January 2012 and an exciting new hellebore offering in February 2012.  If you are within visiting distance and would like to receive catalogues and information about customer events, please send your full name and phone number to carolynsshadegardens@verizon.net.  Subscribing to my blog does not sign you up to receive this information.

63 Responses to “Havahart® This Holiday Season”

  1. We have used these traps successfully many times with skunks and woodchucks. My husband uses gloves so he can avoid any biting and he also covers the trap just in case and especially with skunks. There are times you do have to tip the cage since they are a bit scared and hold on. I like the stick idea too…great product and advice for using it. I would have run for the hills too..

    • Donna, The directions in the manual, which I read after the fact, mentioned covering the cage with a blanket but our woodchuck didn’t seem to require that or gloves. However, with most animals, gloves would be a must. Havahart traps are great products, and we will continue to use them on a regular basis. Carolyn

  2. I have to say, thats a very cute looking woodchuck!
    Nice review Carolyn. I’ll check their website

    • Christine, It occurred to me when I wrote this that my international readers would never have seen a woodchuck because they are native to North America. None of the previous woodchucks with which we have dealt have been cute, and they are very destructive especially if you have a vegetable garden. Carolyn

  3. That woodchuck is indeed adorable! I have used many types of these traps for trapping feral cats to be spayed/neutered, and returned to their colonies. Tomahawk traps (a family business based in WI) have traps available with TWO doors, specifically so that you don’t have the problem you had. The rear door can be lifted straight up and out. Even if the critter won’t budge, you’re able to get behind him, blow some air at him or maybe a little poking with a twig to shoo him out the open end. A cover sometimes helps too – just an old piece of sheet or curtain, etc. Sometimes they will tend to go to the area of the trap that is covered, where they feel safer. So if you transport with the cage covered, then when you release, you can uncover half the cage and leave the part with the door open covered – sometimes this gets them to move where you want them to. I’m glad you chose this method of dealing with your woodchuck and that you are promoting it here! It’s great that Havahart found you!

    • Aimee, You sound like you have a lot of experience trapping and releasing larger animals. We had only dealt with chipmunks before, and they were only too eager to flee the trap. Havahart makes two door traps and, now that we have gone through our field test, I might have chosen one of those. We picked the trap with “woodchuck” in the name and wanted the smaller model for easier storage. I think I would also have chosen a collapsible trap, again for storage reasons. I try to remember that in the general scheme of things nothing is as destructive or messy as a human so no animal deserves to die if there is an alternative. I have a hard time killing slugs. Carolyn

  4. My woodchucks could never seem to remember that they didn’t like tomatoes (at least my heirloom varieties). They would take one bite out of each tomato and then spit it out!

    Have a great holiday!


  5. What a cutie! I hope he doesn’t find his way back home! We have these traps, and have trapped many things (no woodchucks!) in them. The problem is knowing where to release them and not cause a problem for someone else! Good pictures. I would have run, too, if anything was released at my feet!

    • Holley, As you probably know, woodchucks are generally not high on the cuteness index, but this one really surprised me. One concern we had was catching a skunk in the trap. Donna talks about transporting them easily but I wonder about the smell. We have plenty of skunks, raccoons, foxes, feral cats, etc., but we generally ignore them, and I find them beneficial for removing rodents and insects. Carolyn

  6. Ben Hayward Says:

    Carolyn, I have been using these traps for years and love them. But when I saw the pic of your husband holding the door open with his bare hand to let the chuck escape, I freaked out. While these little critters are cute, they have teeth like razors. I know; several years ago, my Labrador was bitten in the nose by one he caught, and it wasn’t a pretty site.

    I’d advise never to put any body parts anywhere near where a trapped animal could get to you — particularly on the interior surfaces of the cage. Even little chipmunks (also sharp-toothed) could attack when they perceive they are still trapped.

    Ben Hayward

    • Ben, Thanks so much for commenting. Oddly enough, we were blithely imagining that we would place the cage on the ground, press the release lever, stand well back from the cage, the door would spring open, and the woodchuck would scamper off, i.e., we didn’t bring gloves. You are so right though. I will add something to the post to make sure people don’t get the wrong idea. Happy Holidays, Carolyn

  7. You should have tagged him Carolyn to see if he comes back. You’ve a very handy husband there and one brave enough to deal with straying creatures aka wild life!

    p.s. the calendar arrived 😉 my only comment is I would have liked titles for the pics – great quality and very nice to have your images in my home. Roll on 2012 but first a very Happy Christmas to you

    • Laura, When we trapped the chipmunks, I always wanted to spray their tails to see if they came back. I was afraid it might make them easy targets for predators though.
      I decided not to put in captions on the calendar because the way the software is set up it leaves a big white block on the page like the cover. I will caption them here so everyone will know:
      Cover: Carolyn’s Shade Gardens
      January: snowdrops ‘Potter’s Prelude’
      February: un-named hybrid hellebores
      March: the species and white version of Fritillaria meleagris and mixed colors of Corydalis solida
      April: glory-of-the-snow with ‘Caramel’ coralbells left, ‘Little Princess’ tulip and Sedum album right
      May: cinnamon fern left, Virginia bluebells and Celandine poppy right
      June: primrose ‘Cherry Pinwheels’
      July: ‘Teeny-weeny Bikini’ hosta left, ‘Holy Mouse Ears’ top, H. tokudama species bottom
      August: stone chair at Chanticleer with climbing hydrangea
      September: ‘Early Amethyst’ beautyberry
      October: Virginia creeper left, northern sea oats top, oakleaf hydrangea bottom
      November: ‘Blue Angel’ hosta with fall-blooming hardy cyclamen
      December: tea viburnum bottom, my gargoyle mascot left, Carolyn’s Shade Gardens top
      Enjoy and thanks for your support, Merry Christmas, Carolyn

  8. thank you Carolyn – glad you did not spoil the images then with unsightly captions. April and November are my faves though hard to choose between them. Wonderful marbled patterning of the cyclamen leaves en masse

  9. Makes me want to recite the woodchuck tongue twister.

  10. Carolyn, I enjoyed this account of your woodchuck adventures. I have had cute woodchucks before — usually youngsters who are out eating the garden in broad daylight, having not yet learned to be stealthy and nocturnal; one year, I had one who loved peas and used to stand on hind legs stripping the flowers from the Baptisia. For the past two years, my woodchuck problems have been solved by the fox family living in the woods east of the house. But if the woodchucks move back in under my deck, I’ll remember the strategy of setting up a Havahart trap at the entrance. -Jean

    • Jean, When we lived in Maine we used to say that for every one we got rid of, ten more sprang up. It sure seemed like that. I walked down to my hellebore production beds today and startled two large foxes curled up at the base of a tree. It was a close thing as to who would run away me or them—this time I stood my ground. They haven’t solved any woodchuck problems though. Carolyn

  11. Well, one varmint down, how many more to go? My garden lives with garter snakes, a possum, countless squirrels, two chipmunks, one known rabbit, feral cats, and a couple of hawks. A raccoon was removed (not by me) only because it was thought to carry rabies. An injured owl was sent to a wildlife rehabilitater (by me) and two turtles sent to the farm’s lake. This is the result of living next to the Niagara Gorge where deer and fox also live but never appeared in the neighborhood. I guess I might be relocating wildlife if it was raiding my vegetable garden too. I would draw the line at taking my food. I also suggest heavy leather gloves for handling wildlife. But even heavy welding gloves is not a guarantee of safety. An injured squirrel bit through them to draw blood and the injured owl sharp claws also stuck me.

    • Donna, We have all those animals too, but only the woodchucks and deer require removal or exclusion. Generally the wildlife provides a lot of benefits both aesthetic and practical. The foxes eat the moles (and voles) and the moles eat the Japanese beetle larvae. The hawks also keep the rodents in check. Carolyn

  12. That woodchuck will be back since you treated it so well!

  13. Oh he is a cutie and I am happy to see you trapped and released. I’ve lived in the country before where the neighbors would trap and kill the little guys – they didn’t even have gardens for it dig in and they had plenty of land plus plenty of woods next to them – sorry I just hated to think they felt they had to kill it.

    • Barb, We did hire a trapper once to come and remove and release a skunk that was living in the crawl space under the kitchen. The smell was so bad we couldn’t even use the kitchen. He said that most people in my area–suburban Philadelphia–call a trapper immediately if they see any wild animals in their yards. Sad. Carolyn

  14. Awwww! We don’t have those critters here in ol’ Blighty!! Great story, was dreading any bloody finger snaps, but they didn;t appear…Phew! What a cuites xx

    • Jane, I think you are in the UK, but I remember when we went to Australia, they all were dying to see a squirrel which they thought were adorable and of course many people here regard as pests. We thought kangaroos were endlessly exciting and they thought they were pests. Glad you enjoyed the story. Carolyn

  15. So glad you decided on a live trap and that you were successful in rehoming him. Hope you have a wonderful Christmas.

  16. We have always live trapped pests, even mice. We have a regular mouse relocation program, where just as you did with the groundhog, we drive a few miles down the road and then release them. This summer we have been struggling with a racoon who likes to feast on our compost. A trap similar to the one you used for the groundhog would certainly come in handy! Racoons can be viscous, so we will be sure to keep our fingers out of the way. Merry Christmas to you Carolyn, and all the best to you for 2012!

    • Jennifer, Your mouse relocation program sounds like our chipmunk trapping–I think we transported a whole colony. We have raccoons that visit our compost pile regularly and eat things. They often carry fruit and vegetable parts to the bird bath to wash them. I just ignore them. The trapper I mentioned in another comment said he is not allowed to relocate raccoons but must kill them because rabies is an issue in our area. I would look into that before trapping a raccoon. Merry Christmas and enjoy the new year, Carolyn

  17. I’m still laughing!! That’s one critter I DON”T have to deal with but battle plenty of others with vole/mole induced ‘sink holes’ proving to be truly ankle-threatening.

    Although I like the idea of live trapping in principle I’m not sure I’d have the patience to drive 5-10 miles every time I caught one. How many of these do you think you have? Just a couple or dozens?

    • Karen, I am glad you thought the story was funny as intended. What you need are cats and foxes to take care of your moles and voles. Woodchucks do not live in big groups, and we tend to see one at a time so no more trapping for now. However, when we lived in Maine, their numbers seemed endless. Carolyn

  18. I’m surprised nobody has mentioned that woodchucks/groundhogs are edible. (feasting as they do on the same garden produce as rabbits)
    -Of course, you do have to kill them, first. . .

    • Steve, I think their edibility is somehow inconsistent with the catch and release philosophy I am promoting. However, should any readers be so inclined, you will find preparation instructions in the classic Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer along with similar information for such delicacies as armadillo, porcupine, and beaver tail. Once the woodchuck is field-dressed and skinned, its unpalatable glands removed, and it is soaked in brine overnight, you can “cook by any recipe using rabbit or chicken.” Bon appetit! Carolyn

  19. I have used these humane traps in my eastern Pennsylvania garden with success for several years. I have caught groundhogs, rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks and one oppossum, which I was not aiming for….

    I always check a baited trap twice per day to see if an animal has been caught, minimizing time spent in the cage. The location for a set trap is always out of direct sun, again to minimize suffering.

    When transporting to a new area, placing a towel over the cage makes the trip much less stressful for the trapped animal. Even if the observer feels the animal is fine, it is certainly upset to be in the cage and to be near humans or vehicles.

    For releasing, turning the cage slowly onto its side and then gradually upside down will open both doors automatically. Humans can step back out of the way immediately and the animal will choose its direction for escape in a short time. As an alternative, a long handled hoe can be employed to gently turn the cage over from a greater distance.

    Trapping during late fall and early winter is not the best time since den preparation and food collection may have already occurred, leaving the animal unprepared for imminent harsh weather.

    A groundhog’s ability to decimate one’s garden is considerable, though, and your property will be safeguarded with its removal.

    • Beverly, Thanks for all the additional information about live trapping. Just for clarification, the woodchuck in the post was trapped in September and should have had plenty of time to re-situate itself especially since it hasn’t gotten cold here yet—60 degrees today 12/22. Next time we will anticipate having trouble getting the animal to leave the cage and bring proper equipment to handle the situation. We were caught off guard because we thought it would be only too eager to leave. Covering the cage during transport is a good idea. Carolyn

  20. Oh dear, I can just envision it as the grumpy woodchuck lands with a thud at your feet! We use Havahart traps here occasionally too, and they can be very useful. As gardeners though we do have to also be mindful of local ordinances in some areas that prohibit the movement of wildlife. Just something to be aware of. My poor mother has to accept her woodchuck woes as she’s not allowed to trap them. Then again, she doesn’t have to wrestle them out of the traps either! BTW, I can’t wait to open your calendar, it’s sitting under the tree. Thank you 🙂 Wishing you a peaceful holiday season, and a joyous New Year.

    • Clare, We actually have used another method to deal with woodchucks that you might want to pass on to your mother. Woodchucks are extremely clean and tidy animals, and they keep their burrows spotless. We have had success in the past with convincing a woodchuck to move on by dumping used kitty litter down its entrance hole. I am so glad you got the calendar and love the visual of it sitting under your tree. Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year. Carolyn

  21. Awww, he is a cute little guy! Good for you, using a humane method to catch and release the little creature. Great story and photos, too! Happy Holidays, Carolyn!

    • PP, I hate to say it but the post was really about the story so i am glad you enjoyed it. But I am so glad that I was able to facilitate a lot of useful information about live trapping animals, which as you can tell I didn’t know a whole lot about. As I said before, I have a hard time killing anything, even slugs. Enjoy the holidays and the New Year. Carolyn

  22. oh Carolyn, I wish I had known about the stick to keep the door open when we inadvertently caught a skunk. My hubby did similar to yours, although he dumped the skunk away from me thank goodness. Propping the door open would have been much easier and less frightful.

    • Marguerite, I guess I should have read the directions completely before we used the trap–am I not always advising my children to do that? We had a false sense of security because of the previous chipmunk trapping we had done with the small Havahart trap. Oh well, live and learn. You can read Beverly’s comments as to how to get the animal out of the trap without the stick. A skunk in a trap would make me nervous. Carolyn

      • Thanks for pointing out Beverley’s post, lots of great information there. I never would have thought to turn the trap over. We actually use the traps for feral cats (we take them in for spaying/neutering) and normally don’t release them until at the vet clinic. The skunk was a new experience for us. Merry Christmas and best wishes in the new year.

  23. Carolyn, we have used this same trap to capture a squirrel in our attic. A lot smaller than your friend.
    Have a wonderful Christmas and all the best for 2012.

  24. Merry Christmas, Carolyn, and I hope the woodchuck is enjoying his new home! We have used smaller traps like this in the past and were pleased with them. I think the woodchuck thought maybe if he stuck around he would get another cabbage!

  25. Merry Christmas, Carolyn, and thank you for a fun and entertaining post.

  26. Merry Xmas Carolyn, I appreciate that you take time out to read my blog even though I have a different approach to gardening.

  27. Carolyn, no critters in my back yard except for my dog Aster and the neighborhood cats that taunt her. Love reading your posts.

    Have a Merry Christmas!

  28. I used a havahart trap to catch a chipmunk last year. It had plastic netting entangled around it’s neck and arms. It worked really well and fast with peanuts. He was released after we were able to cut off the plastic.

  29. Great story, and pleased to see another example of what seems an impossibly cute American creature. I’m surprised no-one has made some reference in the comments to Groundhog Day, which is the only way these little chaps are known at all in the UK. Happy Holidays!

  30. I used to use humane traps to catch mice in our Orkney house and take them to the far end of a very long garden. I’m sure they got back to the house before I did. We then got cats! The woodchuck looks very cuddly.

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