Groundhogs or Woodchucks are among the most intrusive and aggressive borrowing pets any garden or yard owner might have the displeasure of dealing with.
Don’t let their boxy and cute exterior fool you.
These little monsters are a menace when they really get going. They’ll eat through your vegetable garden in days, clearing out months and months of careful work, all in a bid to store body fat for the coming winter.
Getting rid of groundhogs is not an easy task.
Without professional help, it can almost seem like they’re impossible to remove, but in this guide, we’ll show you how to get rid of groundhogs and preserve your garden.
What are Groundhogs, and how do you identify them?
It’s important to understand what type of creatures Ground Hogs are before you mount any significant effort to remove them.
Groundhogs are stocky creatures with powerful legs for climbing trees. They also have brownish-gray fur, beady black eyes, and large buck teeth for chewing through crops at a startling speed.
The groundhog, also known as a woodchuck, is a fairly large rodent and can reach from 12 inches to 27 inches long and weigh 5-14 pounds in adulthood.
In perfect summers, they can reach up to 31 pounds. They have a lifespan of about 6-14 years, depending on their environment.
Groundhogs scare easily and are oddly fast for their considerable size and build.
To them, everything is a predator, which means scare tactics, animal-based repellents, and other creative solutions are very effective against them.
Groundhogs are indigenous to Canada and the southern U.S.A and are categorized as rodents. They belong to the squirrel family, though they look very different from their close cousins in notable ways.
Differences between Squirrels and Groundhogs
Groundhogs and squirrels are very different creatures, both in appearance and behavior.
A groundhog, is on average, larger, squarer, and stockier than squirrels. They also don’t have reddish-brown fur like most squirrels do.
(This is Groundhog)
They also live in very different environments. A groundhog burrows and builds large tunnel systems, while squirrels prefer crevices, wall spaces, or even attics, staying off the ground entirely.
(This is squirrel)
Why Groundhogs Eat so much- They hibernate
Groundhogs hibernate in the winter, which can sometimes last up to five months, depending on your location.
Like every other popular type of hibernating animal, they consume monstrous quantities of food between summer and spring in preparation, sometimes nearly doubling their body weight.
They would have burned through most of their fat when spring comes around; then, they mate and typically have a litter by mid-springs.
Groundhog day is a popular tradition in North America and Canada tied to the groundhog’s conspicuous animal. The groundhog is said to signal the end of winter and predict the arrival of spring.
On February 2, when the groundhog is believed to emerge from its burrow to end winter hibernation, it will look for its shadow, and if it finds it, it will return to its home, which means six more weeks of winter.
There is a multitude of ways to get rid of groundhogs.
Depending on what type of garden or farm you run and the number of groundhogs you’re dealing with, your approach to removal might differ slightly.
This is the most effective and cost-effective approach to get rid of your groundhog problem. Groundhogs are attracted to areas with dense vegetation and healthy crops, so removing them is often not as simple as attacking their burrows.
Liquid or granule-based repellents containing fox or coyote urine are a great non-confrontational way to drive groundhogs away from the burrows and get them off your property. These methods would be preferable if you have children, dogs, or any other pet living in your home, as toxic repellents can be quite dangerous.
They have a keen sense of smell, and the repellent capitalizes on that. They’re likely to leave your gardens, driven away by fear alone.
However, note that repellents might wash away easily and shine best when combined with other potent preventive measures.
How to Use a repellent?
Take care to read the instructions attached to the repellent. If you’re using a liquid repellent with a spray, note how many times it’s recommended that you replace it.
Spray or sprinkle your repellent near the plants that the groundhogs visit the most, and monitor the changes to determine the product’s efficacy.
Try applying the repellents to burrow entrances to get the most reactions out of the groundhogs.
Setting up a live trap is another efficient way to combat a groundhog infestation.
If you pair them with repellents or other creative solutions, you have no problems getting rid of groundhogs on your property.
Trapping also allows you to nip a potential rodent infestation before it really spreads.
By trapping groundhogs during springtimes, you can keep them from breeding and save yourself the headache of dealing with five more in the summer.
It’s also easier to trap them in the spring. They’ll be hungry, fresh off hibernation, and will be generally less cautious.
Types of Groundhog traps
There are two main types of woodchuck traps: Live and Lethal traps.
The former is designed to restrain a groundhog, while the latter will either injure or kill them.
3. Live Traps
Live traps are often cages with robust wire meshing and a metal frame that prevents groundhogs from chewing through them with their sharp incisors and teeth. You want the live trap you go for to be very spacious, with dimensions of 24 inches or larger to appear more inviting.
If you’re going the live trapping route, it means you intend on releasing the animal back into the wilderness after a sufficient distance from your home.
Note that you might have to get a permit and check with the state laws before you plan trapping and relocation. They are illegal in most states.
Read the manual that comes with your live trap before you pace the trap. Ensure you fully understand how it works to get the best use out of it.
- Wear gloves when you’re handling the cage. As we mentioned, groundhogs have a keen sense of smell. They might be tipped off by your scent alone and avoid the trap.
- Keep gloves keep your fingers safe when you’re working with traps. Some traps are spring-loaded and are particularly dangerous for first-time users.
- Place your trap near your vegetable garden or groundhog burrows entrances, and disguise them with branches, leaves, and dirt.
- Remember to use good bait when you set the trap. Spring for their choice vegetables and roots, and you’re more likely to trap them.
- Check the trap every day or half-day. Groundhogs will get dehydrated, injure themselves trying to escape, and might even die trying to escape your trap if you leave them long enough.
- Set the groundhog loose at least five miles away from your garden, or they’re likely to return.
Most states ban the use of lethal traps on rodents and animals, but even if you happen to live in a state where it’s available, you might need a trapping license to use it.
Alternative solutions and methods to groundhog control
DIY repellents are also a great option if you have some time on your hands. They are considerably cheaper than store-bought repellent, and some of the ingredients you typically need are most likely around your home.
1. Blood Meal
Blood meal or dry blood meals serve a double function.
They are great fertilizers for plants and serve as a strong deterrent for herbivores like groundhogs. Sprinkling it around your yard and near a groundhog, borrow will help you repel them.
2. Epsom salts
Sprinkling Epsom salt around your garden is a safe and natural way to repel groundhogs.
They particularly hate the taste and smell of it, and salting their favorite foods, burrow entrances, and playgrounds will only serve to irritate them more.
Set up small bowls filled with salt around your property if you plan to go the salting routes. You might have to resalt several times before they take the hint and leave.
3. Cat litter
From handling it first hand, you should already know how potent kitty litter can be. For creatures with a keen smell of smell like groundhogs, they can be doubly nasty.
Pour down cat litter down the entrances of their burrows when you find them on your property. Within a few days, it should get rid of them.
Groundhogs aren’t a fan of all vegetables.
They particularly dislike garlic because of its pungent and overpowering smell. Grow garlic in our garden, or sprinkle them around areas where you’ve noticed groundhog activity. In time, they might learn to stay away from your garden or leave altogether.
We don’t recommend this method if you have a dog. Garlic is poisonous to them.
Using pepper as a repellent is a particularly vicious and effective method of groundhog control.
Just like pepper is irritating our eyes and noses, they can be just as bad for rodents, if not worse, because of their keen sense of smell.
Get a spray bottle with some chopped up or ground pepper, add water, and spray their habitat and stomping ground routinely to get the most of this method.
How do you get rid of groundhogs with ammonia?
Ammonia is also a particularly great gatekeeper for groundhogs.
Placing an ammonia-soaked rag at the entrance of their home or your garden is a great keep-away sign. Talcum powder is a great alternative to ammonia.
- Attacking their homes
If you have a serious infestation on your hand and are looking to drive them away, targeting a groundhog burrow is an effective strategy.
- Flooding the ground
Groundhogs like to dig their burrows in dry dirt and avoid wet environments.
You can take advantage of their dislike and make their den and the surrounding areas uninhabitable by flooding it. They will leave your garden or property and look for drier grounds to set up new burrows.
This strategy is not exactly full-proof as if you’re dealing with an infestation during summer, you might have to continuously flood their den and keep your ground to keep the groundhog away permanently.
This strategy sees you going full offensive on the groundhogs and their burrows. You deploy fumigation canisters usually available at a local pest control center or home supply center and asphyxiate the groundhogs in their burrows. The canisters contain lethal doses of carbon monoxide, and they’re a sure-fire way to get rid of them.
For the canisters to be really effective, you want to deploy them when they’re in their burrows and block all entrances. Plug all holes until you see almost no smoke escaping and wait them out.
Make sure to follow the instructions attached to the canisters, cover your nose, and keep all fire away from the holes and gas when you’re using them.
- Agricultural lime
Spread some agricultural lime you’ve sourced from a local supplies store and sprinkle it at the entrance of a groundhog burrow entrance. It will burn the groundhog feet each time they try to enter or leave their home. You can also spray it around food they have a habit of eating. This should drive them away with enough time.
What are Groundhogs scared of?
Scare tactics are also another possible option you have available to remove groundhogs from your home. Groundhogs and other small rodents are terrified of a lot of predators above anything else.
The strategies we’re about to suggest will have you exploit those fears and use them to drive them off your property.
1. Human hair
Your hair, as ridiculous as it sounds, can scare the crap out of groundhogs. No animal wants a potential predator lurking about their homes, and if you leave some of your hair around their homes, it is right enough to scare them away potentially.
Ultrasonic noise and vibrations will scare away most digging pests.
You can invest in solar stakes that send pulses into the ground and shake it their burrow every few minutes or so. It will make them think they’re under attack and seek help somewhere else, preferably from your property.
3. Get a Dog
Dogs, especially temperamental ones, don’t like burrowing rodents like woodchucks.
Set them loose on the invaders, and they will bark at the entrances of their burrows and attack them constantly until they leave. If you are really trying to remove them, leave some dog hair around their favorite plants. It is bound to scare them even more.
You can also sprinkle their urine near their burrows or at the entrance. Doing that will make them believe a predator is close by, and it might be enough to convince them to leave completely.
Don’t limit yourself to just dog urine either; you can spray some cat urine around, too, if you have one. While not particularly predatory towards groundhogs, Cats can be as threatening as dogs, owls, hawks, and other creatures.
4. Use a gun
If you have a gun license and are present in a state that allows hunting of pests, whip out your firearm and hunt the groundhogs down.
Look in their sheds, holes, and camp at the entrance of their burrow. Take your time to hunt down each one.
How to Prevent Groundhogs from moving to your Garden
The best way to protect your garden from another groundhog infestation after you’ve managed to get rid of them the first time is to employ a series of prevention methods that will discourage them from returning.
Setting up an in-ground fence is your best option if you want to keep groundhogs from entering your garden or yard. The fence should at least be 3 feet high and reach as far as 12 inches underground.
You can also add another layer of security by padding the regular fence with an electric one. It will prevent the groundhogs from climbing or burrowing into your property.
If you can’t afford an electric fence, you can set up up a chicken wire barrier in an L-shape, leading away from your garden. It should be a 90-degree bend, so when the woodchucks stumble into it, they will turn back when they can’t get through.
Another great tip for keeping your garden shed, foundations, etc. safe, is to bury a 1 foot of folded cloth around those places.
Before you carry out any fencing or barrier, make sure your all groundhog burrow or burrow entrances are empty and clear of the pests. You wouldn’t want to trap them below your deck or in your flower garden.
2. Maintaining your yard
Groundhogs, also known as woodchucks, have many natural predators, and for them, nothing is quite as uncomfortable as large open spaces where they can hide or maneuver out of. Clearing out your garden, removing shrubs and grasses will make your yard seem terribly risky and uncomfortable and make them less likely to settle there.
3. Grow fragrant plants
As we mentioned, groundhogs have a keen sense of smell and are easily irritated by plants like garlic and herbs. You can discourage them and other animals by planting sage, basil, rosemary, thyme, chives, oregano, and lemon balm.
4. Starve them out
Groundhogs hibernate around September to early October and reemerge during the spring. You can starve them out by planning an early harvest and clearing out your garden. They’ll be forced to migrate by spring to avoid starving.
5. Create a homemade ultra repellent
Aside from fencing up your home, you can also create a repellent that will ward them away each time they come close to your property.
Get a bag and fill it with some of the most effective repellents we’ve covered in this post, place it into a mesh bag, and stake it near the fence of your garden. Garlic and crushed pepper are great choices to add to the bag.
Prepare for their arrival by spraying your garden, fence, and surroundings with pepper spray.
This is a very effective solution because they’ll never get a chance to settle on your property. If the animals get past the fence, they won’t be able to eat anything in your garden.
Is it bad to have a groundhog in your garden?
Believe it or not, there are some benefits to having a garden. They help maintain the ecology of your garden and the surrounding areas.
Their burrows, when abandoned, can serve as a refuge or new homes for wildlife like skunks, foxes, and even rabbits. Like animals, they provide food for larger, deadlier predators like owls, eagles, coyotes, owls, and hawks. You might not need to get rid of your groundhog problem.
Another interesting and useful help they provide is aerating the soil and recycling nutrients.
Groundhogs live in extensive tunnels dug out over days or, sometimes, months. When they work to establish their homes, they’ll burrow through most of your yard or garden and help you with farming.
Note that if they’re not particularly intrusive, there are no real reasons to get rid of groundhogs. You can start a little garden you barely maintain to feed them or let them skim a little over the top every few days.
Groundhogs and other animals in the squirrel family don’t multiply rapidly. They maintain partners, form relationships, and ferry around their young for months after birth. Every year or so, they give birth to two- six pups.
Will groundhogs attack humans?
Groundhogs spend most of their days in their burrows and only emerge every few hours to explore and gather food.
They are timid creatures and will go out of their ways to avoid all they perceive as predators, returning to their dens at the first sign of a threat.
However, when they’re cornered, they might lash out. Another reason why a groundhog might lash out is a rabies infestation. Infected groundhogs can be dangerous, going out of their way to bite you or provoke you.
A bite is not the biggest threat of a rabies-infected groundhog. They can transmit diseases through bite and touch. It is advised you wear thick clothing and gloves when you’re trying to get rid of groundhogs.
Why are groundhogs called whistle-pig?
If you’ve read up on the groundhog, you might have discovered that the rodent goes by various names. One of its more peculiar ones, whistle pig, is inspired by the sound it makes when it’s discovered.
It lets out a high-pitched scream that serves as a warning to other groundhogs in the area. Because the sound is similar to the whistle, it got the interesting name whistle pig.
Woodchuck, the other popular name the groundhog goes by, has nothing to do with wood. The name’s origin is “Wuchak,” which is what the Algonquin people called groundhogs.
How do you get rid of Groundhogs with ammonia?
You can mix it with the dirt, spray it into their burrow, or soak a rag in it and dump it near their home.
How do I make sure the smoke from a gas canister is not wasting?
You find all the holes that their burrows or tunnels have in your yard and around your house and block them before you start fumigating.
Is there a chance to trap the parent groundhog and leave the children behind?
It is possible, but it’s doubtful, especially if you trap them in springs. If the groundhog pups are still young, they’re likely to die out before they learn to fend for themselves. However, if they’re a little older, they might learn to fend for themselves.
Can you also use pepper flakes instead of ground pepper and water?
Yes, you can. Both can be just as effective for removing groundhogs.
How to get rid of groundhogs if you can’t afford traps?
Refer to many of the home repellents we covered. Talcum powder, pepper, urine, and other substances effectively remove a groundhog from your yard.
When to call a professional?
When the solutions, repellents, and preventive solutions stop working. Groundhogs can be relentless. Though they’re cowards, they won’t easily abandon a sure source of food, shelter, and safety. They might return several times over.
If you’ve tried everything or are reluctant to confront them, you can hire a professional to get rid of them for you.