How to Get Rid of Groundhogs (a.k.a. Woodchucks)


Woodchucks or groundhogs can greatly damage a garden.


Do you have trouble with these burrowing pests? Here are tips for identifying and getting rid of groundhogs in your yard and garden.

What Are Groundhogs?

If every day is Groundhog Day in your garden, you’ll probably agree with those who call that gluttonous rodent their least favorite backyard creature. Even skunks get more respect. Speaking of Groundhog Day, find out the origins of that funny holiday and some folklore surrounding groundhogs and weather.

The problem is that groundhogs—also known as woodchucks or whistle-pigs—are binge eaters who can wipe out your vegetable garden in a matter of minutes. They climb, they burrow, they swim, and they eat—an adult consumes about a pound to a pound-and-a-half of vegetation daily. Between spring and fall, they double their body weight.

Do Groundhogs Hibernate?

Yes, they do! Soon after they emerge from a winter’s hibernation, they mate, giving birth in mid-spring—at a time when the picking are at their slimmest. Neat rows of seedlings must look like manna from heaven to hungry groundhogs, who sometimes perch on garden fence posts as if they are looking over the salad bar.

When hibernating, groundhogs—who are never speedy—really slow down, drawing a breath only about once every five minutes. Hibernation is curious behavior: Barely breathing, these mammals cool off to just a few degrees above the ambient temperature, sometimes as low as 39º to 40ºF. Their metabolic rate drops, and they sleep profoundly in their winter dens, neither eating nor drinking for four-and-a-half to five-and-a-half months, drawing all their nourishment from the body fat they accumulated during the summer. No wonder they eat so much!



How to Identify Groundhogs

Members of the squirrel family, groundhogs are squarish, stocky animals that typically weigh between 4 and 14 pounds. The have short, strong legs; coarse, grizzled, gray-brown fur; small ears; a short, bushy tail; and curved claws. Groundhogs look a bit like runaway fur coats as they waddle back to their burrows. This critter can grow to be about 3 feet long. They have large, competent, chisel-like teeth that make them efficient, but not quite endearing.

Wondering where groundhogs live? See any deep tunnels in your yard, under your deck, or near your foundation? You may have a groundhog; they dig burrows to live in and the entrances are usually 10 to 12 inches wide with the excavated soil spread around the entrances. There are usually 2 or 3 entrances.

Groundhog Damage

What do groundhogs eat? Everything from flowers to vegetables. Favorite foods include alfalfa, clover, peas, beans, lettuce, broccoli, plantain, and soybeans. Groundhogs will often devour your seedlings before they even have time to grow. Rabbits and deer eat some of the same plants, so make sure to check for burrows before concluding that you have groundhogs. If you don’t have vegetables around, groundhogs will settle for twigs, bark, bugs, and blossoms.

Groundhogs eat mostly during the early morning and afternoon, so try to see when your garden is receiving the most damage. These creatures will also gnaw and claw at fruit trees, so check your trees for any such marks.


Control and Prevention

How to Get Rid of Groundhogs

These critters may have been attracted by your garden full of tasty plants. Encourage them to go elsewhere. 

  • Sprinkle blood meal, ground black pepper, dried blood, or talcum powder around the perimeter of your garden. You can try using hair clippings as well.
  • Puree and strain hot peppers and garlic, mix them with water and enough liquid soap to make it stick, and spray it liberally around the garden.
  • Put some harmless but strong-smelling substance just inside the burrow (such as urine-saturated clumps of kitty litter). Loosely seal the entrance, so the smell stays inside the burrow.
  • Would you eat lettuce tossed with bobcat urine? Neither would a woodchuck! Fox, coyote, wolf, and bobcat urines are among the forbidding predator scents now sold as groundhog repellents.
  • Eliminate woodpiles and other places where groundhogs nest.
  • Keep undergrowth and grass cover low to deter groundhogs.
  • Groundhogs are always looking for vacant burrows. Close down their tunnel systems. Bury a three-foot-square panel of welded wire, centered over the entrance hole before an abandoned burrow is rediscovered.
  • Unfortunately, humane traps and relocation may be the only solution. Place traps in front of burrow entrances or in the garden. Bait them with broccoli, apple slices, fresh lettuce, carrots, or sweet corn, and work the bottom of the trap into the earth. Check the trap often after setting it to minimize stress and injury to trapped creatures. Cover the trap with an old blanket to calm the groundhog.

How to Prevent Groundhogs from Invading Your Garden

The best woodchuck deterrent is a fence. Excluding woodchucks from the garden will also keep out deer, rabbits, raccoons, and stray pets. Since groundhogs climb and also burrow, you’ll need to build a secure enclosure using six-foot-wide woven-wire fencing. Above ground, the fence should be about four feet high, with the top 12 inches unattached to fence posts (i.e., floppy and facing away from the garden, so that when a groundhog tries to go over the top, its weight will flip it back). The two feet of fencing buried underground should form an L-shape, with 12 inches going straight down and the bottom 12 inches bent at a right angle away from the garden.

An apron of weighed-down black plastic around the garden discourages some diggers, as does an electric fence strung four to six inches off the ground about four to six inches outside the woven-wire fence.

Pay special attention to areas facing fields where woodchucks live or places where they have been digging; sometimes extra fortification in just these spots is called for. Be sure the gate is protected, too. Fencing is not inexpensive, but it’s an investment in serious gardening.


Reader Comments

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Groundhog Deterrents

So we have found that collecting our dogs feces & urine & pouring them down the holes is helpful. Also found when the canister in my vacuum is full, I will dump that down groundhog holes & dump the dog feces on top of it, it seems to help. They have destroyed the foundation around the barns at this abandoned farm we recently moved to.They also have burrowed near the foundation of the house. I ran an old hose down the hole near the house, buried the hose, covered the hole & poured the dogs urine down using a funnel. I had to do twice & now they do not try to burrow near the house. I use the feces & vacuum contents near the barns. They are still definitely around, but they are not digging the foundations up anymore & mostly stay close to the fields & the creek. So we are partially winning this!


Easy enough to catch in a live trap, but our state does not allow releasing onto others property. Most farmers don't want them. 22 works best. then a good soaking in buttermilk and some special flour and seasoning and another dip in the buttermilk and into the frying pan. Makes for a good meal.

Groundhogs are beneficial

Firstly, a family of groundhogs or woodchucks has lived adjacent to the garden for years and I've never encountered problems. Matter of fact, they have been beneficial in that their long burrows absorb rainwater and therefore keep the ground moist during the dry summer months.

Don’t relocate without permission

Be sure to read your state and local laws before trying to humanely relocate a groundhog. Where I live it is illegal to dump animals on another person’s property without permission, and illegal to release on public land also. Good luck finding someone who wants a groundhog on their property. They can ruin the foundation of your shed, home, retaining walls etc. People and pets are injured when stumbling upon their excavation work also. Unfortunately the only option may be to trap and humanely kill and dispose of the carcass. I won’t use poisons and risk harming other animals or scavengers. It’s distasteful but drugging after trapping (sleeping pills were recommended by a rehab person- that’s what they do) and then drowning or suffocating them is more responsible than just pushing your problem onto someone else’s property where they may be poisoned or trapped inhumanely.

groundhog deterrent

I have a mom and 6 babies groundhogs and a vegetable and flower garden. We live in harmony. They learn quickly. They are solitary animals so the babies will leave by the age of 3 months approximately. The babies have tried three times to make a nest in the garden. I have the perfect spot that they love, with big rocks and open spaces. One has to be vigilant at the beginning and check regularly to see if they are in the garden. Any loud noise will send them running away. As for the building of their new nest, I make sure that they are not in the hole and then I put a piece of cardboard with Vick's Vapor Rub on it in the hole and refill the exit that is in my garden with the earth. I also put lavender Epson salts around the type of flowers that they like and I keep an eye on any new attempts. They have learned that my garden is a "scary place" and they avoid it. I have the pleasure of seeing them play together, they are cute, sentient beings. All you need is compassion and determination at the beginning and they will oblige.

If you live in the Rockies or South West

If you live in the Rockies, as I do, and are reading this for any hints to get rid of ground squirrels, as I am, be aware: Every few years someone in Colorado dies of Bubonic Plague or of another rodent born disease, Hanta Virus. The Plague is spread by fleas. If you have a dead ground squirrel, chipmunk, mouse or prairie dog on your property, don't touch it. Don't let your dog or cat touch it. The fleas jump off as soon as the body temp of their host drops just a degree or two. Sorry to be a downer, but it is really dangerous although uncommon. Hanta is from the urine and feces of infected mice. That dust often becomes airborn when it dries out. Both diseases can be deadly. We have meds for plague, but you have to recognize it withing a couple of days. Most states are constantly on the lookout for any dead rodents that they can check for infection. So it's uncommon, but really something to be aware of.

Did What Needed To Be Done

I killed six of them with Duke Conibear 220 traps. They were destroying my garden. At first, I went out into the near-by woods patch to look for their holes. I found nine holes. I tried filling them in after using "smoke bombs", road flares, etc. It was ineffective.
Then, I put up two of these inexpensive-but dangerous conibears, one-per-side at the bottom of my garden fence. I didn't even have to bait it because woodchucks are lazy and you can guide them into the trap by putting 10-12"-high boards along the bottom of your fence (even grass clippings will work). They will walk around it rather than jump over, and try to walk right through your trap, which you must securely fasten on it's side on the ground.
When they started in on my beet greens, it was war. There were six of them, and I got them all. That was two years ago.

Get Rid of Groundhogs

Build a simple box house to invite Owls to nest in your yard. It should be 11 feet off the ground with an overhang or branches for protection. There are many wonderful sites that have instructions on houses for the best owls for your area. Great predator to have around for small rodents and groundhogs!

Ground hog control

I agree with you Paul. When all else fails use lead. And, it usually does fail.


Ok for all with this problem suck it up ive tryed every way u can think of to allow them to live and be moved or to move them out of my property just kill um shoot um sounds harsh but soon you will understand and like one of the comments rember they are super smart and learn very fast so dont miss and dont allow them to see another in a trap or die

Castor Oil

Saw this recipe that I am going to try this year. I have a groundhog under my shed and deck
Pour 4 ounces of castor oil and 1 tbsp. of dishwashing liquid into the bottle of your garden sprayer. Add water to fill the sprayer to the top and shake very well.

Coat your lawn with the mixture. Be sure to give it a thorough coating. For large lawns, a sectional approach may be necessary to adequately coat the lawn. Simply mix another bottle and go back to spraying.
Fill in the visible mole holes with dirt, soaking the dirt fill with the mixture.
Repeat Steps 1 to 3 after about a week, filling in any new holes. Most of your moles should be gone, but a second soaking will ensure that any remaining moles move out and don't return.
Repeat the application as needed if mole activity reappears. Spray the lawn at least once with the mixture early each spring to keep moles from moving into your yard.

Good Riddence Groundhogs!

We’ve been waging war against these critters for four years now. We, like others, thought they were adorable at first, and attempted to coexist with these large rodents—until they destroyed our gardens. Next we tried repellents and trapping. We successfully captured a large adult and relocated it using a havaheart trap, but two weeks later another one appeared in its place. (Ever see a cornered woodchuck gnash it’s teeth in defense?! I thought about sticking my very willing terrier on them, but couldn’t after that menacing visual.) The last straw was when they moved in for good and started a family under our barn foundation. After two months of baiting traps and catching squirrels/skunks, I broke down and borrowed a neighbors .22 caliper rifle. It was one of the harder things I’ve done, but they’re definitely gone and I done have to worry about poison on my homestead near my pets. This spring so far so good, none have taken up residence in the old burrow. Sayonara suckers!

re: "Good Riddence Groundhogs!

We had to use a rifle also, to kill two last year. We live out in the country and have a large garden. We also have chickens and poison is not a good idea to us. The groundhogs were eating our broccoli and other plants. None came back this year. The traps are good to catch chicken predators.


Please keep dogs away from ground hogs, especially small and medium sized dogs, and some bigger dogs that just aren't fighters. Ground hogs are vicious and quick and bit my sister-in-law's dog in the jugular vein, and almost killed it. They were able to rush the dog to their nearby vet that was open at the time, and had a clamp put on the jugular to keep the dog from bleeding out. Please don't put your dog through the pain and shock, not to mention a costly vet bill.

Getting rid of groundhogs

We had a family of groundhogs that decided to take over our back yard, uninvited!! We tried everything to get rid of them. Our first mistake, we thought they were adorable, they did not see us as a threat to them, we coexisted. But...then...they started getting in to my garden, big mistake on their part. I put up a fence, and it was floppy, they climbed over it. I sprayed an "animal blood spray" around my garden, it never phased them. I sprayed an epsom salt and water spray on the leaves of my plants. That helped a little but I had to stay consistent with it. I tried "gopher gas," which I hated doing because it is hard for me to kill an animal and it seems like such an unkind way to go. did not work either. Secretly, I was actually happy they did not die in that awful way. But still, it was war.....I was getting tired of my garden being devoured by these creatures. They were enjoying the fruits of my labor and we weren't. FINALLY!! THE SOLUTION!! We, without realizing it, found the solution to our woodchuck problems, a tenacious terrier. We picked him up from the animal shelter, knowing he had behavioral issues, but I figured he was just bored in life and needed a reason for living. Our woodchuck problem was his deliverance in life. I put him on a 25' lead, I hold on to the end and let him bark his head off down the woodchuck holes. Four woodchucks gone!! There are about four woodchuck holes that he checks out everyday, if he doesn't bark I know they are not in there. Recently, they tried coming back to establish a hibernating den. Big mistake on there part, my terrier was on them. My dog is happy, he has a job, I am happy we are enjoying the fruits of my labor. :-)

Ground Hogs

We have baby ground hog's, I have seen two. They don't set the trap off, so how to trap them? We trapped one parent, don't want to trap the other because of the babies. Need them gone, starting garden soon. They are eating grass. I would like to trap together. One baby hissed at me so I am not getting close enough to pick them up. Which would be great, then I could put in trap and feed until I get the next one. Then the parent. Please advice.

Build the Planter Higher

Can a planter box be raised high enough to keep woodchucks from climbing up?
And if so, how high is that?

keeping woodchucks out

The Editors's picture

Woodchucks happen to be very good climbers. One suggestion is to add some chicken wire across the top but keep it loose and wobbly to discourage woodchucks from climbing over it. Burpee sells a small animal barrier that you could see online as a reference.

planter box

I found that raising the planter box and putting thin sheet metal that you can find at Lowes or Home Depot on the legs will prevent them from climbing as they have no surface to hold on to and slide. A thin layer of silicon grease will be an added deterrent.

getting rid of burrows

I have a vacant groundhog burrow in my crawlspace. What's the most soil saving way to deal with it; try to cave it in and fill with what she excavated or move the excavated soil back into the hole (and how would that be done)?

filling groundhog holes

The Editors's picture

Groundhog tunnels can sometimes be extensive, with 25 feet to 40 feet of tunnels, some as much as 5 feet deep, and a few chambers. Is this crawl space directly underneath your home? If so, it might be best to have a contractor take a look at it. Concrete pumping companies can fill in deep holes in and around the foundation with a special mix (the service is found under various names, such as pressure grouting). If you do not think the hole is a problem to your home, then there are mixes that you can buy that are specifically for filling in animal burrows/tunnels. You can search online for options, or your local hardware store might know.

ground hog menace.

Yes, ground hogs can climb. Have had a ground hog problems these past 2 years and have frequently seen them climbing 6' high into small trees in search of tender shoots to eat. Would not have believed they could climb that high until I saw it repeatedly myself. Regretfully you have to be committed to do whatever is necessary to get rid of them. I know the young are cute but it is best to be direct and professional and use extreme prejudice to eliminate ground hogs. They are very intelligent and will learn quickly to stay one step ahead so it is best to be direct and decisive.

I have had a groundhog and

I have had a groundhog and babies live under my deck for over 10 years. I left them alone. But yesterday, one of them attacked my dog who thankfully only had a ripped lip and snout wounds. And that was only a baby that did that! If the mother would have met up with my dog, I believe my dog would have died. It is time to get rid of them. My deck is very large and wide and I cannot get underneath it at all. I heard moth balls work. Has anyone ever heard of that?


Catherine Boeckmann's picture

Woodchucks can get rabies. If your dog is current on vaccine shots (including rabies), perhaps just clean the wound and disinfect it, but it’s important to take any woodchuck attacks seriously as there may be rabies’ exposure and a Vet should be called.

Moth balls

I bought 6 boxes of moth balls as the groundhogs are under my house eating the wood studs and they didn't do a thing, the groundhog pulled the moth balls out side, so I put the moth balls back under the house and next day they were back outside and the black pepper didn't work for me other


My new tenant under the metal shed in our fenced yard came a day or so ago... My husky chased it back under the shed for now ,which was a new exciting change from the squirrels and birds she usually chases, so I hope that's the last we have seen of it ...

My neighbors say we have a groundhog but I haven't seen it

My neighbors say we have a groundhog living under our porch and it is always coming on our porch. I have only seen a cat. It is hard to get under the porch and I'm not sure what to do or where to look. Do they give off a bad smell or could that be the cat? Worried about any damage that may be happening under there!

We are partial to hot red

The Editors's picture

We are partial to hot red pepper flakes in abundance in such cases, but perhaps one thing you should really consider (besides a dog) is a blanket approach – trying so many things at once that it just becomes not worth it for the groundhog to be there. Try lots of things at once: Put nasty stuff under the porch and seal it. Sprinkle bleach around. Sometimes you can snake black plastic drainage hose under the porch and then use it to blow or inject balls of cotton infused with menthol or something else nasty. “Thread” the hose onto long sections of the handle to a snow rake, for example, and then withdraw the pole to leave the hose where you want it. Bear in mind that this is about getting it to not want to be under there in the first place. Good luck!

I have used lemon ammonia, I

I have used lemon ammonia, I pour into one end of a garden hose with a nozzle open at the end. once the ammonia starts coming out I close the nozzle and hook the other end to the spigot. turn on the water open the end and it will pour straight ammonia where ever they are. Worked on getting skunks out from under our mobile home. smelled better too.

I have a groundhog who's home

I have a groundhog who's home is under my deck and his hole actually goes into my cellar, I can not reach the home in the cellar for it is in a crawl space that is to small for any adult to get into. Some one told me to put moth balls in and around the hole. The moth balls didn't work as I saw him today and it looks like he doesn't even care. I'm afraid to fence him in and then he ends up living in my cellar. I've tried live taps but all I catch are coons. I'm open to suggestions.



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