Groundhogs

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

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Woodchucks or groundhogs can greatly damage a garden.

Crestock

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!

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Identification

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.

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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.

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Reader Comments

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Hi, Brandon: Well, this is

The Editors's picture

Hi, Brandon: Well, this is certainly a narrow topic. NOT. Please see the response to DebB below for some ideas. 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 to be there. We have a similar crawl space. Have you thought about blocking off the crawl space from the basement except for one opening, putting a live trap in the opening, luring it into the crawlspace with corn, and then blocking the outside hole? Otherwise, try lots of things at once: Put nasty stuff in the hole and seal it. Seal off under the deck and around it put sticks that you've smeared with mentholated petroleum jelly. Sprinkle bleach around. Sometimes you can snake black plastic drainage hose through the crawl space to the nest or home 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 not about preventing the woodchuck from getting into your basement, which you cannot do. It is about getting it to not want to be there in the first place. Good luck!

Thank you for your advice! I

Thank you for your advice! I did end up catching it in my live trap yesterday, only to find today 4 baby woodchucks crawling around my deck. Any suggestions on how to get them all at once?

Hi, Brandon: No need to get

The Editors's picture

Hi, Brandon: No need to get them all at once. Put some lettuce pieces, some carrot baby food, and a low bowl of water in your live trap. Make note of when you see the kits and put it out for an hour at that time. Observe if you can, so that you don't get a skunk or possum. It's probably too late for another tactic, which is to use the mom as "bait," although this isn't very humane. You would put the mom in one cage/trap in as comfortable a place/way as possible, then put another live trap with water next to it. The kits will come to the mom, which will make them thirsty, and then perhaps get lured by the water. But depending on how old the kits are, this may be a moot point anyway, if you know what we mean. But thanks for at least trying to do this in a humane way!

Lets face it there is no way

Lets face it there is no way to effectively get rid of ground hogs, at least not in Western PA. I grow vegetables for a living and lose about $10,000 a year to them. I have killed them in every way you can imagine with no effect on their population. Once you remove one from a hole, another moves in. I have trapped groundhogs from the same hole for 20 years. There must be a way to keep new groundhogs from re-occupying holes where others have been eliminated.
Are there any chemists out there that can figure this out??

Woodchuck relief

A friend of mine who takes care of pools in our area suggested putting a chlorine tablet (used in continuous pool chlorinators) in the opening to the burrow. The chlorine gas that is released continuously is heavier than air and will descend into the burrow. It sounds like a great idea, I know it would drive me out, and I will be trying it to remedy our woodchuck problem.

clorin

If you want to use chlorine, get netting like it is used for onions, fill it with the bigger chlorine tablets, stick it into the hole as far in as you can, douse it with ammonia and it will turn into chlorine gas (extreme poisonous) it is heavier than air and will go down into the burrow killing everything in its way.

We have a Ground hog who has

We have a Ground hog who has built a nest on the edge of our garage in the garden. The garage has a cement floor. I assume it has tunnelled underneath. We have not found an exit other than the one hole but have seen it "grazing" over at the neighbours on either side of us. I don't really want to kill it and would even be willing to just leave it be except that I am worried it might undermine my garage. Talk about dogs, I have two small ones, a Shihpoo and a Maltshi. They are interested, but don't have much affect on the ground hog although they get lots of fun out of barking in its direction. My question narrows down to the effect on the garage.

It is possible in certain

The Editors's picture

It is possible in certain cases for a groundhog tunnel to undermine a foundation and/or cause cracks. You might want to try repelling the groundhog, to encourage it to find a home elsewhere. You can try sprinkling dried fox or coyote urine (available at garden centers or online) around the hole. Or, try motion-detector sprinklers (also available at garden centers or online) or pinwheels around the entrance. You can also try filling the hole with dirt; each time the animal may reopen it (or one nearby), but might eventually give up and move on. Usually there is at least one other entrance or exit hole, so try to find that one too (tunnels can extend 25 to 40 feet). As a last resort, you can hire an animal pest control expert to live trap it and remove it from your home. (Laws vary in cities and states as to doing this on your own; always use caution when dealing with a wild animal.)

getting rid of ground hogs

i put three gallons of red pepper and hot water around my shed. wail doing so i got one wet with it and it ran away. I've been shooting at them for my great gram-pa. i hit one in the leg,one in the eye ,and one in the head. he won't give up. any idea's.

Buy some Duke Conibear 220's.

Buy some Duke Conibear 220's. On youtube, learn how to set them with a piece of rope or strong string.

U say fence,dogs,urine

U say fence,dogs,urine ect.Then y my dog have huge holes in her 30x30 dog pen and she just killed one in her pen?????.Now what can i do?ty

What can I use to repel

What can I use to repel ground hogs that is safe for chickens to get into. We eat our hen eggs so I don't want us or the chickens to get sick. Our persistent groundhog found the new location of squash (all types). We do have a 4 foot fence but alas it is not buried.

A mesh fence buried a foot

The Editors's picture

A mesh fence buried a foot deep really is the best solution, but there are other options. Readers have told us that they've had luck with electric fencing. Have you tried the solutions above? Many of them are safe for chickens. Try planting a line of garlic near the entrance. Also, try spreading Grapefruit-sized clumps of dog and/or cat hair throughout planted areas. A dog or two would also help the situation. Best of luck!

I just want to make note that

I just want to make note that a few people have suggested getting a dog to keep the groundhogs at bay (or maybe kill)..although this seems ideal I have a pitbull who did go after and initially kill the groundhog but not before he got bit himself...needless to say a trip to the vet and alot of $ later I would tell you not to let your dog(s) go after them. now everyday I scan the yard before letting him out.

Ground Hog's

As for fence buried a foot does not work! And what a mess the Ground Hogs make after all the digging. Also planting things they don't like does not work. Spreading other animal's urine, don't work. Trapping works. I like the post about filling their holes with cement. I wonder if it would work?

Concrete in ground hog holes dod not help me

I have 3 separate holes I trapped groundhogs out of last summer. By mid September they were no longer reopening the holes so I figured I had killed all the local ones that knew about these holes. I put about a bag and a half of concrete mix in each hole and thought I was done. By mid May of this year all three of the holes were reopened. They just dug around the plug. So far I have trapped 5 more from those holes. The holes by some house foundations and they are traveling across 50 to 100 yards of mowed lawn to get to them. How do they know they are there?

wire to prevent groundhogs

I have been successful deterring groundhogs after trapping them. I put hardware cloth around the base of the shed, make an L shape with a foot or 18 inches bending out from the shed about 4 inches down and the upright part of the hardware cloth- about 1 foot hight up against the shed/ porch. Once I got them removed it seems to have worked well. Now to just figure out how to kill/ deter those under the big shed!

I see multiple groundhogs in my garden. How to remove them?

Can you please post the pictures of what you did? Is there any toxic substance that will kill them?

Regards,
Geetanjali

It is my personal experience

It is my personal experience that there are only 3 things you can do with ground hogs;

#1) you live with them

#2) you shoot them for food-ONLY for food(good eating too!! there is a "how to" in farmer's Almanac)

#3) fence them off.
============================
Fencing them off does not have to be expensive. In the farmer's almanac it says to put the fencing 10'' - 12'' in the ground...I say that is not enough...18" to 24" would be best, and if you are going to put fencing in the ground, it had better be a very strong type of fencing(IE:chain link is best).
Check around at fencing dealers & see if they have any chain link fencing they want to unload. Some times you can get this for free or super cheap.

My personal favorite way to deal with Ground Hogs is to have them for dinner. This keeps the Ground Hog population down, feeds the family & is good for the farm as a whole.

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