Groundhogs, those pesky yard-annihilators and enemies of gardens everywhere. If you are having troubles with groundhogs, fear not. You are not alone. The age-old question remains to this day confounding novice and professional gardeners alike: how do I get rid of these pests?
The best way to get rid of groundhogs is to catch and release using traps or to deter them using various different methods. Fear is a great way to deter groundhogs.
- Having cats or dogs, natural predators to small rodents such as the groundhog, is an easy way to scare them away.
- If caring for an animal is not for you, then simply placing cat or dog fur or urine by the groundhog’s home will scare them.
- You can also use smoke, ammonia, garlic and pepper, lime, or vibration devices to make their homes uninhabitable.
If you still have questions about groundhogs or you want more details on the methods you can use to deter groundhogs, read on. We will go into further detail as this post continues.
How to Get Groundhogs Out of the Garden
Gardens can be a tricky place to keep groundhogs out of. For one, groundhogs love devouring gardens. They’re like a free all-you-can-eat buffet for rodents. Secondly, you have to be sure that the methods you use to rid yourself of these pesky creatures do not also harm your plants. What a pickle, and not those delicious ones you make from your homegrown cucumbers! So, what to do?
- Chicken wire fencing. Defense can be the best form of offense. Chicken wire fencing is a great way to keep groundhogs and other rodents out of your garden. With no harm to your plants and easy setup, chicken wire fencing can be the simple solution you are looking for.
- You can buy chicken wire fencing from any hardware store. Make sure you buy fencing at least six feet tall. Also purchase some five-foot posts.
- When setting up the fencing make sure to bury at least twelve inches of the chicken wire underground to prevent the groundhogs from tunneling under it.
- Leave a foot of chicken wire fencing free above the posts. Bend that part of the fencing away from your garden to keep groundhogs from climbing over it.
- Trapping. Catch-and-release methods are often the most effective and humane ways to rid yourself of groundhogs. Your local humane society will be able to lend you some help and might even lend you the traps to use.
- Obtain the traps from a hardware store or your local Humane Society and set them up about five to ten feet away from the entrance to the groundhog’s burrough.
- When setting up the traps, be sure to wear gloves and wash the traps with unscented soap. If groundhogs smell any human scent they will avoid the trap like the plague. Also make sure to disguise the traps with dirt, leaves, and twigs and brace the traps with logs or stones to ensure they are sturdy.
- Put bait in the traps to entice the groundhogs to it. Among groundhogs favorite treats are cantaloupe, sweet corn, string beans, strawberries, peas, lettuce, peaches, vanilla extract, or any foods they are stealing from your garden. Place the bait in the trap in such a way that the groundhog will fully enter the trap before it can reach the bait.
- For the first few days, leave the trap open so the groundhog will familiarize itself with this new foreign object and be comfortable going in and out.
- Check your traps often to prevent any trapped groundhogs or other animals from going days without food or water.
- When dealing with trapped animals, use caution as these pests are still wild animals that will protect themselves when they feel threatened. Wear thick rubber gloves to protect your hands and handle the traps with care. To help calm the animal, you can cover the trap with a cloth blanket or sheet.
- Transport the animal to a wooded area that is at least five to ten miles away from your house. To further ensure the groundhog will not make a return, find a place with plenty of shade, an easily accessible water source, and plenty of food sources available. If you are unsure of a place, talk with your local law enforcement to check on laws mandating where animals can be released and with your local conservation agency to determine the best place to release it.
- Animal deterrence. Having a cat or dog as a pet can also help keep groundhogs out of your yard. Just the presence of a larger animal is enough to make the groundhog fear for its life and relocate.
- If you do not want to bother with the care and maintenance of a pet, spreading animal fur or urine around your garden will do the trick. The smell will be enough to deter the groundhog.
- Ground vibration. Constant vibrations and bothersome movements will cause the groundhog to forsake its home in search of a more peaceful residence. I mean, who would enjoy living in an area where there are daily earthquakes?
- Devices such as a sonic vibration machine or even simple contraptions like a lawn windmill or spinning pinwheel placed right by the entrance to the groundhog’s burrow will cause enough disturbance to the pest to drive it away.
- Garlic and pepper. Great additions to any dish to enhance flavor, right? Not for groundhogs. These pests detest the smell of garlic and pepper. Simply crush up some garlic and pepper from your kitchen and toss it into the groundhog’s burrow and you’ll have this pest running away wit its nose plugged.
- Not the garnish for tequila shots. Agricultural lime spread around by the entrance to the burrow or around plants that are often eaten will burn the groundhog’s feet and prevent them from walking in those areas again.
- Using gas cartridges or even exhaust from your car, you can smoke groundhogs out of their underground homes.
- You can find gas cartridges for purchase at your local garden center or even on Amazon. Alternatively, you can connect a hose to your car’s exhaust pipe and run it into the entrance to the burrow.
- With a little observation and patience, wait until the groundhog is underground in its burrow. Find all the holes to the burrow and fill them in with dirt except one.
- Drop in the gas cartridge or the hose and fill in the last hole with dirt to trap in the gas.
- Once its burrow is rife with poisonous smoke, the groundhog will either die underground or flee for miles if it finds a way out.
- This chemical acts as a great deterrent against groundhogs.
- When handling ammonia, be sure to always wear gloves and protective eyewear to prevent accidents and injuries.
- Be sure to find all of the entrances to the animal’s home. Groundhogs almost never just stop at one hole.
- Pour ammonia down the holes with or without the groundhog inside. Either way the chemical will scare the animal away.
- This may take several days and multiple pours to completely drive the groundhog away so a little patience and perseverance is required.
- Offer alternative food sources. If lethal methods and harmful deterrents are not your cup of tea then giving the groundhog something better to eat outside of your garden may be your preferred method of dealing with this pest.
- Groundhogs like to eat leaves, soft fruits, vegetables or anything green such as peas, beans and corn. Everyday yard plants also attract these animals. Plants like clover and alfalfa are oft chosen meals for groundhogs.
- Maintain your yard. A messy, weedy lawn can be a slice of paradise for groundhogs. To take away this refuge for pests, make sure you regularly maintain your yard.
- As I mentioned above, everyday yard plants can act as attractions for groundhogs. Make sure there are none growing wild in your yard.
- An overgrown lawn is a perfect harbor for groundhogs. They look for areas just on the edge of woods with a lot of vegetation cover and shade. If your yard offers this do some mowing and trimming to make your yard less enjoyable for pests.
- Something people often overlook is their trash. Unsealed bags or trash cans or trash lying around by the curb is a great way to invite groundhogs into your yard. The smell of leftover food and other rodent goodies will most assuredly attract these animals into your yard. Make sure your trash bags or tied up properly and do not have any leaks or holes. If possible, place all trash in trash cans with properly sealed lids. Don’t give groundhogs any excuse to set up shop in your home.
How to Get Groundhogs Out From Under a Shed
If a groundhog burrows into your yard under a preexisting structure, such as a shed or a deck, this extra obstacle can make getting these pests out a bit tricky.
As the saying goes, “the best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago…” If you want to prevent a tricky situation such as a groundhog under a shed or deck your best course of action is to surround the structure with chicken wire or a steel mesh fence.
Make sure the fencing goes all the way around the shed or deck and any open spaces above ground are sealed off. Bury the fence at least a foot underground and curve the bottom of the fencing outwards to prevent any groundhogs from digging underneath it.
If a groundhog is already living under your shed or deck, be sure to leave an opening in your fencing where the animal can get out. After it escapes, seal up the opening to keep the pest from returning later on.
If you want a faster solution to your pest problem then many of the methods mentioned above can have your desired effect. Using ammonia, smoke, agricultural lime, garlic and pepper, or vibration will drive the groundhog out from its underground lair and away from your shed.
What Are Groundhogs Scared Of?
Smells. Groundhogs hate the smell of ammonia, garlic, cayenne pepper, castor oil, rotten eggs, and the urine of predators. Spray, sprinkle, or spread any of these in and around the groundhog’s burrow and the animal will run away from the smell and out of your yard.
Sounds. Simple noises from humans and other predators are enough to frighten this small animal. However, for a longer lasting effect that won’t send the groundhog back into its tunnels and instead completely out of your yard, you can buy an ultra-sonic device that emits a regular noise that will distress a groundhog into fleeing the area.
Sights. A scarecrow can scare a groundhog. But for it to be effective it must be moved around regularly and be used along with high amounts of human or dog presence. Once the groundhog associates this scarecrow with proximity to a predator, it will do anything it can to avoid the threat.
Sensations. As I mentioned before, vibrations and shaking are unpleasant happenings in a ground hog’s burrow. Simple machines such as pinwheels or lawn windmills or more technological options such as a sonic vibration machine will do enough to scare a ground hog out of its underground home.
Do Groundhogs Live Alone?
Fully grown, mature groundhogs often live with families. Their litters can have up to ten babies. But the most common family size for groundhogs is from three to six babies. After about two months, the babies are fully weaned from the mother’s care and have moved out of the mother’s burrow and into their own home.
A high point for groundhog socialization is during mating season in early spring. This period of interaction has been inspiration for movies, stories, and even a national “Groundhog Day.” To become acquainted with the land and available mating opportunities around their homes, male groundhogs will roam about for a day or two getting the lay of the land then return to their burrow for another couple weeks of hibernation.
Once the male groundhogs have searched, quarreled, and settled mating disputes by the end of spring, the groundhogs are once again living with a mate and, soon, a new litter of pups.
Are Groundhogs Dangerous?
Groundhogs, like any wild animal, can be dangerous if they feel threatened or their home or family is in danger. If a groundhog on your property seems very aggressive towards humans or pets, there may be a chance that the groundhog is rabid. However, groundhogs are naturally skittish creatures whose first instinct is to run from danger back to the safety of their burrows when confronted with danger.
If a groundhog is cornered and left with no other option, it will become aggressive and try to protect itself. When using catch and release methods, you should use caution when dealing with trapped groundhogs as they may become irate and confrontational.
The most common natural predator of the groundhog is snakes, namely the gopher snake. While babies and developing groundhogs can be easy prey for snakes, fully grown groundhogs, especially protective mothers, have been known to ferociously defend their families and dens. They even go as far as killing and eating invading snakes.
Do Groundhogs Swim?
Yes, groundhogs can swim. In fact, according to some wildlife experts, groundhogs can be excellent swimmers. News stories have shown “stranded” groundhogs during floods were, in fact, simply resting on fences or in trees before swimming off to wherever they can find rest.
In addition to be great swimmers, groundhogs can also climb fairly well. They have been known to climb up fences, trees, power poles, and anything else they can scale to find rest or refuge from predators.
Do Groundhogs Chew Wood?
Another common name for groundhogs is woodchucks. Groundhogs do, in fact, chew wood. An easy way to spot the presence of woodchucks on your property, besides seeing them, of course, is to look for chewed, scraped, or gouged trees and other wood on your property.
Groundhogs chew wood to maintain their teeth. This can be troublesome if, for example, a groundhog gets it into its mind to chew on your wooden deck or shed as well as surrounding trees. In addition to destroying yards and gardens, this annoying gnawing habit can be an eyesore to your landscaping and have a detrimental effect on your tree’s health.
A great, simple way to keep groundhogs away from your trees or wooden parts of your yard and house is to spread predator’s fur or urine around the area.
Is It Legal to Kill a Groundhog?
If you’ve had just about enough of groundhogs wreaking havoc on your garden and yard, you might want to exact the highest form of revenge. But before buying those lethal traps, ordering those poisonous gas cartridges, or loading up your .22, you might want to do some research first.
In most states in the U.S., using lethal measures against rodents such as groundhogs or skunks is legal. However, the legality of killing groundhogs varies depending on the state and, sometimes, even on the county or town. The method of killing can also affect the legality of your actions.
For example, in New York State, it is completely legal to lethally trap or poison rodents such as groundhogs. However, if you plan to use a firearm, crossbow, or bow, you will need to have a small game hunting license. Furthermore, the neighborhood, town, or city you live in may have rules or regulations against firing firearms or bows in residential areas.
In Ohio, there are regulations on the type and dimensions of trap that can be used and even when and where to release the rodent or dispose of the body.
Other states and localities have different rules and regulations on the legality of lethal measures and the details of such actions. It is advisable to research the laws in your town or get in contact with your local law enforcement to be completely sure of the restrictions you are facing.
What is the Best Groundhog Repellent?
Repelling groundhogs is probably the easiest and most humane way of ridding yourself of your pest problem. There are many different methods of repelling and, to make it even easier, all that is required of you most of the time is to spread the repellent, sit back, and enjoy a pest free yard; no observing, tracking, or recording of groundhog activity necessary.
Among the numerous repellent methods, smells seem to be the best way to drive groundhogs away. These rodents have a keen sense of smell, so anything upsetting to their noses is bound to make them get as far away as possible.
The best and most commonly used smell repellents used are castor oil, garlic and pepper, rotten eggs, predator fur or urine, and ammonia. You can even buy specialized rodent repellent spray from your local hardware store if you are so inclined.
In addition to smell, sights, sounds, and sensations can act as a great deterrent against groundhogs. Human and pet presence, scarecrows, sonic vibration devices, and ultrasonic noise emitters have been reported to drive groundhogs away. And, of course, fencing around high traffic areas works well at keeping groundhogs and other rodents out of gardens and out from under decks and sheds.
If these home remedies do not prove effective and you just have an extraordinarily stubborn groundhog, you can always call your local pest control or humane society to come and take care of the problem for you, or at least help you rid yourself of the pest problem.
Mike Zhang. Founder of FamilyLifeShare