Groundhogs (also known as woodchucks) are annoying fluffy creatures that can be an inconvenience to our yards, gardens and growing vegetation. They cause unnecessary havoc by digging out burrows, therefore, it’s understandable that you’re seeking information to learn how to trap a groundhog.
In order to successfully trap a groundhog humanely you will need a live capture cage trap, some bait and patience.
- Decide what trap you will use.
- Carefully place your trap in a suitable location.
- Disguise your trap as best as possible.
- Use bait!
- Leave your trap overnight and check back.
- Release the groundhog.
Throughout this article you will learn how to trap a groundhog along with other helpful information such as what bait you can use, correct placement of traps and tips to help you prevent groundhogs from coming back.
- How to Trap a Groundhog: A Complete Step-by-Step Guide
- Best Bait for Trapping Groundhogs
- Groundhog Trapping Tips
- Do Groundhogs Attack Humans?
- Do Groundhogs Smell Bad?
How to Trap a Groundhog: A Complete Step-by-Step Guide
Groundhog Behavior: Understanding Your Target
Before setting out traps, it helps to understand groundhog habits and behavior.
Habitat – Groundhogs are found in areas with soft, workable soil, where they dig elaborate burrow systems.
Daytime activity – Groundhogs, being diurnal, are most active in the early morning and late afternoon.
Eating habits – Groundhogs are herbivores and feed on a variety of greens, fruits, vegetables, berries, and grasses. Groundhogs have a taste for both sweet and savory foods.
Territorial – Male groundhogs are territorial, especially during breeding season. Several groundhogs may populate an area with separate burrow systems.
By understanding groundhog activity patterns, you can better determine when and where to set traps.
Selecting the Right Trapping Equipment
Trap type – For humane trapping, live cage traps are ideal for groundhogs. Choose sturdy designs made of heavy-gauge wire mesh or galvanized steel.
Trap size – For groundhogs, the trap should have at least a 32″ x 12″ x 12″ interior. This provides enough space for baiting and ensures ample room for the groundhog.
Door design – Choose traps with sensitive trigger plates to quickly spring the doors when a groundhog steps inside.
Brands – Brands like Havahart and Duke offer quality, safe, effective, and easy-to-use groundhog traps.
One-door vs two-door – Prefer two-door traps because they let you bait, set, and release groundhogs without opening the main door.
Choose a robust live trap specifically designed for medium-sized pests like groundhogs.
Baiting Your Trap
Use bait that groundhogs find appealing to lure them into traps.
Vegetables: Cucumbers, lettuce, sweet potatoes, squash, peas.
Fruits: Cantaloupe, apples, pears, berries.
Garden plants: Groundhogs relish garden greens! Try broccoli, cabbage, kale.
Peanut butter: Smear on the trigger plate or use in clusters inside the trap.
Combo: Mix apples and peanut butter, cantaloupe, and lettuce together.
Always use fresh bait, regardless of the type. To maintain appeal, replace the bait every 2-3 days.
Set traps near active burrow openings, which are the main travel routes for groundhogs.
To find areas of heavy groundhog activity, look for signs such as tracks, droppings, and dig marks.
Place traps along fences, landscaping beds, and garden edges where groundhogs frequently visit.
To cover more area, set multiple traps at least 15 feet apart.
Cover traps with branches or grass to make them blend in with their surroundings.
Observe groundhog activity and strategically place traps in those areas for effectiveness.
When to Set Traps
Set traps early morning, before 10 am, to catch groundhogs as they come out to feed.
Set traps late afternoon, from 4 pm until dusk, when groundhogs return to their burrows.
Don’t set traps during mid-day when groundhogs are less active.
Set traps overnight only in cooler weather of spring and fall, and avoid winter trapping.
Understand that male groundhogs disperse in spring, while females with young are active in early summer.
Change trapping times according to the weather, season, and observed groundhog activity.
Baiting and Setting the Trap
To set traps properly, follow these steps:
- Bait trap with suggested foods above and wait 15 minutes for the scent to disperse.
- Carefully place the baited trap on the ground and open the rear door using a long stick.
- Prop open the front door with a stick or zip tie.
- Sprinkle bait leading up to the opening of the trap.
- When ready to activate, remove the front door prop slowly using string.
- Leave set traps alone and check in 2-3 hours.
Avoid touching traps after baiting, as human scent can repel groundhogs.
After Catching a Groundhog
Cover the trap with a thick towel or blanket before approaching to calm the trapped groundhog.
Use protective leather gloves to safely carry the covered trap.
Drive the trapped groundhog at least 5 miles away and release it in a suitable undeveloped area.
Set the rear of the covered trap on the ground. Pull open the door with a string, then stand back and wait for the groundhog to exit.
Do not open the trap door if the groundhog is facing you, as this ensures safety for both you and the animal.
Thoroughly disinfect the trap before reusing it.
Carefully follow release procedures for your and the groundhog’s safety.
Keep Trapping Until No More Captures
Completely removing groundhogs from your land requires persistent trapping.
Keep traps set in productive areas until no more captures occur.
Vary bait frequently – Change the bait often to avoid making groundhogs wary of the trap.
Sprinkle bait trails leading to the traps to lure groundhogs inside.
Fill old burrows and apply repellents near dens to prevent groundhogs from returning.
Best Bait for Trapping Groundhogs
Groundhogs relish fresh greens and will readily enter traps baited with:
- Lettuce – Romaine, green leaf, and butterhead work well. Iceberg lettuce has little scent.
- Cucumbers – Provides crunch and moisture. Slice lengthwise.
- Sweet Potatoes – Boil briefly to intensify the sweet taste.
- Squash – Zucchini, yellow squash, pumpkin, or acorn varieties.
- Peas – Sugar snap and snow peas are especially enticing.
Check traps daily and replenish fresh veggies as needed.
Berries and fleshy fruits make tantalizing trap bait:
- Cantaloupe – Scent arouses curiosity. Use 1/2 melon; replace daily.
- Apples – Slices or chopped apple pieces work. Avoid mealy apples.
- Pears – Similar to apples. Bartlett pears are soft and fragrant.
- Berries – Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries. Mash slightly.
Fruit baits should be changed out every 24 hours to prevent spoilage and maintain freshness.
Groundhogs find typical garden vegetables hard to resist:
- Broccoli and cabbage – Offer florets and shredded leaves.
- Kale and chard – Remove ribs and tear greens into bite-sized bits.
- Carrots – Shredded carrots with tops attached are doubly tempting.
Use garden plant baits within 12 hours of preparing for optimal freshness.
Groundhogs have a sweet tooth and peanut butter is a favorite bait:
- Creamy style – Easier to smear on trigger plates.
- Crunchy style – Large peanut pieces may appeal more.
- Peanut butter clusters – Form quarter-sized clusters and place them behind the trigger plate.
Check traps frequently as ants may be attracted to peanut butter.
Mixing up bait options encourages groundhogs to explore the traps:
- Cantaloupe with lettuce or cucumber
- Peas and shredded carrots
- Apple slices with peanut butter
- Pear chunks mixed with cabbage
Varying textures and flavors keep bait interesting. Refill combos daily.
Certain baits are not recommended:
- Meat or protein – Will spoil and attract other animals
- Cheese – Can become gooey and rotten
- Stale produce – Not aromatic enough
- Seeds – Easily taken without springing trap
Rely on fresh greens, fruits, veggies, and peanut butter for the best groundhog-trapping success!
Groundhog Trapping Tips
Disguise your trap as best as possible. Groundhogs are cautious animals at times so they may be hesitant to enter your trap. To avoid this hesitation, use the environment around you to make the trap appear more camouflaged. Some people have used leaves, twigs, branches, or anything of that nature to cover their trap during placement. The main goal here is to make your wire cage look less visible and more natural.
Before positioning your live cage trap, you may want to consider washing the cage with soap to conceal the smell of human scent.
Place something heavy in weight such as a brick or large rock to stop any rattling noises coming from the live capture cage trap due to wind or poking from the groundhog.
Do Groundhogs Attack Humans?
Some people believe that groundhogs are dangerous to humans or they’ll attack us. Although groundhogs most definitely are known for their aggressive nature at times.. I believe they post no real threat towards us.
Just like many animals (and sometimes humans), when you feel threatened or fear your life is in danger you go into “fight or flight” mode. Take this example to summarise a groundhogs behaviour. They’d much rather prefer to run away and hide if ever approached however when a groundhog is feeling threatened, scared or are trying to escape your path they go into “fight or flight” mode which is why they have this stigma around them for their aggressive behaviour.
In general, I don’t believe groundhogs will ever attack a human sporadically, however, I do know they will bite/scratch you if they feel anxious, on edge, afraid of you, trying to run away from you or all of the above! If you’re ever within a close proximity to a growing or aggressive groundhog, remove yourself immediately from their path and allow them a route to run away. Being bitten or scratched by a groundhog can inflict painful scars therefore that’s why it’s important to be cautious at all times.
Remember to also take caution when in the presence of groundhogs as they are known for carrying and spreading diseases which can possibly be contracted to you if you’re bitten or scratched.
Do Groundhogs Smell Bad?
In general I would say groundhogs do not smell bad (comparing to squirrels or skunks) however, groundhogs definitely smell bad if deceased and left to decay. If you’ve ever smelt a decaying animal then you’ll understand what I’m talking about and if you haven’t then take it for granted!
The odor that wrenches from a deceased groundhog can be lethal especially if the body has been left in one area for multiple days. It’s super important to remove any dead groundhogs humanely to avoid the stink!
Similar to squirrels or skunks, it has also been noted that a groundhog can give out a malodorous odor when they feel threatened or scared. If you begin to smell this odor when you are in the presence of a groundhog, this should be an indication for you to remove yourself from their path immediately.
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Mike is the Founder of Familylifeshare. Mike is well-knowledged in marriage, parenting, dogs, blogging and committed to sharing his knowledge and expertise with his readers. Know more about Mike from here.