I am an avid self-taught gardener (I learn as problems arise), bird watcher, and nature lover.
Groundhogs Can Be Nuisances
When someone mentions groundhog, they usually think of Punxsutawney Phil, the cuddly groundhog that gives us a sign of spring. Anyway, if this cuddly, 12-pound rodent is digging up your lawn and destroying your garden, you are not thinking “cuddly.” You’re thinking, “How do I get rid of this thing?” Yes, I say this in the kindest of terms and with a great deal of sarcasm as well. I will give you some facts about this rodent and then some tips on getting rid of this overgrown ground squirrel.
The groundhog has a compact, stout body, with short legs and a short, bristly tail. With curved claws and long forefeet, they are very proficient diggers. They are about 20–27 inches long and weigh between 5 to 12 pounds. Here are some other interesting facts about this gnawing animal.
- This rodent belongs to the family known as marmots, which are in the family of large ground squirrels.
- They are also referred to as land-beavers, woodchucks, or whistle-pigs.
- They are versatile in their physical capabilities. They can climb trees and are strong swimmers.
- They prefer to live underground.
- They feed in the early morning and evening.
- They eat vegetables like soybeans, beans, peas, lettuce, cabbage, zucchini, carrots and their tops and grasses.
Needless to say, if you have a vegetable garden, the woodchuck has a major smorgasbord at its disposal. And you, the gardener or farmer, have a major problem.
If you are lucky, you may only have to utilize some preventive measures to control the animal. However, if you are not lucky and damage is severe, getting rid of the groundhog may be the only solution.
Options for Getting Rid of a Groundhog
There are different options you can use to get rid of a groundhog. If you have a resident land-beaver, the best time to get rid of it would be late February or early March when they are just awakening from hibernation. Why? This will allow you to get a clear view of their 6 to 10-inch burrow opening without the vegetation concealing the entrance. Once you found the opening, you can use some of the following options to get rid of this large rodent.
- Use live traps. Live traps should be 10 X 10 X 24 inches and placed in the burrow's entrance or at the site of damage. Place apples, cantaloupe, fresh peas, lettuce, cabbage and carrots with tops as bait to entice it to enter the trap. (If the above food does not work, try sheep mineral granules and bananas—this is what worked for us). You may think this sounds simple, but from experience, it can be difficult if food is abundant. Once the animal is caught in the live trap, it is recommended that you transport it at least 10 miles away from its normal habitat.
- Use smoke bombs. If the animal is not living directly next to your home, you can use smoke "bombs" containing sulfur dioxide or carbon monoxide. Place the bomb into the burrow opening, and then cover the opening with dirt and rocks. The bomb will emit sulfur dioxide or carbon monoxide smoke for a few minutes, killing the woodchuck inside.
- Shoot it. Each state has different laws regulating the shooting of a groundhog. In some states, if the critter is causing damage to your property, you can shoot it. However, in other states, you may be required to get a hunting license before shooting it. (It is considered a game animal.)
Options for Controlling Groundhog Damage
In most cases, the first choice of any homeowner is to get rid of a groundhog. However, once you have gotten rid of the pest, it is wise to try and protect yourself from any further groundhog damage. Here are some different options you can try to control a groundhog:
- Try predator odor repellents. At the base of trees, you can spray bobcat, fox, or coyote urine. The repellents will deter the rodent from gnawing on the base of the tree.
- Use mesh fencing with electric wire around your garden. If you use mesh fencing around your garden, you will need to bury the lower edge of the fence 12 inches in the ground with the lower 6 inches bent at an L-shaped angle leading outward. The fence should be at least 3 feet high. Above the fence, you can place an electric wire. When the electric wire is attached to the charge, it will prevent the groundhog from climbing or burrowing to get at your vegetables. Not only does it keep a woodchuck out of your garden, but also it can keep rabbits, dogs, cats, and other animals out of the garden area. However, if you do install an electrical wire, be sure to clear any vegetation that may start forming on the fence. This can cause the electrical system to short out.
- Use strong-smelling flowers such as daffodils and marigolds around your garden. The strong smell from the flowers can disguise the scent of the vegetables.
- You can plant onions, garlic, and turnips on the outer edges of your garden. Again, the strong smell will disguise the scent of the vegetables.
- Use a scarecrow, motion-activated water sprinkling device. Since the animal is usually shy, this motion-activated sprinkling device may scare him enough that he will not enter your garden.
- Edge your garden with low shrubbery, like barberry. The woodchuck finds the barberry roots to be distasteful and the thorny bush difficult to get over.
What Worked for Us
When we first encountered our own land-beaver problem, we were not sure what type of animal was eating from our garden and stripping the bases of our trees. However, the latter question was answered one morning when my husband stood face to face with a hissing groundhog outside our shed. My husband, ill prepared to do battle with the groundhog, backed away and came back at a time when the groundhog was out searching for food.
We found his burrow entrance nestled on the backside of the shed, shielded by tall grass and brush. Like I said, getting rid of this strong-willed rodent is not easy. In fact, it took several tries to get rid of it.
With the first attempt, we tried to entice it to enter the trap with apples and vegetables. It didn’t touch a thing. Then the ah-ha moment came: why would this beast gobble down the apples and vegetables in the trap when it had apple trees and a healthy vegetable garden to rummage through at its leisure?
In the second attempt, we set a trap using sheep mineral granules and bananas as bait. (I know it is a strange combination, but it was suggested by a friend of ours who happens to be a farmer and was having trouble with land-beavers on his own property.) Well, it worked. We caught the very unpleasant animal and sent it packing 10 miles away.
To conclude, to get rid of a groundhog problem, you have to be creative and open to trying different strategies. In fact, you may find that you will have to employ both strategies, getting rid of, as well as, using methods to control these destructive pests.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
Question: Where do I find smoke bombs?
Answer: Look at Amazon. They have some reasonably priced smoke bombs. You can either search groundhog smoke bombs, or you can look for "The Giant Destroyer," which they sell online.
Question: Will human urine deter groundhogs?
Answer: Yes. Put it as the entrance of the groundhog's burrow every several days. It should repel the groundhog.
Question: Will flea bombs get rid of groundhogs?
Answer: I doubt it. However, the urine or hair of a dog or cat may deter a groundhog. As will fox urine. They are all predators so they may decide to go somewhere else. When I had a groundhog digging on the corner of my porch I did two things. Put dog hair (human hair works as well) in the hole and then blocked the hole using a log to block off the entrance. It worked. I later removed the log and filled the hole.