Eight Ways to Get Rid of Groundhogs
What Is a Woodchuck or Groundhog?
The groundhog shown in the movie Groundhog Day looks like a cute little creature, but, in reality, there's nothing cute about these animals. A groundhog—otherwise known as a woodchuck, land beaver, or whistle pig—is a rodent. They will mercilessly eat the plants in your garden until there's nothing left and will make holes all over your yard.
Woodchucks don't eat wood at all. The saying, "How much wood would a woodchuck chuck, if a woodchuck could chuck wood," is just that: a saying and nothing more. Their main food sources are vegetation, grass, nuts, and small insects like grubs. They will also occasionally eat smaller animals.
These animals usually weight from four to nine pounds, but in ideal conditions, they can weigh as much as 31 pounds. On average, they live about six years, but have been known to live in zoos for as long as 14 years.
Groundhogs make underground tunnel systems that feature holes as entrances and exits in the ground. These provide safety for the groundhogs when a predator is in their midst, but are unsightly, wreaking havoc on lawns.
A member of the marmot family and the relative of ground squirrels, the groundhog is a lowland creature that hibernates during the winter months. A separate hole is usually dug just for this purpose. New tunnels are dug when the animal awakens in the spring.
Groundhogs can usually be seen standing on their hind legs in an alert position, guarding themselves and other groundhogs. The reason some people call them whistle pigs is because they'll let out a shrill whistle to warn other groundhogs of danger.
Sometimes, instead of hiding, groundhogs will go on the offensive. Stay away from groundhogs. They are aggressive animals with sharp claws. To them, everyone is a predator, which is yet another reason to oust them from your property.
Eight Ways to Get Rid of (or Control) Groundhogs
- Shoot and eat. They are said to taste great. The best method is to braise the groundhog like you would a rabbit. Since I'm not into guns, I don't use this method. (Note: Be sure to remove the scent glands from under the armpits. If you don't, they can ruin the meat. It looks like a yellow kernel of fat.)
- Use a box trap. Once you've caught the groundhog, take it miles away and let it loose. In some states this is illegal, so be sure to check your state's laws if you plan to use this method. If the state allows is, this might be a great way to get even with an enemy. The Hatfields and McCoys would approve.
- Smoke them out. Some people run a hose from their car's exhaust and release the fumes into the groundhog's hole. Be sure to block all of the other holes if you use this method. This will kill the groundhog or make him run for miles if it finds a way out.
- Use ammonia. If you pour ammonia down a groundhog's hole, it will stop using it. Make sure you find all of the holes, because there are almost always several. The best outcome you can hope for with this method is that the groundhog will make new holes elsewhere. (Note: This method worked well for my mother. She had groundhogs digging under the foundation of her barn. The ammonia worked like a charm.)
- Use lime. If you spread some agricultural lime near the hole's entrance, it will burn the animal's feet and it will go someplace else. You can spread lime around plants you'd like to prevent from being eaten, too.
- Create vibrations in the ground. These animals don't like vibrations. Use lawn windmills or a vibrating sonic device to scare the groundhogs away.
- Use chicken wire. If your main concern is protecting your plants, you can stop prevent the creation of underground tunnels by burying chicken wire at least 18" below the perimeter of your garden.
- Use animal repellant. Purchase some animal repellent at the store. I found it for around eight or nine dollars last year at Walmart.
My Preferred Method for Getting Rid of Groundhogs
I haven't seen a groundhog after using the ammonia technique. It's possible that they made new tunnels in the woods behind us or have run to the neighbors yard, but I'll have to give an update at the end of the summer.
Still, no new groundhogs have appeared thus far.