Groundhogs (also known as woodchucks) can make a big mess of your lawn with their burrows. To catch a groundhog, you need to find the best baits and live traps – and, possibly, the services of a wildlife removal expert.
Best food for a groundhog trap
The key to successfully trapping groundhogs is to find a bait they can’t resist. Groundhogs eat a varied diet, but what is a groundhog’s favorite food?
Groundhogs diet habits
Groundhogs are primarily herbivores, and they eat lots of different types of plants (including those in your backyard). However, groundhogs will also sometimes dine on other small creatures like insects, snails, and even baby birds!
Groundhogs typically eat fresh vegetables, grasses, clover, alfalfa, and dandelions. However, they are also fond of fruit and other sweet foods and enjoy berries, carrots, and apples.
Some of the best groundhog baits include:
- Sweet corn
- String beans
Signs of groundhogs
Before you start your groundhog removal project, you need to establish that you do, indeed, have a groundhog problem. There are other wild animals that can burrow under your garden and raid your vegetable patch. So, before you start blaming the groundhogs, you will need to inspect your backyard for the following signs:
Burrow holes in your lawn
A groundhog is a burrowing animal, so holes in your lawn can be a sign of groundhogs. However, groundhogs aren’t the only nuisance animals that can gid up your property. Ground squirrels, moles, gophers, and other rodents can also tunnel under your backyard. However, groundhogs (AKA woodchucks) are quite a bit larger than other burrowing critters, so their tunnels are also more extensive and easier to spot.
A woodchuck tunnel will:
- Have a medium-sized hole (around 10 – 12 inches in diameter)
- Be marked by a crescent-shaped mound of nearby dirt
- Have groundhog tracks nearby
Large teeth marks on plants
Groundhogs eat a varied (and mainly herbivorous) diet, so if you have a groundhog problem, you can expect to see some damage to your plants. Look for wide, rodent-like teeth marks on vegetables, tree bark, and other plants. Groundhog teeth are bigger than smaller rodents (like squirrels, chipmunks, or rats), so their bite marks will be comparatively large.
Piles of dirt next to burrow entrances
Groundhogs leave a raised mound of dirt right outside the entrance to their burrow. This is possibly the most distinguishing feature of a groundhog burrow and sets it apart from the tunnels of other animals.
Woodchucks spend a lot of time in the dirt and often leave tracks behind them. Groundhogs have powerful, clawed paws to scoop dirt from their tunnels as burrowing animals. If you have groundhogs in your garden, you may see these clawed tracks in the dirt around your garden. Groundhogs have four claws in each forepaw and five in each back paw.
If you don’t have time to check for groundhogs, the best thing is to call a wildlife removal expert. Any wildlife removal service in your area will be able to expertly assess your pest control issue and tell you definitively if your visitors are groundhogs or other animals.
6 Groundhog baiting tips
Whether you use lethal or humane methods to catch woodchucks, there are certain baits that can make your traps irresistible to groundhogs. Therefore, trap placement is also essential to selecting the right trap for groundhog removal. For a quick fix, call your local wildlife removal service for help!
1. Use the best bait
Groundhogs are primarily herbivorous critters, and they love fresh fruits (like cantaloupe melon, strawberries, apples, and peaches). These are often the best groundhog baits if you have fruity treats on hand. Certain sweet vegetables (like sweet corn, carrots, and peas) make excellent woodchuck lure and can be highly effective groundhog baits. High-protein, fatty treats (like sunflower seeds and peanut butter) can also do the trick. Whatever bait you choose, make sure it is something that will appeal to groundhogs!
2. Place your traps thoughtfully
If you place your bait near their burrows, your chances of trapping groundhogs are much higher. Groundhog burrows are easy to spot because they are larger in diameter compared to other rodent tunnels and will have a crescent-shaped pile of dirt beside them. Other signs of groundhog activity include long claw marks in dirt and large, rodent-like teeth marks in vegetables and other plants. If you can identify areas of high groundhog activity on your land, you will know where to play your groundhog traps for best results.
If you can’t find any groundhog hotspots, use multiple traps. This can help you pinpoint the main groundhog burrows while keeping track of your pest control efforts.
3. Help! I’ve trapped a groundhog – what now?
If you are using a live trap and the best groundhog baits, you will need to deal with a live groundhog at some point. So, what should you do once you’ve caught a groundhog in your trap?
4. Put on heavy gloves
A successful live trap is a great news – but it does mean that you have to get up close and personal with your captor (unless you call pest control). If you decide to do it yourself, make sure you wear gloves. Any live animal has the potential to cause injury, and woodchucks have big teeth – so always protect your hands before approaching or handling a groundhog trap.
5. Cover the trap
A captured groundhog is likely to be scared and distressed. Throw a sheet, blanket, or anything else to cover the cage. This will help keep the woodchuck calm as you relocate it and reduce its risk of injury.
6. Relocate the groundhog
If you use a humane baited trap (rather than poison bait), you will have to relocate your captured groundhog. The critter will probably be distressed by its confinement and the human scents around it, so keep your gloves on and the cage covered – this will help keep the woodchuck calm. Drive your groundhog at least 10 miles from your home before you release it, or it will head straight back to its burrow in your backyard.
Call pest control
Sourcing groundhog bait, setting traps, and relocating groundhogs can be time-consuming. However, if you don’t feel like DIY pest control, you can always call a wildlife expert to take care of your situation. They will know the best bait and have a highly refined trapping process for quick and effective results.
Alternative methods for groundhog control
Plant some lavender
Woodchucks are thought to hate the smell of lavender, so adding some to your garden may help to repel them.
Scatter human hair clippings
Human scent is repulsive to groundhogs – but don’t worry, ‘marking your territory’ needn’t involve pee-ing in your yard. Instead, scatter human hair clippings over your lawn and soil to deter groundhogs. The smell of nearby humans may be enough to stop them from burrowing in your backyard.
Poison baits can be quick and effective pest control products but are rarely recommended for backyard use. This is because toxic rodenticides are rarely species-specific and will probably kill other animals (e.g., squirrels, chipmunks, etc.) in and around your backyard. In addition, a loss of biodiversity can negatively affect your garden and the surrounding areas, so it’s usually best to use non-lethal groundhog baits.
Frequently asked questions
Do groundhogs like apples?
Groundhogs love fruit, and apples are excellent groundhog bait. They also love cantaloupe melon, sweet corn, and strawberries.
Do groundhogs like peanut butter?
Peanut butter is high in fat and protein, and many rodents will be attracted to PB-baited traps.
Groundhogs can dig up your lawn and destroy your veggie patch. Fortunately, these large rodents are easy to identify, trap and relocate. However, they need to be rehomed at least 10 miles away from your property to stop them from coming back.
The most effective way to deal with groundhogs is to call your local wildlife expert or pest control service, as they can trap and remove critters humanely and effectively.