Groundhogs might look very cute in the photos, but they can bring a lot of trouble. They are known for their digging skills. They like to dig their own homes and damage your garden and lawn in the process. Additionally, if you have plants and vegetables in your garden, be sure that they will eat them. One of the biggest challenges of homeowners can be keeping groundhogs away.
So, in this article, we will share how to get rid of groundhogs.
What are groundhogs?
You may know groundhogs with their other names: they are called woodchucks or whistle pigs. They are a type of rodent that is known as a marmot. Woodchucks are one of the largest members of the squirrel family.
Groundhogs look like little bears; that is why they can also be called “mouse bears.” Groundhogs are pretty muscular and have great senses of sight, smell, and hearing. Though you mainly see this animal on the ground, a groundhog can also climb trees.
In the wild, groundhogs can live up to 6 years; however, the average lifespan of this rodent is only 2-3 years. It is reported that groundhogs have lived longer lives in captivity.
According to the National Wildlife Federation, groundhogs are true hibernators. The hibernation period for them lasts for three months. Woodchuck’s temperature during this time can drop below 20 degrees Celsius or 68 degrees Fahrenheit. During the cold season, groundhogs spend their hibernation days in burrows that they build.
Where do groundhogs live?
Groundhog or a whistle pig can be found all over North America. Especially in the eastern part of the U.S. Since these marmots are quite resilient towards the cold, they can even live in Alaska. Whistle pigs do not enjoy heat necessarily, but it has been reported that they can live in Alabama as well.
As their home, groundhogs choose underground, where they build burrows. Because of sharp claws, they have impressive digging skills. Underground gives them safe space to live, reproduce, store food and hibernate.
Groundhog burrow is an amazing thing. While we cannot see most of it, it is said to be one of the fascinating constructions done by an animal. Groundhog burrows have one to four entrances, according to Wildlife Rescue League. Generally, there is one main burrow entrance and four exits. Furthermore, burrow entrances often look like holes in the ground.
The majority of groundhog burrows have the same design. However, inhabited burrows have multiple entrances, different rooms, and even bathrooms. Groundhogs are very orderly by nature, and they take care of hygiene quite well. All of these details of their character are very well shown through their homes.
Burrowing underneath serves several purposes:
- Location for hibernation
- Protection from predators
- Space for hoarding the food
- Place for breeding
Woodchucks are very skilled architects: the design of a burrow ensures that the burrows will not be flooded.
According to folklore, groundhogs can predict weather and, more specifically, the coming of spring. Therefore, Groundhog day is celebrated on the 2nd of February because it is believed that on that day, groundhogs leave their burrows and go back to sleep if they see their shadows.
In reality, Wildlife Rescue League notes that it is too early for the spring in the states in which the day is celebrated. In any case, this day reminds us of these fascinating animals and raises awareness about how to deal with them.
Types of groundhogs
As it was mentioned, woodchucks are large rodents and represent marmots. Marmots are giant ground squirrels and unite 14 different species. However, groundhog, or more specifically, Marmota Monax, is the only one of its type.
The woodchuck that you usually see is the same in the areas where it is observed to live. Therefore, if you think that you have come across more than one type of groundhog, there is a high chance that you are mistaking the woodchucks with other rodents.
How to get rid of groundhogs? 4 most effective ways to repel groundhogs from your garden
Groundhogs have been creating a lot of trouble for homeowners, especially in eastern North America, where they are more common. Because of the disturbance these animals bring, people have come up with many ways of groundhog removal. Here are the 4 most effective strategies to solve your groundhog problem:
1. Use repellents
While you cannot find any groundhog-specific commercial chemical repellents, you can still find animal repellent sprays which usually work against woodchucks as well.
- Ammonia is one of the most effective repellents for groundhogs. You can soak a cloth in ammonia and put it at the entrance hole of the burrow. Furthermore, predator urine is a huge warning sign for groundhogs, and it can be used as a repellent. You can simply use dog urine to deter a groundhog.
- Kitty litter is one of the most common repellents. You can put it in groundhog’s holes. In addition to a used kitty litter, you can also use blood meal to address a groundhog problem.
- You may be surprised, but groundhogs do not really like human beings. You can use their hatred for us to deter groundhogs. Put human hair or even dog fur nearby holes of a burrow and wait for eventual success.
Groundhogs do not enjoy spicy things with a strong smell; hence, you can use a variety of spices to remove groundhogs from your property. Spray or sprinkle the following things at the burrow entrances:
- Red pepper
- Talcum Powder
- Cayenne Pepper
Overall, all options mentioned here will help you get rid of groundhogs. Moreover, they are all safe and will not harm the animals.
2. Target their home
Another efficient strategy to deter groundhogs is to target their home and its deep tunnels. There are several ways you can destroy their tunnel systems and make them unlivable:
- Fumigate the burrows
- Create vibrations in the ground
3. Trap and release them
You can set up traps in front of the burrow entrance. You will need bait to attract groundhogs and catch them. However, you might have trouble with a trapped groundhog. In any case, it is always the best solution to contact pest control services.
4. Scare tactics
Scare tactics work very well for many animals, and groundhog is no exception. However, it is not a permanent solution and not enough to get rid of groundhogs. After you frighten groundhogs, they will be digging underneath somebody else’s garden in no time. The most efficient solution has been ultrasonic repellent that scares the animals away.
Overall, there are different ways to deal with a groundhog. Some of them can be fatal for the animal, and of course, that should not be your main objective. Read state and local laws to find out what are the accepted ways of groundhog removal.
Trapping and releasing whistle pigs is a good way to deal with these animals. You will need good bait to trap them, something that groundhogs enjoy. However, you might find that what works with one groundhog might not affect other groundhogs. So, you will need to be creative and mix different types of bait.
Here are the baits you can use to get rid of groundhogs:
- Apple slices
Groundhog is very sensitive to smell; therefore, you need to choose something with a sweet and pleasant scent as bait. As for repellents, you want to choose something with a strong and irritating smell.
What smell repels groundhogs?
You can prevent groundhogs and scare them away from your property with good repellents. The most effective repellents trigger groundhog’s smell receptors. These rodents do not like spicy stuff with a strong smell; hence, a mix of those two creates a strong repellent.
Following items and vegetables have smells that keep groundhogs away:
- Castor Oil
- Talcum Powder
You can also use herbs you often use in the kitchen, such as thyme, rosemary, mint, and sage.
Groundhog damage – what do groundhogs eat and do?
Groundhog damage is something many homeowners and farmers have to deal with. Though the animal is not very aggressive, they still cause a lot of damage. They dig very deep and create an underground system that threatens farms and many plants. Additionally, they might eat everything the farmer has worked to produce.
So, preventing groundhogs is often a necessity. If there is a groundhog around you, then pay attention.
The damage by groundhogs might include the following things:
- They can threaten the foundation of sheds and even driveways
- Groundhogs may cripple retaining walls
- Their burrow holes can be foothold traps in your backyard
Furthermore, if you have a vegetable garden or fruit trees, then a groundhog can damage that area. They usually eat early morning or early evening. So, you might wake up and discover that all your apples or lettuce are gone.
Getting rid of a groundhog is a challenging job. However, if you live in an area popular among woodchucks, it is wise to focus on prevention.
Electronic repellents are often used to scare these rodents away and prevent their relocation to your property.
You can install electronic repellents on fences, in your garden or farm, around the walls. If you have any sheds, it could be a good spot for putting groundhog repellents in there.
Additionally, all the methods shared above can be used to prevent and protect your property.
There are a lot of things that we use daily that attract rodents. Thus, it would be wise to remove these things and avoid whistle pig. To achieve this, you can take the following steps:
- Clean the area around your house
- Remove tree trunks and pieces of wood
- Trim the plants that are attractive for a woodchuck
- Collect greens and vegetables from your garden as soon as possible
Frequently asked questions
What attracts groundhogs?
To get rid of groundhogs, you need good bait; therefore, you need to attract them. Groundhogs can be attracted to a live trap with their favorite vegetables.
They are especially attracted to:
Keep in mind that groundhogs like fresh vegetables, and usually, they are not very picky about it.
Can groundhogs harm humans?
It is not common for groundhogs to harm humans. However, if they feel threatened, they may attack to defend themselves. Even in this case, injuries are mostly mild.
However, groundhogs can bite, which you should pay attention to. Groundhogs are carriers of viruses, and they can carry rabies. Pay attention to groundhog bite and contact the doctor if you experience fever-like symptoms.
Can groundhogs harm nature?
Groundhogs mainly damage man-made things such as lawns, vegetable gardens, underground power cables, sheds, etc. However, they do not consciously harm nature. On the contrary, a groundhog can contribute to soil aeration, which helps plants grow and flourish.
Additionally, groundhogs help other animals by providing them with abandoned burrows used as shelters. Overall, a groundhog is a very beneficial animal for the environment.
Do groundhogs hibernate?
Yes, groundhogs hibernate during the winter. The males leave burrows around late February, while females stop hibernating a bit later. Mating season for groundhogs starts in February and lasts through March. From March to April, groundhogs start raising a litter.
Groundhogs are the most active in springtime, which slowly decreases from June. In September, a groundhog prepares for hibernation. Groundhog falls asleep in a burrow in October and hibernates through January or mid-February.
How to tell if there is a groundhog in your garden?
This is a bit tricky question and thorough observation. First of all, you consider the area you live in. Is it comm to have a woodchuck? If yes, then look for the following signs:
- There are holes in your garden
- The vegetables and greens are eaten by an animal
- If there are signs of digging: discolored grass, loose soil.
- Teeth marks on fruit trees
- Wood barks around your garden
Groundhogs are very important animals contributing to the environment by being a crucial part of the food chain. Unfortunately, though they are very cute, fluffy, and valuable for the wildlife, they can also be annoying and harm human-made things such as driveways, fences, and walls.
It is no surprise that we want to prevent groundhogs from our properties. However, removing them once they have settled can be challenging; thus, try to prevent them if they are common in your area. There are a lot of ways of repelling groundhogs naturally. So, use harmless methods for the animals and if you have any questions, contact animal control in your area.