Nothing is worse than taking care of your yard, only to find it destroyed. Groundhogs, although they might look adorable, can cause severe damage.
Unfortunately, getting finding and getting rid of groundhogs is challenging if it’s your first time.
Don’t worry; I’m here to help.
In this post, I will help you identify groundhogs and go over 11 practical ways to get rid of them.
What are Groundhogs?
Groundhogs are a species of rodents that are a part of the squirrel family. They fall under the order rodentia, are considered marmots, and are closely related to prairie dogs.
Groundhogs are also known by several other names, such as woodchucks or marmots. They are unique because of their particular species of larger rodent species, including marmots and prairie dogs.
Groundhogs live in intricate burrows underground. These brows including nurseries for their young, restrooms, sleeping areas, and even multiple entry and exit holes.
Where Do Groundhogs Live?
Groundhogs are found throughout Canada and in the Eastern United States. In the United States, they are prevalent as far west as Arkansas, as far south as Georgia, and in all eastern states above Arkansas and Georgia.
In the United States, you might find small colonies of groundhogs in surrounding states such as Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, South Dakota, and North Dakota. You will not find any groundhogs in the Western United States; for example, California, Portland, or Washington don’t have groundhog populations.
What Do Groundhogs Look Like?
Groundhogs are often compared to a combination of ground squirrels and beavers.
They are very similar in size to beavers. Groundhog bodies measure between 15 and 22 inches while their tail can measure up to 7 inches long.
They are much heavier than squirrels and can weigh up to 15 pounds. On average hedgehogs weigh around 12 pounds.
Groundhogs have dark brown or greyish fur. They have a long, flat tail compared to the fluffy tails of most squirrels. Similar to other rodents they have 4 large teeth at the front of their mouth. These teeth are used to build their burrows.
What is the Difference Between a Groundhogs and a Woodchuck?
There is no difference between a groundhog and a woodchuck. They are the same animal except they go by different names.
Other names used for groundhogs include land beavers, whistle pigs, and marmots.
Keep in mind that marmots are not a particular animal but the order of animal species that groundhogs are categorized into. Marmots are a part of the larger squirrel family along with ground squirrels, flying squirrels, tree squirrels, and prairie dogs.
What do Groundhogs Eat?
Groundhogs, like other species of marmots, are herbivores. They prefer to eat leafy greens, vegetables, fruit, vegetation, and wood. Groundhogs are also known to eat small insects around structures, although it’s not a primary food source for groundhogs.
Below are some of the different food sources that groundhogs can feed on around your home.
- Left Greens: clovers, lettuce, dandelions, daisies, and hackberry leaves
- Trees: groundhogs will feed on bark, branches, and twigs
- Vegetables: carrots, celery, corn, peas, beans, tomatoes
- Fruits: melons, berries, cherries, apples, strawberries
- Insects: crickets, caterpillars, roaches, snails, grasshoppers, and beetles
The eating habits of groundhogs are what make them a nuisance around homes. The most significant damage they cause will be gardens, vegetation, plants, and trees around homes.
What does a groundhog sound like?
Groundhogs communicate through sounds and scent. They make sounds similar to squirrels such as barking, growling, hissing, and screaming.
Below is an example of some of the sounds that groundhogs make.
How To Get Rid of Groundhogs?
1. Use Snap Traps
Snap traps are one of the most common types of traps used on rodents. These traps are placed at the entrance of groundhog burrows.
As soon as the groundhog’s exit their burrow the trap will snap on their neck effectively killing them instantly. These traps are designed to deliver instant and humane kills.
While these traps can be effective they rely on you being able to find the groundhog burrow and the active tunnels. In some cases, finding these exit tunnels can be challenging.
Using these traps also requires you to properly dispose of the groundhog body. For some people, this might be undesirable. In most cases, you have a few options.
The first is to let it decompose naturally by burying it at least 3 feet deep into the soil. On the other hand, you can also properly wrap it and seal and it disposes of it in the trash can.
2. Use Catch and Release Traps
Another common trap option is catch and release traps. These traps use bait to lure groundhogs into the trap and a pressure-activated trigger closes the door on the trap.
This allows you to handle groundhogs safely while keeping them alive.
The most effective bait when using a catch and release trap is fruit. Some of the best bait for groundhogs include:
On the other hand, you can also use vegetable to attract groundhogs:
- String beans
When setting these traps you want to place them near the groundhog’s burrow. This will make it more likely that they enter the trap.
It’s also important that you get rid of any other potential food sources around your home. This will keep the groundhogs interested in the bait rather than any other food source.
3. Eliminate Other Food Sources
Groundhogs are herbivores which means they will eat any vegetables, fruit, or vegetation they can get their hands on.
First, if you have a garden with vegetable or fruit plants, you want to protect these adequately.
There are several options you can use to protect your garden from groundhogs:
- Mini greenhouses with covers
- Chicken wire plant covers
- Fencing around your garden
- Use garden netting
It’s also important that you take the following steps to eliminate potential food sources for groundhogs.
- Pick ripe fruit from your trees and garden and store them properly
- Place barriers around gardens to exclude groundhogs.
- Use tree protectors to prevent groundhogs from climbing up your trees.
- Protect compost piles to prevent access
- Store pet food in air-tight containers after they finish eating.
- Keep bird feeders out of reach from groundhogs.
- Keep yard well maintained – trim vegetation, remove branches and rotting wood and store firewood properly to prevent groundhog access.
4. Use Repellents
These are especially effective if the possum is only visiting your home to feed or get water.
You can apply repellent to the areas that you want the possum to avoid.
This will drive possums to other areas for food and water.
There are two types of repellents chemical and natural repellents.
Chemical repellents are effective, but they can be dangerous to other animals and even your plants.
They also tend to be much more expensive than natural repellents.
Natural repellents are a less expensive alternative to chemical repellents.
These repellents are ideal because they are typically safe for other animals and plants around your yard.
They are also less expensive and easier to find than chemical repellents.
- Peppermint essential oil
- Apple cider vinegar spray
- Garlic and vinegar spray
- Remember that these repellent options typically require much more frequent reapplication compared to chemical repellents.
5. Motion Activated Sprinklers
Motion-activated sprinklers are a great way to drive groundhogs away from your home.
These sprinklers are activated when a rodent triggers motion detection.
This will keep groundhogs away from your home.
You can place these traps around your garden, or you can use multiple sprinklers to create a barrier around your home.
This will prevent any groundhogs from getting near your home.
Before doing this, you must make sure the groundhog burrow it’s outside the barrier.
Identifying groundhogs burrows is difficult, so you must inspect thoroughly.
Typically motion activated sprinklers won’t get rid of groundhogs alone. These sprinklers should be paired with other techniques on this list to ensure that you can keep the groundhogs away permanently.
6. Use Poison
Poison is another possible way that you can use to get rid of groundhogs.
While there aren’t any poisons made specifically for groundhogs, you can use rodenticides. These are poisons that are typically used for mice and rats.
These poisons are typically strong enough to kill groundhogs, but they might require a higher dosage.
The main difficulty with using poisons to eliminate groundhogs is the delivery system.
For the poison to be effective, the groundhogs must eat the poison. To encourage groundhogs to consume the poison, you must eliminate all other potential food sources.
Another issue is placement and the danger of other animals consuming the bait. Rodenticides are typically used on smaller rodents. With groundhogs being the largest rodent in the squirrel family, typical poison cases are too small to use on groundhogs.
7. Build a Fence
Fencing might sound simple, but it’s a highly effective way to get rid of groundhogs.
Groundhogs are highly skilled climbers, but installing the proper fence can make it more challenging and eliminate them.
It’s essential to follow some key aspects when choosing a fence or to make your fence more effective.
- Fences should be at least 3-4 four feet tall.
- L-footer fence base that is buried at least 1 foot beneath the soil to prevent digging
- Entry points should be no larger than three by three inches.
- Mesh wire should be added to existing fences to make climbing more difficult.
- Barriers should be placed at the top of the fence, such as wobbly tips, sharp tips such as a barbed wire to prevent groundhogs from climbing over.
- Make sure the fence surrounds your entire yard.
8. Smoke Them Out
Another way you can get rid of groundhogs is to smoke them out or fumigate their burrow.
While this sounds difficult it’s not as difficult as you would expect. You can purchase rodent fumigation bombs online or at most hardware stores.
To use these products the first thing you need to do is find an entry point. The next thing you want to do is find any other exit holes of the burrow. Cover these with dirt or with large plastic containers. This will stop the hedgehogs from trying to leave their burrow.
Second, once you ignite the bomb insert it into the burrow and cover the hole.
To enhance the effect you can use a blower to help properly the smoke deeper into the burrow. In many cases, this is necessary since groundhogs can create large and extensive burrows with multiple tunnels, rooms, and exit points.
Since groundhog burrows can be large and intricate you might want to use multiple bombs during each fumigation. You also want to repeat this process several times to ensure that all the groundhogs have been eliminated.
9. Pour Ammonia Down Groundhog Tunnels
Using ammonia is another viable option if you have successfully located the groundhog’s burrow.
You can pour the ammonia into the groundhog tunnel. The fumes from the ammonia will either kill or drive the groundhog away.
I recommend pouring the ammonia into as many of the entrances as possible to ensure that the fumes fill the entire burrow. I recommend using a funnel and a hose to try and insert the ammonia as deep into the tunnel as possible.
To create an ammonia solution, you can mix three parts of water into 1 part of ammonia. An added touch is to add 1 tbsp of dish soap for every three details of water.
You want to pour around ½ to 1 gallon of the ammonia mixture into each tunnel. You can also use this solution and spray it along your fence with a pressurized sprayer.
This will help drive the groundhogs away.
10. Use Agriculture Lime
Applying agricultural lime is an effective way to get rid of groundhogs. Agricultural lime is a powdered acid that can be applied to surfaces.
When groundhogs come in contact with the agricultural lime, it will burn their feet and groundhogs will avoid this area moving forward.
You can place this at groundhog tunnel entrances, inside the tunnels, around your garden, trees, and on both sides of your fence.
This will ensure that the groundhogs stay away from your home and other important areas of your home.
11. Keep your dog in your yard.
Another great way to keep groundhogs out of your yard is to keep your dog outdoors. If you keep your dog outdoors, groundhogs are less likely to build a nest.
Most dogs will scare off rabbits as soon as they get near your yard. Since dogs and groundhogs are typically active around the same time, this is perfect.
They won’t be able to sneak into your yard and damage your garden. These in particularly more effective if your dog remains outside at night as well.
This will prevent them from trying to enter your home or build a nest to hide in and sleep during the night.