How to Get Rid of Groundhogs Effectively and Humanely

Groundhogs aren’t just pesky; they can do real damage to a home garden or yard. Here’s how to get rid of groundhogs once and for all, including recruiting the help of a professional.

By Danielle Fallon and Evelyn Auer | Updated Jul 29, 2022 2:06 PM

How to Get Rid of Groundhogs

Photo: depositphotos.com

Groundhogs, also known as woodchucks, do more than just forecast the seasons. If they wander into a yard, they can cause a significant amount of damage to a home garden. They can even undermine the structural integrity of sheds, driveways, and foundations.

But what attracts groundhogs to people’s yards? It all comes down to the answer to one question, and that’s “what do groundhogs eat?” A woodchuck’s diet consists of flowers, vegetables, twigs and bark, bugs, and even plant seedlings—so much of a home garden is fair game for these critters, which is why they often make their home near someone’s garden. Deep tunnels and nibbled crops are two telltale signs of a groundhog problem. But luckily, there are a few ways to combat this situation. Here’s how to get rid of groundhogs and keep them away for good.

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Time required: 3-5 days
Difficulty: Beginner to Intermediate
Estimated cost: Up to $50 for removal; cost for preventative measures (such as building fences) will vary

Tools & Materials
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Before You Begin…

Tips on How to Get Rid of Groundhogs

Photo: depositphotos.com

Before starting the groundhog removal process, consider the following:

Tips for Getting Rid of Groundhogs

  • Groundhogs can easily be mistaken for other similar rodents, such as gophers, voles, and moles (if moles are the primary culprits, the best mole repellents may get rid of them). The rodents’ appearance and tunnels or mounds can help homeowners differentiate them and apply the appropriate removal solutions.
  • Consider the season and timing. Groundhogs have babies from late winter until the spring or early summer and hibernate in the winter. The most humane time to get rid of woodchucks is from mid- to late summer.

Safety Considerations

  • While groundhogs, like other rodents, are not a significant source of infectious disease to humans, they occasionally can carry rabies. Treat any unprovoked attacks as a potential rabies exposure.
  • If homeowners are not comfortable with DIY groundhog removal or cannot safely implement the below strategies, they should seek professional groundhog removal services.
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STEP 1: Prevent nesting by maintaining your yard.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, especially when it comes to groundhog removal. Keeping a tidy lawn free of wood or leaf piles and garbage with trimmed shrubs and trees can prevent these rodents from nesting in the first place.

How to Get Rid of Groundhogs: Use Repellents

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STEP 2: Use repellents to keep them away.

While there are no commercial chemical repellents designed specifically for groundhog removal, pesticides designed for other rodents may be effective. Epsom salt is a useful groundhog deterrent and repellent that many homeowners may already have on hand. Ammonia, red pepper flakes, talcum powder, and garlic also make suitable woodchuck repellents and are often found in the home. According to experts, antifreeze as a groundhog poison is not effective, so homeowners may want to try one of the other (more humane) repellents instead. Another option is a motion-detector groundhog repellent device that sprays water or flashes light to startle unwanted pests when they get close.

To get rid of groundhogs, plan out an exit route away from the property, then place the repellent in the burrows nearest the property. Place another repellent in burrows farther away (closer to the exit) 1 or 2 days later, repeating the process as necessary until the groundhogs are gone. Exercise caution when plotting out an exit point, or the woodchucks may become the neighbors’ problem.

STEP 3: Drive the groundhogs out of their homes.

Making a groundhog’s home uninhabitable can drive the critter out. One standard solution is flooding the groundhog hole with water, which causes a woodchuck to look for drier land. Another option is to fill the groundhog burrow with dirt or rocks.

Fumigation should only be performed as a last resort by a wildlife removal specialist. The process is not only dangerous to humans but can be lethal to animals. It is also likely to wreak havoc on your lawn. According to Thomas Ward III, a training specialist and biologist with Critter Control, the solution to a wildlife nuisance does not have to be deadly to be effective. “Just because we’re solving a wildlife problem doesn’t mean we have to hurt the animal,” he says. “We’ll always look at options that don’t cause direct harm to the animal.”

How to Get Rid of Groundhogs: Drive Them Out

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STEP 4: Scare groundhogs out of their homes.

Another option is to scare groundhogs out of their burrows, encouraging them to take shelter elsewhere. While visually based scare tactics such as scarecrows and pinwheels do work in the short term, they rarely provide lasting relief as the critters get used to them. Auditory and tactile tools, such as solar stakes that send out ultrasonic pulses, tend to be more effective in the long term for scaring away groundhogs and other digging pests. But Ward advises that these tactics can be limited in their usefulness: “Sometimes harassment methods work; if you bother it enough, it might go away. That can be hit or miss because it doesn’t really direct it where to go; it’s just directing it away, so you might send it to your neighbor’s house.”

Safe and humane groundhog relocation services are available
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STEP 5: Trap and relocate the groundhogs.

A more foolproof way of getting rid of groundhogs is by physically removing them from the property altogether. Ward says, “The typical method for trying to remove a groundhog would be a cage, or what we call a box trap, to capture and relocate a groundhog.” If you’re wondering how to trap a groundhog yourself, the process involves setting up groundhog traps near the burrow entrance. A piece of fruit works well as groundhog bait. Once trapped, the animal can be released a significant distance away from the property so it can’t find its way back. First, though, make sure groundhog relocation isn’t illegal in your area. “You have to make sure [that state regulation] allows relocation or translocation of an animal because those regulations vary by state,” advises Ward. If you’re uncomfortable relocating the animal yourself or are unsure of how to get rid of a groundhog legally in your state, it’s best to enlist the help of a wildlife removal specialist.

STEP 6: Prevent groundhogs from coming back by installing fencing.

In-ground fencing is one of the most effective options for keeping groundhogs out of gardens. Perimeter fences should be at least 3 feet high and buried 12 inches underground. An electric wire placed 4 to 5 inches off the ground around the fence provides additional security. Hardware cloth can also be buried 1 foot into the ground to limit burrowing under decks and foundations.

Before installing fencing, ensure that there are no inhabited burrows in the area. You can do this by loosely placing material such as newspaper or grass clippings at the burrow entrance, then observing over a period of a few days to see whether the material has been disturbed.

STEP 7: Plant natural groundhog deterrents.

If you’ve looked up “how to get rid of groundhogs naturally,” you have probably read about plants that deter groundhogs. “Repellents and deterrents have limited effectiveness in my experience,” says Ward. However, they can serve as an additional line of defense in conjunction with other methods. Groundhogs dislike the smell of herbs such as mint, sage, basil, rosemary, thyme, chives, and oregano. Planting these around the border of the yard or in places you’d like to protect (such as a vegetable garden) may keep groundhogs from wandering in. But be advised that a female groundhog is not likely to be deterred by something as trivial as an offensive odor if she is protecting her babies.

Often what is more effective than adding a deterrent is removing elements that are attracting groundhogs to the yard in the first place. For example, the ground underneath an apple tree that sheds fruit and leaves can turn into a groundhog snack bar. Clearing the yard of anything that could double as food or shelter for a groundhog will make it much less appealing.

How to Get Rid of Groundhogs: Cut Your Grass Regularly

Photo: depositphotos.com

STEP 8: Call in a wildlife removal professional to help humanely remove groundhogs for good.

From a distance, groundhogs can seem cute and cuddly, and homeowners might be tempted to get close or interact with them. But Ward warns, “I would be cautious; groundhogs do get pretty big and have a pretty big bite force as well. I always recommend caution when homeowners do something themselves, not because of lack of capability, but because you’re putting yourself at a bit more risk than you might want to be or not realizing the potential risk. I would weigh the potential risks against calling a professional and letting them take care of it.” It’s important to remember that groundhogs are wild animals that do not always act predictably, especially if they are rabid. The best wildlife removal services will be able to advise on the safest and most effective course of action to get rid of groundhogs.

While groundhogs can be a nuisance, homeowners can use the above tools and strategies to prevent and get rid of them for good. Keeping a neat lawn, planting natural deterrents, and installing the proper fencing can go a long way in stopping groundhogs from entering in the first place. If the above strategies are beyond a homeowner’s comfort level and expertise, it’s advisable to call in a professional with experience in groundhog removal to help.

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Find licensed pros in your area and get free, no-commitment estimates for your project.
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