How To: Get Rid of Groundhogs

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

How to Get Rid of Groundhogs

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

You may be wondering: 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. Deep tunnels and eaten crops are two telltale signs of a groundhog problem. Here’s how to get rid of groundhogs and keep them away from your property 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

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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. 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

  • Virginia Professional Wildlife Removal Services note that 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 or cannot safely implement the below strategies, seek professional groundhog removal services.

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 work. 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 repellents instead.

To get rid of groundhogs, plan out an exit route away from the property, then place repellent in the burrows nearest your property. Place another repellent in further burrows (closer to the exit) one to two 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.

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STEP 3: Drive the groundhogs out of their homes.

Making a groundhog’s home uninhabitable can drive them out. One standard solution is flooding the tunnels, which causes woodchucks to look for drier land. Another strategy is fumigating burrows with carbon monoxide cartridges, which are available at home supply stores. Fumigation requires sealing the burrow and all nearby holes.

Keep in mind that while these solutions may remove groundhogs, they can also cause lawn damage. Additionally, fumigation is not only dangerous to humans but can also be lethal to animals. Homeowners looking for a humane solution might wish to consider another strategy.

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 in scaring away groundhogs and other digging pests.

STEP 5: Trap and relocate the groundhogs.

To humanely trap a woodchuck, set up a trap close to (but not blocking) the burrow entrance. Use a piece of fruit as groundhog bait and replace it daily. Once the groundhog is trapped, release it away from the yard and populated areas.

Before opting for this solution, homeowners should check state rules on specific traps and releasing the groundhog. Cage traps are recommended, as body-gripping traps may not be allowed in some states and foothold traps require specialized experience to implement correctly. Additionally, different states have varying laws on releasing a trapped groundhog.

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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 whether the material has been disturbed.

STEP 7: Plant natural groundhog deterrents.

Once the groundhogs have left, planting natural deterrents can ensure that they are gone for good. Lavender and other plants with strong odors can keep groundhogs away. Groundhogs dislike the smell of herbs such as mint, sage, basil, rosemary, thyme, chives, and oregano.

How to Get Rid of Groundhogs: Cut Your Grass Regularly

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STEP 8: Cut your grass in the yard regularly and remove any piles of leaves or wood.

Woodchucks prefer the security of high vegetation and tend to congregate in areas with tall grass and plenty of wood or leaf piles. Keeping a well-trimmed lawn, as well as removing piles of leaves and wood, can encourage them to find another burrow system.

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 the homeowner’s comfort level and expertise, call in a professional.

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