Groundhog, which is commonly known as the woodchuck, is a small rodent that is also considered as backyard pest. They live in burrows about 2 to 5 feet underground. This animal attracted to garden because of food, no predator, and the soil in the garden is perfect for burrowing since it is soft. The rodent is considered as a pest because it eats the crops and the burrowing can also do damage to buildings. Because of their nuisances, of course, there are ways invented to get rid of them.
Before we describe the ways on how to get rid of groundhogs, let us come to know more about this animal.
A groundhog is a small rodent weighing about eight pounds and can be three feet when fully grown. They appear in a variety of brown with two layers divide their fur. The undercoat is generally darker and thick, while the outer layer is long and coarser. The woodchuck has a long body with strong legs and able to dig in short of a burst of speed. It has scissor-like teeth to break vegetables.
Habitat and Behavior
They prefer open landscape and are able to live in almost region in America and Canada. They love the large and open area because they are prey animals so that they can scan the entire area to spot any dangers. The burrows they dig usually large and going deep about five feet and can sprawl outward to forty. Even though the tunnels network is wide, the groundhogs prefer to live in solitary. Though, they occasionally live in a community which consists no more than four adult woodchucks. As a wary animal, the woodchuck communities usually work together to inform each other if there are any signs of danger.
Groundhogs hibernate and it can last from three to five months depending on the area. Prior the hibernation, they will find and have eaten food as much as possible in order to build large of the fat store for the upcoming winter. They may be dead during hibernation depends on the nutritional health and the duration of their sleep. The young one is more likely to die during the hibernation.
They are mating once a year, with the male staying until the female gives birth. After birth, the male will leave permanently and the female will grow the young ones. After six weeks the offsprings will be pushed away so they can make their own den.
Because the tunnel network goes extensively, it can compromise building foundation if there are woodchucks live underground. In addition, the groundhogs are territorial, they won’t hesitate to attack people or pets to claim their territory. Another nuisance from groundhogs is that they often steal or damage vegetables from farmers for food. Even they can damage acres of crops. Then, the tunnel collapse can also do heavy damage to farming equipment.
There are ways to get rid of the groundhogs. The methods can do or do not involve killing them. Killing groundhogs is the least priority in getting rid of them as long as they do not become out of control.
1. Set Up A Trap
Setting up a trap is more effective if you are not dealing with a large number of groundhogs. The cage trap you use should be large enough to capture groundhogs. There are baits required in order to lure the rodent into the trap such as vegetables like lettuce or fruits like cantaloupes. These are things that you have to do to make the plan successful.
- Do Some Research
You have to locate where the groundhogs hide so the trap can be put right in front of the entrance of the groundhog burrow. It even is better if the primary entrance is located. Once the tunnel entrance is located, put the trap on a level surface for trap stability.
- Wear Glove
Why is glove required in setting up a trap? The glove will keep your scent off when handling the trap in front of the tunnel. Groundhogs are wary animals and it may scare them away if they scent your smell. Rolling it in the dirt will also help to camouflage your scent.
- Use Bait
As it is mentioned before, bait is required to lure the rodent into the trap. You can use cantaloupe as the bait because they like it, or you can also use what vegetables or fruits that they keep stealing from your garden. Put the bait as far back as possible so the groundhog whole body will enter the trap so you can catch it. Put some bricks on top of the trap to keep it from rolling when the groundhogs trying to struggle.
- Camouflage The Trap
After you place the bait, camouflage the trap so the woodchuck wouldn’t notice it. Put some sticks, dirt or leaves around and inside the trap and then follow the instruction on the trap package carefully.
- Check The Trap Regularly
You have to check the trap regularly in order to check whether you already catch a groundhog or not. If you happen already catch it, the longer you leave it the more distress that the rodent will become. When you take the contained trap, use thick gloves and keep it away from your body.
- Release The Groundhogs
After you catch it, it’s time to release it. Find a new attractive habitat for it which is located at least 5 miles away from your garden so that the woodchuck won’t come back. While you transport the woodchuck, cover the trap with a cloth to keep it calm. Even though they are not aggressive, still, you should stand away from the trap when releasing it.
2. Make Your Garden Unattractive to The Groundhogs
One of the best ways to keep the woodchuck away is to do precaution by making the garden or lawn less attractive for groundhogs. If they find it unattractive, they won’t making your lawn or garden as their home, to begin with. There are ways to make them find your lawn unattractive.
- Harvest Vegetables As Early As Possible
One of the main reason groundhogs trespasses someone’s property is because of food. If you harvest the vegetables earlier, the groundhogs won’t be attracted to come. However, this method is better to be applied before groundhogs infestation.
- Remove Their Shelter
Groundhogs live underground, but of course, they get out of their tunnel occasionally to find food. While they are out, they are usually looking for the predator because they are prey animals. If you remove bush, the pile of rocks, and make the rodent feel more exposed while they are out of the tunnel, they will find the lawn or garden is not safe for them and eventually, they will leave.
- Remove Tree Trunk
Woodchuck uses tree trunk to grind down their teeth. So, the tree trunk is also recommended to be removed to make your lawn less comfortable for them.
- Fill Abandon Burrows with Rock
This method can be applied before or after groundhogs infestations. Filling burrows with a pile of rocks will prevent the woodchuck to come or come back.
- Spread Epsom Salt on Your Garden
When they eat your vegetable, they will also taste the Epsom salt. The salt will be tasted badly for the woodchucks and your garden will become less attractive to them. However, the salt will be washed off by rain so it needs to be check regularly.
3. Use Pets Litter
As a prey animal, groundhogs will look for predators on your lawn. If you have pets, such as cat or dogs, take their litter and spread it strategically around the lawn or garden. The smell will make the woodchuck thinks that there are predators around, so they will try to stay away from our lawn.
4. Use Repellent
- Smell Repellent
There are various smell repellents that you can use to deter the woodchuck. Smell repellent like cayenne pepper, garlic, and castor oil is great for deterring groundhogs. Effectively, you should make sure that the smell present around the garden. Try to apply this method regularly to keep them away. However, it should be noted that repellents are rarely effective to keep a groundhog mother away from their young.
- Electronic Repellent
This repellent is such a convenience. It will help to keep the groundhogs away from a large area and no need to be reapplied. It can also protect all of the vegetables in your garden. The location is the key. Make sure the sensor and sprinkler appointed to the areas where groundhogs usually found.
Fencing is quite effective to keep groundhogs from trespassing your garden. Since the woodchuck can climb, so the fence that will be built should be properly installed. To install the fence properly, the fence should be at least 3 to 4 feet above ground level so it will be more challenging for them to climb. In addition, you should bury the fence deep into the ground for at least 18 inches deep to prevent them from digging tunnels into your garden.
6. Use Ammonia
To apply this method, pour the ammonia down to the burrows and eventually, the woodchuck will come out and leave their tunnel. If they still won’t come out, reapply the method. You can also make the ammonia sudsy by mixing the ammonia with a quarter of a glass of water, 2 spoons of detergent and 2 cups of ammonia.
7. Flush Out The Groundhogs
Before applying this method, identify all of the groundhog’s tunnel entrances in your lawn. Then, set up cages or trap on the entrance that will likely to be their escape route. Then, start flushing water to the primary entrance so the groundhogs will run right into the trap, or course with luck.
Agricultural lime is also one of the ways to get rid of the groundhogs. By pouring the lime around the strategic areas such as around the garden or the plants, it will keep the rodent away. You can also pour it right into the burrows. The lime will burn the animal’s feet and make them go away.
Fumigating will smoke the rodent out of their burrow. You can use the car’s exhaust to smoke the woodchuck out. Channel the exhaust with a hose right into the burrows and then release the fume. Make sure you do not close all of the entrances so the smoke won’t kill the animal. Keep at least one entrance open. In fact, you can set a trap on the entrance so when the smoke fills the tunnels, the groundhogs will run to the opening that will lead them into the trap.
Groundhogs will go hibernate in late September or late October and while they are in their hibernation mode, the burrow will be walled off. So, fumigating when they hibernate is not the best option.
10. Kill The Groundhogs
This is should be the least option on how to get rid of groundhogs. Killing the animal is cruel in some ways. If there are no other choices, make sure you kill the woodchuck instantly so they won’t suffer. There are ways to kill the groundhogs:
- Use Lethal Traps
Sometimes this can be inhumane because the trap does not always kill the animal instantly. This trap is also a double edge knife. Your family member can also be affected by it, especially children. So make sure to prevent your children wandering around the groundhog’s burrows after you set this trap. Since there are some variations of the lethal traps, make sure you pay attention to the instruction when setting the trap.
- Shoot Them
This is only an option if the garden is located in the remote area and of course, you have to be a good marksman too. If the groundhogs are shot but not killed, it can possess serious dangers since it will become very aggressive when it is hurt and may attack your children and pets if it gets away. So, if you are not an excellent marksman you better not using this method.
You can also eat the groundhogs if you are into it. They said it tastes great. The best way to cook it is to braise the groundhogs like you would a rabbit. Be sure to remove a yellow kernel of fat around its armpit, it is the scent glands.