Groundhogs are a very common backyard pest found throughout Canada, the Eastern United States, and Alaska. These mammals live in burrows that can run up to 30 feet horizontally two to five feet below the ground. You’ll find groundhogs around your garden area because it’s an easy food source, has soft soil, and it’s relatively free of predators. However, the burrows can do damage to your lawn or structural damage to your buildings. The good news is there are several ways to get rid of these pests, and we’re going to outline a few for you below.
In This Article
1. What is a Groundhog?
Groundhogs are small mammals that eat only plants. They belong to the marmot animal group. These pests have brown hair that covers brown, heavy bodies. The prominent teeth are one of the ways to tell a groundhog apart from other small, furry mammals like squirrels.
Groundhogs live on vegetables, fruit, and other foliage like dandelions. Vegetable gardens are prime targets for groundhogs because it’s a lot of food sources in one space. They also eat nuts, fruit, and occasionally insects. They wreak havoc in the spring and summer months in preparation for hibernation through the fall and winter. You can see a groundhog in action and get a better understanding of them with this short video.
2. Method One: Humanely Trapping and Removing the Groundhogs
Before you go buy any gear to trap a groundhog in a live trap to release it somewhere, do your research. Your state’s wildlife agency can tell you whether or not your state allows for trapping and relocating wildlife. Each state varies, and failure to follow the laws can result in a fine.
Get Your Equipment
Get a pair of thick gloves and a live trap. Amazon has several live traps to choose from, like the Gingbau Live Cat Trap Collapsible Humane Animal Cage Trap. It is durable enough to withstand the elements, and it’ll safely catch the groundhog when they touch the trap’s pedal. You should wear gloves when you place and bate your trap to prevent your scent from lingering around it.
Bait and Place Your Trap
You want to bait your live trap with vegetables or fruit. Groundhogs are very fond of cantaloupe, but you can also use anything you noticed disappearing from your garden. You want to place the bait as far away from the door as possible to entice the groundhog to go in and step on the sensitive plate to trigger the door. Put a brick or heavy object on top of the baited trap to stop the groundhog from rolling it.
Camouflage your trap to make it less obvious for the groundhog. Put dirt, sticks, and leaves inside, outside, and on the trap before you set the trigger. Setting the trap will vary depending on the model you choose, so be sure to read the instructions.
Check the Trap Routinely
The groundhog will be extremely unhappy once you catch it. The longer you leave it in the trap, the greater the chance is of it getting injured due to duress. Once you catch your pest, hold the cage away from your body when you carry it and make sure to wear thick gloves to prevent accidental scratches or bites.
Relocate the trapped groundhog at least five miles from your property. Look for an area that will be attractive for burrowing, so they’re not tempted to come back. Groundhogs are usually shy and non-aggressive, but you do want to stay clear when you open the trap. Repeat steps one through five until you remove all of the groundhogs.
Method Two: Discourage Groundhogs From Staying in Your Yard
You can discourage groundhogs from staying in your yard several ways if you don’t want to resort to lethal measures to remove them. One of the easiest things to do is discourage groundhogs from staying around your home or yard. There are several ways you can do this, and they include:
Make Your Yard Less Attractive
You want to be proactive in preventing more groundhogs from coming to your property after you get rid of the first bunch. To start, harvest any vegetables as early as you possibly can to remove their food source. Trim back any brush and remove rock piles. This will make the groundhog feel more exposed and unsafe. Remove any dead or dying tree trunks and fill in abandoned burrows with gravel or rocks.
Sprinkle Epsom Salts Around Your Plants
You can protect your garden and existing plants by sprinkling the area around them with Epsom salts. This salt won’t hurt the plants, but it’ll leave a bitter aftertaste for the groundhog to discourage them from chewing on it. Reapply this salt each time it rains or you water.
Fence in Your Plants and Garden Area
Groundhogs are surprisingly good climbers, so you’ll have to take care when you build your fence. When you buy your fence wire, it should have openings that are no larger than three inches like you find on chicken wire. The fence should stretch at least three or four feet above the ground, and you want to bury it two feet deep. Take the tops of the fence and gently bend them outward to make climbing difficult. If possible, create a small “L” shape underground.
Use Vibrations or Ammonia
Groundhogs won’t stay in an area frequented by predators or with constant vibration. If you have a cat, take a few small piles of used cat litter and sprinkle it around your garden. Ammonia-soaked rags are another alternative, but it can damage your lawn. You can also pour ammonia down their tunnel entrances, and they’ll stop using it straight away. The groundhog will mistake the ammonia for predator urine. Using ultrasonic waves will make them uncomfortable enough to leave as well.