If groundhogs are eating your garden, it's critical to learn how to get rid of groundhogs naturally and humanely. There are several homemade groundhog repellents to try, as well as commercial products. They can get rid of groundhogs fast and keep them away from your yard.
Besides damaging plants, groundhogs can damage sheds, foundations, driveways, and retaining walls. They also might harm dogs if they get in a fight. And people can easily twist an ankle by stepping into a groundhog hole.
Here's what you need to know to identify whether you have a groundhog problem and, if so, how to get rid of groundhogs naturally and humanely.
What Are Groundhogs?
Groundhogs, also known as woodchucks (Marmota monax), are rodents indigenous to the eastern United States. They are most often found where a wooded area meets a clearing.
Their burrows, in which groundhogs spend most of their time, can be 50 feet long. Groundhogs hibernate in winter, during which they do not stir from their burrows. The same den is also used for mating (which occurs just after hibernation ends) and raising young. A woodchuck burrow will often have one main entrance and one emergency escape entrance or "spy hole" where the groundhog can check on its surroundings. In summer and fall, the den is where groundhogs sleep at night and hide from predators.
Groundhogs do most of their eating in the early morning and early evening. They eat a wide variety of garden vegetables. And they can climb trees, so even the fruit in your fruit trees is not safe.
How to Detect Groundhogs
Some good indicators of a groundhog's presence in your garden include:
- A hole 10 to 12 inches wide in the ground or under an outdoor storage shed with mounds of dirt outside of it
- A tomato with a good-sized bite taken out of it
- The feathery tops of your carrots have been mowed down
Natural Ways to Get Rid of Groundhogs
Click Play to Learn the Best Ways to Get Rid of Groundhogs
Groundhogs tend to hate the taste of Epsom salt. The Epsom salt won't do anything harmful to a groundhog, as it's a natural product. It will just work to drive away the groundhog if you sprinkle it around the perimeter of your garden. You also can sprinkle some near groundhog burrows to discourage them from remaining in the area.
While this is a natural and humane method to get rid of groundhogs, it will be an ongoing effort. After rainfall, you'll likely need to reapply the Epsom salt to ensure that it's still effective.
Some gardeners have success using kitty litter as a groundhog repellent. The key is to enlist used kitty litter because the urine smell works to drive away groundhogs. Cats are a groundhog predator. So if a groundhog detects their presence (via the urine-soaked kitty litter), it will think twice about remaining in the area.
Like Epsom salt, you'll have to reapply the kitty litter as the smell fades and it gets washed away. But it is a safe, effective, and inexpensive way to get rid of groundhogs.
There are several commercial products that are meant to get rid of groundhogs, which you often can purchase at farmers supply stores. The repellents come in both granular and liquid forms. And they too must be reapplied periodically, especially after rain.
Read the directions carefully because one product can be quite different from another. For example, most granular repellents are based on smell and typically are poured right into groundhog burrows and around the openings.
The liquid repellents drive groundhogs away with their taste. Apply them around the garden but not directly onto edible crops because you won't like the taste either.
Motion-activated sprinklers are a humane and natural way to get rid of groundhogs fast. One such product is called the Scarecrow Sprinkler. After detecting motion, these devices turn on and spray water at the offender, causing it to flee.
The caveat is they don't only target groundhogs but anything—including people and pets—that moves in their vicinity. So you might not want to place one in a high-traffic area that you use often. But they can be effective positioned around the perimeter of property or around a vegetable garden to keep groundhogs and other critters out.
Row Covers and Fencing
If you're focused on protecting crops, floating row covers can help to keep out groundhogs and other critters. Likewise, fencing—such as chicken-wire fences—can provide a more permanent solution.
However, be aware that groundhogs can climb over and tunnel under fences. To discourage the former, make fences 3 to 4 feet high and leave the top foot of chicken wire unattached to the posts. Bend this uppermost foot outward.
To foil tunneling attempts, the University of Missouri Extension advises: "The buried portion of the fence should be bent at a 90-degree angle, 1 foot below the surface, with the bottom of the fence pointing away from the garden. This design discourages burrowing if it is started at the fence line."
Live Traps and Relocation
Live trapping is a way to get rid of groundhogs humanely, as you can safely move the groundhogs to an environment that's more suitable for them. However, it's best to consult with professional wildlife handlers if you're looking to trap a groundhog. In certain areas, relocation is illegal or must be done by a professional. Finding an appropriate relocation spot also can be tricky if you're not familiar with groundhogs. You don't want to move the animal somewhere inhospitable that results in its death.
Late winter to early spring is the best time for trapping groundhogs. The groundhogs won't yet have produced offspring for that year. And their food sources will be slim, so they'll be more likely to go for the bait in your trap. Plus, it's easier to locate burrows when the landscape is still relatively bare. If you're trapping at other times of the year, there are commercial products to help lure groundhogs into a trap if your food bait alone doesn't do the trick.
To reduce the chances of attracting groundhogs to your property, you'll need to remove environments they like. Get rid of tall grasses and weeds, overgrown shrubs, and brush piles. These often serve as hideouts for groundhogs.
Moreover, groundhogs like to eat dandelions and clover, so keep your yard free of these common lawn weeds. Plus, as rodents groundhogs need to chew to grind their continually growing teeth. So removing any tree stumps or other old wood is another way to make the environment less hospitable for them.
It's also helpful to plug groundhog holes to encourage their inhabitants to move and to prevent others from taking up residence. Plug groundhog holes with crushed stone. If you fill them with dirt, a groundhog can easily remake the hole.