Groundhogs (also known as woodchucks) are a large, burrowing rodent found across North America. While the animals themselves aren’t dangerous, the damage they cause can be: undermining building foundations isn’t a good thing for anyone. If you discover one making its home in your yard, you should address the issue promptly.
There are a few different ways of dealing with groundhogs. When employed properly, repellents, exclusion doors, and trapping are all effective measures for removing the animals.
Before deciding on a method of removal, it’s crucial to find out whether the groundhog has young in the burrow. Repellents and other deterrents and means of exclusion won’t be enough to keep a mother groundhog from trying to return to her babies. You’ll need to be able to retrieve them, as they’ll die of starvation if left alone.
Repellents, when they work, can be a great way of convincing the groundhog to move on and find a new home on their own. There are a variety of repellents available. Always read the instructions before use, as they have different applications. Available products include:
- Commercial repellents
- Epsom salt
- Motion-activated sprinklers
It’s important to note that any products that rely on taste or smell to drive off the groundhog will be washed away by the weather. Remember to reapply after rain.
Another means of getting rid of groundhogs is to install an exclusion trap (or one-way door). Placed over the groundhog’s entry point, it allows the groundhog to leave their burrow but prevents them from re-entering. For this to work, however, it needs to be the only access point to the den. So you’ll need to locate and plug/cover any other entrances with steel mesh that groundhogs can’t chew through.
As with all wildlife, check with your local state laws and the regulations regarding trapping, relocating, and killing groundhogs before setting out to catch them. Contacting a wildlife control agency and having them do it for you is a great choice.
If you are going to trap them yourself, there are two options (depending on your state regulations): lethal and live traps. Using a lethal trap leaves you with a carcass to dispose of, whereas with a live trap, you will need to relocate the groundhog to a new area.
If you opt for a lethal trap, be aware that they will catch and kill whatever animal walks into them, not just the groundhog. In addition, lethal traps do not always work properly. The captured animal may suffer a long, painful death if the trap fails to kill them right away.
Whichever trap you decide to use, the tips for the setting and placement are the same:
- Wear thick gloves when handling the trap and wash it down before use. If the groundhog picks up the human scent on the trap, it won’t come near it.
- Set the trap just outside the burrow.
- Bait the trap with fruit or vegetables.
- Check the trap every couple of hours.
After catching a live groundhog, relocate it (if the state regulations allow) 5-10 miles from your home, away from other neighborhoods.