Groundhogs, also known as woodchucks or whistle-pigs (Marmota monax), are notorious for devouring gardens and burrowing into lawns & foundations. Learn how to get rid of groundhogs by using the best prevention and removal methods for your specific circumstance.
What Is The Best Way To Get Rid Of Groundhogs?
The best way to get rid of groundhogs fast and easy will depend on your specific circumstances. Otherwise, you may implement a tactic that will only temporarily work.
For example, you’ll need to take into consideration neighbors, pets, surrounding wildlife, and how much you’re willing to spend in order to get the job done as safely, efficiently, and effectively as possible.
There are lethal, non-lethal, and natural ways of getting rid of groundhogs, this post will cover all three. After reading this post you should be able to brainstorm the best method for you.
It is helpful to first understand groundhog basics so the best actions are taken to get rid of them. So let’s jump in so we can fix your groundhog problem.
If you’re only looking to learn how to trap groundhogs, you may find this post shorter and more to the point: How To Trap A Groundhog Easy | Best Methods For Trapping Groundhogs
This post contains Amazon and other affiliate links, which means I’ll receive a commission if you purchase through my link, at no extra cost to you. Of course, you are not obligated to use my links, but it does help fund these posts in hopes of bringing more value to you!
How To Identify Groundhogs
What Do Groundhogs look like?
Groundhogs have brown fur and adapted a body made for digging. They have short, strong limbs with curved, thick claws. A good identifying feature is that a groundhog’s tail is comparably shorter when compared to other animals in the same family which usually have longer tails. The tail only about one-fourth the length of their body. Groundhogs also have brown fur.
How Much Do Groundhogs Weigh?
Adult groundhogs are about 15-30 inches in length and weigh anywhere from 4-14 lbs depending on age, geographic location, genetics, and sex. Males are generally larger than females of the same age. The weight of a groundhog will depend on what time of year it is observed. In the summer they are putting on weight to prepare for hibernation, so they are bigger. In the spring, they are skinner because they have used up most of their fat reserves during hibernation. Groundhogs will grow fast during the first few years of life, then their weight will plateau.
Are Groundhogs Rodents?
Groundhogs are marmots (Marmota monax), which is a type of rodent. Like all rodents, they have continuously growing teeth. Groundhogs have four incisor teeth which grow about 1⁄16 inch per week. In order to keep the teeth from getting too long, they need to continuously use their teeth to wear them down. An uncommon characteristic of groundhogs when compared to other rodents is that the incisors of groundhogs are white to ivory-white. Other rodents will often have yellowish teeth.
Are Groundhogs Dangerous?
Groundhogs are not dangerous, they are more afraid of you than you are of them. Groundhogs are a prey species and their first instinct is to run and hide. That being said, I wouldn’t recommend putting your hands inside a groundhog den, a cornered groundhog might bite in this circumstance, although it would probably just run out one of its escape holes.
What Do Groundhogs Eat?
Grasses, Berries, Crops, Insects, and Small Animals
Groundhogs are omnivores but are mostly herbivorous, eating wild grasses, berries, and crops. In spring green-up, dandelions and coltsfoot are saught after food sources for groundhogs. Some additional foods groundhogs will eat include sheep sorrel, timothy-grass, buttercup, tear-thumb, agrimony, red and black raspberries, mulberries, buckwheat, plantain, wild lettuce, all varieties of clover, and alfalfa. Groundhogs also occasionally eat grubs, grasshoppers, insects, snails, and other small animals.
Gardens & High-Quality Food Sources
In the spring, woodchucks are trying to plump back up after winter hibernation. For this reason, woodchucks will search out the highest quality food sources that will maximize energy return on investment. This is why groundhogs are commonly found in gardens. Crops offer the most nutrition in a small area which is exactly what a woodchuck is looking for. Groundhogs can eat more than a pound of vegetation each day, which is why they can do a lot of damage to gardens. Groundhogs like a wide range of options to choose from, so they will eat many of types of crops and can do quite a bit of damage. They won’t hesitate to eat flowers, fruits, and vegetables. Their favorite foods include alfalfa, clover, peas, beans, lettuce, broccoli, plantain, melons, and soybeans.
What Do Groundhogs Drink?
Groundhogs obtain most if not all liquids from the juices of food-plants. Added hydration is provided when eating food on rainy days or dewy mornings.
Where Do Groundhogs Live?
Human activity from large scale agriculture and small scale gardening has increased food access and abundance for groundhogs, allowing them to thrive. In the distribution range map below you will see where groundhogs live geographically. They are most commonly found in the east and northeast.
Groundhogs are edge creatures, meaning they reside where habitat types come together. This can include any combination of low-elevation forests, streams, roads, small woodlots, fields, pastures, and hedgerows that come together. Groundhogs like this habitat diversity because edges offer the most abundant food sources, and cover.
Groundhog Burrows and Dens
Groundhogs will burrow and create a den when they’ve found an area with suitable habitat and forage. When groundhogs are not out foraging they will spend much of their time living in dens. More information about groundhog burrows and dens can be found in the next section of this post.
Groundhog Burrows and Dens
Groundhog Burrows vs Dens
The difference between burrow and den is that burrow is a tunnel or hole, often as dug by a small creature while den is a small cavern or hollow place in the side of a hill, or among rocks; especially, a cave used by a wild animal for shelter or concealment. In the case of the groundhog, these terms are often incorrectly used interchangeably.
Why Do Groundhogs Burrow?
Groundhogs most commonly burrow in order to create dens and to uproot food. Additionally, young groundhogs preparing for separation will burrow a number of holes near their early home. Some of them will only be a few feet deep and never be occupied. Numerous burrows may give the impression that groundhogs live in communities. Groundhogs are excellent burrowers because they have adapted to a body made for digging. For example, they have short, strong limbs with curved, thick claws.
What Are Groundhog Dens Used for?
Groundhogs use dens for shelter, protection, sleeping, rearing young, and hibernating. They are clean animals and will create an excrement chamber in order to maintain health and cleanliness.
Groundhogs are also fairly solitary animals, which is pretty unique for marmots. Groundhogs tend to keep to themselves, only seeking one another out when it’s time to mate. However, it is possible to find multiple groundhogs occupying the same den.
Do Groundhogs Hibernate?
As eluded to above groundhogs do hibernate in their winter dens. To survive the winter, they are at their maximum weight shortly before entering hibernation. Hibernating groundhogs lose as much as half their body weight by February. Groundhogs hibernate longer in northern latitudes than in southern latitudes because winters are longer and colder. Groundhogs will store enough body fat so that when they emerge from hibernation they can use fat reserves live on until spring green-up.
How Long Do Groundhogs Hibernate?
In early June, woodchucks’ metabolism slows, and while their food intake decreases, their weight increases by as much as 100% as they produce fat deposits to sustain them during hibernation, late winter, and early spring. Instead of storing food, groundhogs use these fat reserves which they accumulated to survive the winter without eating.
Groundhogs will hibernate for different durations depending on the temperature of the region. In colder climates, groundhogs will hibernate from October to April (6-7 months). In warmer regions, groundhogs will hibernate for shorter durations (a little as three months).
How Big Are Groundhog Dens?
They can build extensive dens, anywhere from eight to 66 feet long, with multiple entrances and rooms, including bathrooms. Some groundhogs even have more than one burrow. They will constructs dens in well-drained soil, and most have summer and winter dens. Dens will often have multiple entrances and exits (about 2 to 5) so that they can escape from predators. This is important to keep in mind when learning how to get rid of groundhogs on your property.
The nest chamber is about 20 inches to 36 inches below the ground surface to get below the frost line. This enables the temperature of the den to remain above freezing and at a more stable temperature as temperatures drop. The winter den is about 16 inches wide and 14 inches high. The hibernation or nest chamber is lined with dead leaves and dried grasses. There are typically two burrow openings or holes. One is the main entrance, the other a spy hole.
Where To Find Groundhog Dens
Groundhogs will often construct their dens in close proximity to high-quality food sources in the spring and summer months in order to maximize their energy return on investment.
Groundhog winter dens are commonly located in a wooded or brushy area and are dug below the frost line to maintain livable temperatures as temperatures drop.
When Are Groundhogs Most Active?
Groundhogs are most active in the early morning and early afternoon. This is when they will most commonly be seen in gardens and lawns going about their business.
How To Identify Groundhog Damage
Identify Burrows & Dens
Because groundhogs need dens for protection, they will burrow holes for den creation. These holes are 6-8 inches in diameter and will have a lot of dirt outside the den as a result.
Groundhogs love garden crops, especially a variety of vegetables and fruits such as peas, beans, melons, and alfalfa. You are likely to notice something has been eating a lot of these crops in your garden.
Chewing Electrical Wires
When groundhogs borrow they may chew through electrical wires which is an issue that should be resolved.
Groundhogs will often borrow into or under foundations which could lead to compromised structural integrity of a foundation.
Trail cameras are one of the best ways to identify if groundhogs are the culprit for the damage you are seeing. I personally own this Browning trail camera and is perfect for groundhog identification or any other pest identification. It is a quality-built camera with all the important specs for capturing groundhogs:
- Offers one of the fastest trigger speeds (0.15 seconds) so that you don’t get blurry pictures with animal movement.
- Supports a high megapixel (24 MP) count so that pictures are crisp, clear, and can be zoomed in on when at the computer.
- Has an 80 ft detection range
- It can capture 1080p HD Videos
- It can capture nighttime photos & video using infrared technology
- Easy setup & comes with 32 GB SD card which will store plenty of photos and videos.
Groundhogs Prevention Methods
Now that you’ve identified groundhog damage and have an understanding of groundhogs, you can use this information to get rid of groundhogs and keep them away for good.
It is important to first address prevention methods. There are a handful of things that can attract groundhogs to your property. By eliminating these attractants you may find this to be the easiest solution for getting rid of groundhogs.
If groundhogs keep coming back to your property year after year there is a reason. If you don’t know why groundhogs keep coming back to your property, try these suggested prevention methods below to make your property undesirable to groundhogs.
Maintain Your Yard
Groundhogs love to create dens in areas that have a lot of structure and provides a lot of cover. For this reason, it is suggested that you remove woodpiles, rockpiles, dirt piles…etc where groundhogs prefer to create dens.
Plug Groundhog Holes & Other Animal Holes
Do you know of any unoccupied dens, burrows, or holes on your property? It is suggested that these be filled or blocked so that groundhogs do not take advantage of an easy or free home.
How To Plug Groundhog Holes
It is suggested that plugging on groundhog holes be done once you are confident the groundhogs have been removed from the property, or you may be fighting a losing battle.
There are usually 2-5 holes per den, so even if you plug one hole, groundhogs may be able to make another hole to replace the one you just plugged.
Once removed, plugging groundhog holes is easy, just fill the holes back in using dirt that is available around the hole. Then take a few big rocks and put them over the hole so groundhogs won’t try to re-inhabit the area in the future.
Search your property for any additional or suspected holes and repeat the same process. This will keep any future groundhogs from acquiring an easy home.
Fence-in Gardens & Lawns
Fences are expensive but are a good investment for those serious about lawn-upkeep and gardening. Not only will they keep groundhogs out, but they will keep other animals out as well (deer, rabbits, and pets). Since groundhogs are skilled diggers/burrowers and climbers a fence will need to be properly installed in order to be effective.
- Fencing should be at least 3-4 feet above ground level and even higher for other animals.
- Fence openings should not be wide enough to allow pests to get through
- Fencing should be placed at least 1-foot underground to prevent digging. The bottom should also be bent at an L-shape, with the “L” facing away from the garden or lawn for increased better effectiveness.
- The top of the fence should be angled as well in order to prevent climbing.
How To Get Rid Of Groundhogs Lethally
Get Rid Of Groundhogs Using Lethal Traps
Lethal trapping of groundhogs is one of the best ways to remove groundhogs from your property for good.
Best Lethal Groundhog Trap – #220 Conibear
A #220 conibear body-gripping trap is specifically designed for groundhog sized animals. This is the best type of lethal trap for groundhogs. This trap will almost always immediately kill a groundhog, making it an ethical option.
How To Trap Groundhogs With Conibear Body Gripping Traps
In order to successfully trap groundhogs using body-gripping lethal trapping methods you must:
- Make sure you follow State trapping regulations.
- Plug all but one groundhog hole with dirt.
- Set trap over the open groundhog hole
- Wait for groundhogs to get trapped
Below is a good video on how to use #220 Conibears for groundhogs. There is a dead groundhog towards the end of the video, but you will be given a heads up before it is shown if you do not wish to see it.
Groundhog Bait – What Do Groundhogs Eat For Trapping
If you aren’t sure where the groundhog’s den is, or perhaps their den is off your property. In that case, you can bait them by using whatever they’ve been eating the most from your garden. You can also use fresh fruits and vegetables like broccoli, apple slices, lettuce, carrots, and sweet corn from the store. Groundhogs will prefer to eat the most nutritious foods and will know the difference between less nutritional store-bought food unless it is fresh. It is possible they will ignore your trap if your garden has better food.
When baiting I would suggest using an exclusion device to put the lethal trap in. This will prevent non-target animals from getting killed. This also may be a state requirement.
Get Rid Of Groundhogs By Shooting Them
Shoot Groundhogs With An Air-Rifle (Quiet & Inexpensive)
Air-rifles are not considered firearms because they use air to launch the projectile. Because they use air, they are substantially quieter and are a good option for those living in more residential areas because the gun is quiet when fired.
A pellet gun will kill a groundhog up to 30 yards, and even further with a headshot. The key is to use have proper shot placement and the right ammo. Air rifles guns are great options because they are quiet, accurate, inexpensive, high-powered, and eliminate non-target species capture (a possibility when using lethal traps). Many states don’t have any restrictions for removing groundhogs with an air-rifle gun. Make sure to check with your local wildlife agency to be sure.
Choosing the right ammo when shooting groundhogs with a pellet gun is key. Groundhogs have a pretty tough hide, so maximum penetration is needed. These pellets are designed for max penetration.
Shoot Groundhogs With A .22 Caliber Rifle
The next step up from an air-rifle is an actual firearm. A .22 caliber rifle is a small, affordable rifle designed for pest control. A good quality .22 can shoot groundhogs hundreds of yards away. These firearms make great choices for shooting groundhogs at a distance. Because they can shoot far and are fairly loud, they may not be a desirable choice in residential areas. These small caliber rifles are also very affordable for a firearm.
Shoot Groundhogs With A Shotgun
The easiest way to shoot a groundhog is with a shotgun. Unlike rifles and handguns that can only fire a single projectile, a shotgun shell typically fires multiple pellets called “shot” that spread out as they leave the shotgun’s barrel. This makes shooting a groundhog very easy.
Due to each shot containing many pellets, there is less chance for wounding the groundhog and it will be killed quickly. This makes shotguns a very ethical option. With the right ammo, the most basic shotgun can shoot a groundhog to 40 yards. With the proper choke-tube/ammo combination shotguns can kill groundhogs ethically to 60 yards.
Shotguns are loud, they are not a recommended choice in residential areas.
I would recommend Remington XLR ammo for most groundhog applications. This will be plenty to shoot a groundhog at 35 yards. It is also a very inexpensive option.
I would recommend Hevi-shot magnum blend for extended range applications. This will be plenty to shoot a groundhog at 50 yards but is more expensive.
Get Rid Of Groundhogs By Fumigation
Fumigation is another option for getting rid of groundhogs. Using this method you ignite a cartridge and throw it down into the woodchuck’s den. The carbon monoxide fumes that are released will suffocate the groundhog. This method works but it’s not what I would recommend. There is more room for error using this method. You have to:
- Make sure the groundhog is in its den.
- Make sure all other escape routes are plugged and sealed.
- Wait for cool, rainy days when groundhogs are more likely in the den and not foraging.
- They shouldn’t be used under houses, sheds, or other buildings.
- Takes time to determine if the fumigation application was successful.
Should You Poison Groundhogs?
Poisoning groundhogs is not recommended. Other animals or pets may ingest the poison and you run the risk of killing non-target animals. There are better, more effective/less risky ways of dealing with groundhogs.
How To Get Rid Of Groundhogs Humanely
Many people want to know how to get rid of groundhogs without killing them. This is totally understandable, as we should all strive to do our best not to kill something unnecessarily. That being said, sometimes killing a woodchuck is the most humane thing to do. This is explained further in this section.
Live Trapping Groundhogs
Best Trap For Live-Trapping Groundhogs|Comstock Double Door
Cage-style traps are great for live-trapping groundhogs. The Comstock Double Door model below is what I recommend over cheaper single-door traps for a few reasons:
- It has double-doors so groundhogs feel comfortable entering the trap, and they can enter from both ways.
- It has a wire-trigger instead of pans which are much more effective at being triggered.
- It’s made of high-quality metal and is durable when compared to cheaper traps (which animals can break and escape from).
Havahart Easy Set Live Cage Trap | Cheaper But Less Effective Option
Groundhogs Bait |What Do Groundhogs Eat For Live-Trapping
Groundhogs will prefer to eat the most nutritious foods and will know the difference between less nutritional store-bought food unless it is fresh. Even if you’re using vegetables from your garden as bait, it is recommended to keep bait fresh so it is most attractive. It is possible groundhogs will avoid your bait if more nutritional and fresher food is found in your garden.
You can bait them by using whatever they’ve been eating the most from your garden. You can also use fresh fruits and vegetables like broccoli, apple slices, lettuce, cabbage, carrots, cantaloupes, and sweet corn from the store. Ideally, use vegetables that degrade the slowest so bait stays as fresh as possible.
How To Live-Trap Groundhogs With Cage-Style Trap
There are a few steps that should be taken in order to get the best chances of a successful catch when using cage-style traps for groundhogs.
- Place trap in the areas of woodchuck damage (garden, burrows, dens).
- Dig the bottom of the trap into dirt or grass by sliding it back and forth until buried (it’s best if the groundhog can’t feel the metal on its feet).
- Place bait in the back of the trap.
- Set the trap so the trap door will shut when the groundhog puts weight on the pan.
- Camouflage the trap with sticks or debris but leave the ends of the trap open so it looks like a tunnel.
- Place a breathable cloth over the top of the trap in order to keep the groundhog relaxed and shaded when in the trap.
- Wait for the groundhog to enter the trap.
Relocating groundhogs may not be as humane as you might think. It also may be illegal to relocate them so be sure to check with your local wildlife agency.
Consequences of relocating groundhogs:
- Separation of adults from their babies. Groundhogs have their babies in early April to mid-May.
- Will take time to create a new den.
- Needs to find new food sources.
- They aren’t able to pack on as much needed weight for winter.
- Has no protection from predators.
- May cause issues for someone else if not properly relocated.
This video below is an excellent overview of how to live-trap & info regarding relocating groundhogs:
I’ve seen that recommendations for den flooding online but I do not recommend this tactic. There are easier and more effective ways to get rid of groundhogs than flooding their dens. In fact, groundhogs specifically engineer their dens to prevent flooding. At best this is just a temporary way to remove a groundhog from its den.
Groundhog Scare Tactics
Scare tactics can work well to minimize the damage that groundhogs do in gardens but they can become accustomed to the scare tactics over time. Scare tactics are not the best ways of permanently getting rid of groundhogs but are excellent ways to minimize the overall impacts on gardens and lawns.
Motion Activated Sprinkler
Motion-activated sprinklers are one of the best scare-tactics to prevent yard and garden damage. The noise combined with the water sends groundhogs running for the hills.
Similar to scare tactics, repellents can work well to minimize the damage that groundhogs do in gardens but they can become accustomed to the repellents over time. Repellents are not the best ways of permanently getting rid of groundhogs but are excellent ways to minimize the overall impacts on gardens and lawns.
Ultrasonic Sound Pest Repeller
Ultrasonic sound pest repellers blast a range of ultrasonic sounds and flashing LED strobe lights to scare away a wide variety of animals. Infrared sensor angle: 110 degrees (from left to right, not from top to bottom). They have fully adjustable sensitivity and frequency to target specific aniamls. It has a detection range: up to 30 feet, depending on the animal’s size (the bigger size, the larger range). The benefit of these is there is no messy chemicals or pesticides, no traps, no dead animals.
How To Get Rid Of Groundhogs Naturally
Many people want to know how to get rid of groundhogs without killing them and without using harsh chemicals. This is totally understandable, as we should all strive to do our best not to kill something unnecessarily and to not pollute the environment we live in.
That being said, although these methods may get rid of groundhogs out of their den temporarily they won’t go too far away. Often they will create a new den nearby. Additionally, once the effects of the natural prevention methods wear off, groundhogs are likely to inhabit the same den again unless plugged.
These tactics are best used when you are just trying to get the groundhogs out of the den for short periods of time in order to implement another strategy.
Human Hair Clippings
Groundhogs don’t like human scent. By placing human hair in their dens they will avoid the areas where the hair is placed until they become wise to the trick.
Groundhogs will also avoid soiled kitty litter, human urine, dog urine, and coyote urine because it is the urine of a predator. This will not keep groundhogs away for the long-term but they will avoid the scent in the short-term.
Cayenne or Red Pepper
What Is Best Time Of Day To Get Rid Of Groundhogs
Morning and late morning.
What Is The Best Time of Year To Get Rid Of Groundhogs
Since groundhogs hibernate, you’re best chances for getting rid of groundhogs are from early spring to early fall before they hibernate in their den for the winter.
Can You Eat Groundhogs?
Yes, you can eat groundhogs. In fact, because they are wild and feed on organic food sources their meat will have very high nutritional value. This meat quality is better than supermarket food.
Are Groundhogs Safe To Eat?
Although groundhogs provide very healthy meat, they are rodents. Rodents are susceptible to a few types of diseases so you should always inspect the animal to make sure it looks healthy. When skinning and butchering the groundhog make sure to look at the fur, hide, meat, and organs to assess the health of the animal. If no abnormalities are found, the animal is safe to eat. There is no need to overcook the groundhog, just make sure to cook the animal well.
Why Are Groundhogs Called Whistle Pigs?
Alarmed groundhogs will make a loud whistling noise to alert other groundhogs of danger.
What is the Difference Between Groundhogs and Woodchucks?
There is no difference between woodchucks and groundhogs. They are two names for the same animal.
Groundhog vs Gopher – What’s The Difference?
The best way to tell the difference between groundhogs and gopher is that groundhogs are much larger than gophers. Groundhogs can reach 10+ pounds whereas gophers can only reach around 2 lbs.
When Do Groundhogs Have Babies?
Groundhogs have their babies in early April to mid-May.
Are Groundhogs Nocturnal?
No, groundhogs are not nocturnal. They are often seen in early to mid-morning. Although they do hibernate in the winter (approx. October-April).
How Much Wood Would A Woodchuck Chuck If A Woodchuck Could Chuck Wood?
The best way to get rid of groundhogs will depend on your circumstances. Live trapping and relocation or any lethal removal method will yield the best results for most. Just be sure to clean your property and fill any burrows and dens so it looks as unappealing as possible to groundhogs in the future. This will prevent the reestablishment of groundhogs on your property.
I hope you’ve found this post helpful, let me know if you have any questions in the comments below or message me on: