If something has been nibbling on your garden vegetables and digging deep tunnels in your yard, then chances are good that you're hosting at least one groundhog. The holes that groundhogs dig are typically about 1 foot wide and often found near or under decks, porches, sheds and other areas that provide shelter. Groundhogs can be difficult to get rid of, and the best way to do so is to use several methods in combination. Start treating your groundhog problem as early in the growing season as you can because groundhogs are even more difficult to remove after they mate in spring.
Groundhogs are attracted to woodpiles, fallen trees and rock piles that can serve as shelters and as items to chew and on which to grind their teeth. Keep bushes and other plants' branches trimmed away from the ground so they don't provide cover for groundhogs. Either avoid growing garden fruits and vegetables or harvest them very quickly because many kinds of them attract groundhogs. Some groundhog favorites include:
- Apples; apple trees (Malus spp.) are hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 2 through 10, depending on the variety
- Beans (Phaseolus vulgaris)
- Carrots (Daucus carota)
- Lettuce (Lactuca sativa)
- Melons (Cucumis spp.)
- Peas (Pisum sativum)
Groundhogs can be repelled with foul-tasting and foul-scented natural products as well as with electronic products. Environmentally friendly, natural repellents with a strong pepper base are available at many hardware stores as well as garden centers and can be found in both spray and powder forms. Use such a repellent near groundhog activity, or apply a spray repellent directly on garden plants to keep the critters at bay. Blood meal also repels groundhogs, according to The Old Farmer's Almanac.
Electronic repellents make noise or spray a groundhog with water when it gets too close. You can also try making loud noises and chasing off the groundhogs when you see them, but electronic repellents are a better option because they work even when you're not home.
Fencing can be installed around your entire property or just around garden plots and other specific areas you wish to protect. To be effective, the fence must extend at least 1 foot underground and a minimum of 3 feet high above ground. Sturdy wire fencing works best and should contain openings smaller than 3 inches in diameter.
To trap a groundhog, place fresh vegetables in the back of a live-catch trap so the animal will have to enter the trap fully to get the food. Wear rubber gloves when handling the trap to avoid leaving your scent on it. Place the trap near the groundhog activity, ensuring it is on a level surface in shade. Check the trap frequently to avoid keeping an animal trapped any longer than necessary. Release the groundhog at a location at least 20 miles from your property. Receive permission to release the animal at that location, and do so in an area where you aren't creating a problem for someone else.
Once your groundhogs are gone, cover their burrows' entrances with wire-mesh fencing to keep other groundhogs from moving into the burrows. Dig into the ground about 1 foot and install a 3-by-3-foot covering over each entrance hole. If desired, fill each burrow with gravel or clean soil before covering it with wire-mesh fencing.
The best way to get rid of groundhogs under a shed, deck, porch or other structure is to install a one-way door. A one-way door allows an animals to get out from under the structure but won't allow it to get back under the structure. A one-way door should be installed only after July, when you are certain no young groundhogs are under the structure. The best practice is to have a one-way door installed by a professional because installation by an amateur can lead to problems.