How to Get Rid of Groundhogs

large groundhog in grass

When chasing the woodchuck out of your garden patch starts to feel like Groundhog Day, it’s time to put some control measures in place. Learning how to get rid of groundhogs can help keep your harvest plentiful, your trees healthy, and your lawn vibrant. 

Here are some helpful ideas to get rid of groundhogs for good and enjoy a stress-free time outdoors.

What are groundhogs?

Also known as woodchucks, marmots, and “whistle pigs” (thanks to the high-pitched whistles they produce), groundhogs (Marmota monax) belong to the Sciuridae family. They’re large rodents that dwell on land, have large, yellow-white incisor teeth, boast yellow-brown to brown fur coats, and look similar to beavers.

Groundhogs are common throughout the eastern United States, the Midwest, and parts of the western states, including Alaska. Their habitats include farm fields, pastures, meadows, woodland edges, river banks, and even suburban neighborhoods with plentiful food supply and cover.

These herbivores love to snack on cabbage, tomatoes, peas, carrots, beans, apples, pears, and cherries. They’re also avid fans of alfalfa, clover, grasses, and dandelions. Since they’re always seeking things to chew on and burrow into, groundhogs can cause serious damage to your lawn, flower beds, landscaping, or garden.

You’ll likely find a woodchuck foraging for food in the early morning and evening, but they’re also active throughout the day. Between October and March, groundhogs are typically in hibernation, so you’ll see little activity in that timeframe.

How to get rid of groundhogs

Though groundhogs pose little threat to your safety, their voracious eating habits can spell disaster for your property. Here are some ways to keep these furry creatures from destroying your landscaping and garden.


Electric fence with a warning sign
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Fencing can effectively reduce groundhog damage in specific areas of the yard, such as your vegetable garden. It also can help prevent groundhogs from building their burrows underneath a structure’s foundation. 

When installing a fence to exclude groundhogs, here are some helpful tips to follow: 

  • The fence should be at least 5 or 6 feet tall, made of either heavy chicken wire or 2-inch woven mesh wire. 
  • Bury the fence at least 12 inches in the ground. Another 12 inches should be bent horizontally away from the protected area to create an L shape. Underground fencing prevents groundhogs from tunneling underneath the barrier. 
  • For added protection, purchase and install an electric wire fence around the non-electric one. Place the wires at 4-inch intervals off the ground, reaching a height of 8 or 12 inches. The wires should be outside of and an equal distance from the non-electric fence.   
  • Cut tall grass or vegetation to keep the wires from shorting out. 
  • Install a warning sign near the electric fence as a safety measure.

Predator urine

Applying predator urine around your garden, landscaping, or lawn can create the illusion of predators roaming your property. Home improvement stores sell bobcat, fox, coyote, or wolf urine that successfully repels groundhogs. Your own pets’ urine also can work.

Alternate the application times and areas to make the threat seem realistic. You also can allow your pets (if you have any) to walk around your property and make themselves visible to the unwelcome critters.


Scarecrow in a garden
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Often used as a control tactic for groundhogs, scarecrows can offer temporary relief to a groundhog problem. Move the scarecrow around regularly to mimic human presence, but keep in mind that this approach may only sometimes work.

Gas cartridges

Gas cartridges are another popular groundhog control method available at many garden supply stores. 

These cardboard cylinders are filled with slow-burning chemicals that will kill all burrow inhabitants. Before using gas cartridges, establish that the burrow you’re treating is the home of a groundhog and not another animal that’s moved into an abandoned den.

Follow these steps when using gas cartridges in woodchuck burrows. Refer to the instructions listed on the specific gas cartridge product.

  1. Confirm the target burrow is active and the groundhog is actually inside. If it’s located under a building or shed or around combustible materials, refrain from using this method.
  2. Locate all possible entrances and prepare clumps of sod for each one.
  3. Prepare the gas cartridge for ignition and application according to the instruction label.
  4. Light the fuse and gently place the cartridge as far into the tunnel system as possible. Don’t breathe in the fumes. 
  5. After positioning the cartridge in the burrow, immediately close every entrance with the precut sod, grass side down. This helps prevent any soil from falling on the fuse. 
  6. Observe the entrances for any smoke leaking from the burrow system. Cover or reseal any openings that leak smoke. Repeat this process as many times as needed.
  7. Repeat these steps until all burrows have been treated.

Habitat modification

Removing brush piles and overgrown areas reduces a groundhog’s food sources and cover, making your yard and garden less attractive. Keep in mind that this control method also can affect other wildlife, as you will ultimately be removing their valuable habitat, too.


Although shooting is an effective, targeted groundhog control method, it should still be used as a last resort. 

Before deciding on this approach, check your local and state laws regarding groundhog shooting. Interdictions may exist based on where you live.

Home remedies

Crushed garlic in a bowl and whole ones next to it
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Many homeowners swear by some of the items in their kitchen as effective groundhog control. If your exclusion efforts or habitat medication isn’t working, or you prefer not to use gas cartridges, you might benefit from natural remedies. 

Keep in mind these home remedies are not scientifically proven, and there is little to no scientific evidence to support their effectiveness. The success behind these remedies is often anecdotal.

Here are some DIY steps you can follow: 

  • Pour foul-smelling castor oil in and around the burrow.
  • Did you just get your hair cut? Place hair clippings in a mesh bag and stake the bag near the burrows or elsewhere in your yard. The groundhogs will smell the hair and think people are nearby. 
  • Pour soiled kitty litter in and around the burrows. The woodchucks may fear that a predator is near their den. 
  • Throw some crushed garlic or cayenne pepper into the burrows or make a spray to drizzle your plants and veggies with. Groundhogs hate these smells.
  • Sprinkle blood meal, Epsom salts, or talcum powder around the groundhogs’ burrows. 
  • Place a rag soaked in ammonia near the burrow entrances. You also could simply pour ammonia down the tunnel for increased success, repeating the process several times.
  • Spread lime around the burrow to burn the woodchucks’ feet and scare them away.

Groundhog removal methods to avoid

Conibear “instant killing” traps

Conibear traps instantly kill the animal when it tries to move through it. 

The device is placed inside the burrow to trap the animal as it enters or leaves the burrow. The danger with this method is that any animal, including your pet, may come across the burrow’s entrance. Even worse, the groundhog trap may harm a small child who tampers with it. 

Bottom line: Conibear traps are unsafe to control groundhogs in the yard and should not be used. 

Live traps and translocation

Trapping a woodchuck in a live cage and translocating it to a new home may seem like a kind approach, but it’s actually inhumane. It separates the animal from its home, subjecting it to a stressful situation that often ends in death. 

Not to mention that live-trapping and handling a groundhog can put you at risk of contracting rabies. 


It’s best not to waste your money on products that promise to repel groundhogs. Groundhog repellents rarely work; even if they do, you’ll have to reapply them almost daily.


Poisonous baits are not a good idea for controlling groundhogs. The likelihood of killing a non-target animal is high, whether or not it’s inhabiting the burrow. Not to mention that it can endanger pets and children and kill the animal slowly and painfully.

Frightening devices

There’s little in the way of evidence to suggest that frightening devices have any effect on woodchucks. Frightening devices like banging pie plates, ultrasonic noise emitters, motion-detection sprinklers, and shiny reflectors won’t successfully keep groundhogs away for good.

Signs you have a groundhog in your yard

Groundhog burrow
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Other than finding a groundhog munching on your tomatoes, several other signs can indicate groundhog presence, including:

  • Large holes (approximately 12 inches wide) around your home’s foundation, trees, sheds, or other structures on your property. Groundhog holes will typically have mounds of dirt in their vicinity.
  • High-pitched noises in the early morning or evening.
  • Damaged or chewed-on plants, vegetables, or tree bark.
  • A lawn filled with holes.

How to prevent groundhogs on your property

Dealing with groundhogs isn’t anybody’s idea of a good time. To keep these pesky furballs away from your yard, try these prevention methods:

  • Prune your yard and mow your lawn – Remove any type of cover groundhogs can use to hide or chew on. Keep your lawn neatly trimmed and your landscaping pruned.
  • Pick up fallen fruit – If you have various fruit trees or bushes, keep the area around them clear of any fallen fruit, as this attracts groundhogs like a magnet.
  • Harvest fruits and vegetables – As soon as they’re ripe, harvest produce from your garden to keep groundhogs away.

FAQ about getting rid of groundhogs

What do groundhogs generally hate?

Generally, groundhogs aren’t fans of tight spaces, bright lights, strong odors, or very loud noises. Keep this in mind when choosing a deterring solution for your problem.

Are groundhogs dangerous?

No, groundhogs are not dangerous. In fact, if you ever come across a groundhog, chances are high that it will run away. These shy animals would rather hide away in their burrows than spend any time around people.

How smart are groundhogs?

Groundhogs are highly intelligent creatures, able to build complex habitats, communicate through specialized whistling, and raise young. They also can form social networks and work in teams.

Turn to a professional to remove your groundhog

If woodchuck control is too much for your plate, it may be time to turn to a professional pest control company to save you energy, patience, and peace of mind. While you’re at it, think about hiring a local lawn care professional to handle other yard tasks, such as mowing, overseeding, or fertilizing. With the honey-do list off your hands, you’ll be able to enjoy your free time doing what matters most.

Main Photo Credit: Pixabay

Andie Ioó

In my free time, I enjoy traveling with my husband, sports, trying out new recipes, reading, and watching reruns of '90s TV shows. As a way to relax and decompress, I enjoy landscaping around my little yard and DIY home projects.