Groundhogs are rodents that are also known as a woodchuck. However, they are quite large in comparison to other rodents. They can weigh up to a massive 14 pounds. If you grow vegetables in your garden and live anywhere from Alabama to Alaska, you will be likely wondering how to trap a groundhog.
Well, luckily for you, in this article, we are going to tell you exactly how to trap a groundhog, and what to do with it after. First of all, though, let’s have a look at what groundhogs are, and what their diets are.
Pest control is an ongoing problem for some people. If you have many pests that you need to get rid of, then take a look at our ever-growing section here.
What Is A Groundhog?
As I have already said, Groundhogs are pretty large rodents when compared to other, more common rodents such as mice or rats. They belong to the group of marmots, which is an animal family known as giant squirrels.
They are known as various names such as:
- Canada marmot
- And more.
What Do Groundhogs Eat?
No matter what name you use for them, if they are invading your garden, then you probably want to get rid of them. However, before we go into the specifics of how to trap a groundhog, let’s have a look at their favorite food that you may grow in your garden:
- Carrot tops
- Anything else they can find.
However, they are only their favorite foods. If you have anything else like flowers, soybeans, etc., they will eat them. The worst part about it is that they will often eat seeds and seedlings before they get the chance to grow at all.
Groundhogs will usually eat during the early mornings and late afternoons, when it is fresh and a little dark. So if that’s when most of the damage appears in your garden, it is likely a groundhog.
Now let’s have a look at the most effective ways to get rid of groundhogs. Some of them are more effective than others, so you will need to decide which you want to use yourself:
How To Get Rid Of A Groundhog
- Trap the groundhog.
- Scare them away with vibrations.
- Smoke them out.
- Get a pet.
- Use lime.
- Create a barrier.
- Use a repellent.
- Kill them.
As you can see, there are various ways in which you can get rid of groundhogs. Now, you probably already know which means you will prefer to get rid of them. However, read through all of the options before you choose, you may change your mind.
How To Trap A Groundhog
Trapping a groundhog may be the most common way to remove them from your garden. However, it may be one of the most frustrating if you do not do it properly. That is because it may take several days to catch the rodent. However, if none of the other options seem appealing to you, then you may have to give it a go.
Choose A Groundhog Trap
Choosing the right trap for a groundhog is one of the most critical steps to catching them. Also, they may be the most expensive. However, once you have a trap, you will be able to use it many times if you need to. Therefore, make sure that you buy a decent one that will last. We’ve taken a look at a lot of traps and recommend this one.
Ensuring that you have a large enough trap to catch the groundhog is imperative. If you do not have a large enough trap, they will activate it with their back end still outside, and quickly back out of it.
You have the option between a single door and dual door traps; each have their pros and cons:
Single Door Pros
- Easier for large animals to enter
- They have bait protection
Single Door Cons
- Only one point of entry
- No visible escape may deter entry
Dual Door Pros
- Higher catch rate due to dual entry and visible escape route
- Can be set with one or two doors
Dual Door Cons
- May not fit larger animals inside
Our personal favorite is the single door trap, simply because there is more room for them to get in and a lot less chance of escape.
Place The Trap
Placing the trap will require some observation. Try to make a note of where the groundhogs burrow holes, and favorite food sources are. Groundhogs tend to stay pretty close to their burrows as they are wary creatures. So, if you cant find a tunnel, it is likely to be pretty close to the most damages plants and vegetables and certainly no more than 150 feet away.
Yes, 150 feet is quite a long distance to be looking, but as I said, look for the most damaged plants, and they should be pretty close to the burrow. If you find the hole, then place the trap about 5 feet away from it. It will give them a sense of security while checking the new feature out.
If you cannot find the burrow, try to place it close to the most damaged plants or crops so that you know they will return to the same spot. Remember to put it on flat, level ground to ensure it is stable when the groundhog enters. They will not enter if it is wobbly, and worse still, they may set the trap off before entering it at all.
Disguise The Trap
Disguising the trap is another critical step in how to trap a groundhog. As I have said previously, they are very wary creatures. They will not enter something that they are unsure about. Here are some tips that can help you place the trap:
- Wear thick, clean gloves to handle the trap. Groundhogs will not go near it if it smells like humans.
- Try to place it very close to their favorite food source or burrow.
- Remove all stones, twigs, etc. from under the trap to ensure proper operation.
- Wet the trap and dust with dirt to stop it being so shiny.
- Cover the tops and sides with camouflage such as twigs, leaves, etc.
- Try to stop the groundhog from seeing the food from any other direction other than the door.
The more effort you put into placing the trap, the better the results will be. If you put it out in the open with no camouflage, you are very unlikely to catch anything at all.
Bait The Trap
Now that you have your trap positioned and placed correctly, it is time to lure the animal inside. You may want to try their favorite foods from your garden, but unless you grow specific fruits and vegetables, you may get better results from baiting with store-bought food.
Although we went into a little detail about what groundhogs eat, we will now look at what their favorite foods are in terms of baiting your traps. Try these in order of the list, as they are in the order that are most successful:
- Fresh string beans
- Vanilla Extract. – Yes, just a couple of drops of this beyond the activation plate may well be enough to lure them inside.
Vanilla extract may be something that you already have lying around the home, but in our opinion, you are much more likely to get results with food that they can see. Cantaloupe is one of, if not the favorite foods of groundhogs.
Therefore, the best way to bait the trap using cantaloupe is the following:
- Cut the fruit up into 2″ cubes.
- Place a trail of the fruit leading into the trap. Not too many, as you do not want to feed them up before they get there.
- Rub some juice around the trap and inside. Remember to still wear gloves for this.
- Place a couple of pieces of cantaloupe in the center of the trap beyond the activation plate.
Set The Trap
- Open the door following the manufacturers’ instructions.
- Test the trigger plate by applying pressure to the plate.
- Re-set the trap.
You are now ready to catch the rodent!
Wait For The Groundhog
Now it is time to wait for the groundhog. It may only take a few minutes to catch one, but it may also take a few days. However, you do not want to leave it in the trap for too long after you have caught it, as they become very restless, and they try to escape. If they try to get out of the trap, they are likely to injure themselves.
You Caught The Groundhog!
Well, one of them. Although groundhogs are primarily solitary creatures, there can be multiple animals living in the same burrow. Therefore, even after catching one, you may have to do it again.
After you have caught the groundhog, you need to know what you can do with it.
The best practice here is to cover the trap with a dark tarp or cloth so that you do not frighten it even more. The last thing you want to do now is to drop the cage and allow it to escape. If you are relocating the animal, you will need to take it at least five miles away from the burrow as it will find its way back if it is any less.
Groundhogs are not usually aggressive creatures, but they may bite you if they feel threatened. So, it is wise to wear some protective gloves and stand away from the trap when you release it.
As we said earlier in the article, though, there are still other ways to get rid of groundhogs; we will look into those now.
Scare The Groundhog Off With Vibrations
Like most animals in the world, groundhogs do not like constant vibrations of their homes. If you do not feel comfortable catching one, struggling with how to trap a groundhog, or do not want to pay for professional help, then scaring them off with vibrations may help you. You have a few options available, each with their own merits. However, you will have to try them out to see which works best for you:
- Lawn windmills. – If you are in a windy enough place.
- Large spinning pinwheels.
- Ultrasonic pest repellent stakes.
Setting the items at the entrances of the burrows will undoubtedly help deter them from exiting them. One issue that you may find, though, is that they move around and tunnel out somewhere else. Therefore, you may have to keep relocating the devices, and blocking the burrows with large rocks, etc.
Smoke The Burrow
Smoke will kill any animal if they are in it for any length of time. You have two options. However, both require observation of the groundhog and its burrow.
Kill them with smoke
If you want to kill the groundhog, you need to know where all of the entrances for the burrow are. That can be quite difficult, but with enough planning and marking, you can do it. After you have found all of the entrances, you need to block them off sufficiently enough to stop them exiting the burrow. All except one.
After you have done that, you need to place a gas bomb into the remaining hole and quickly cover it up so that they do not escape.
Scare them off with smoke
Alternatively, you can scare them away out of their burrows by blocking all of the entrances that are in your garden but leaving the others open. Then do the same thing with the gas bomb. That is sure to make the groundhog run a mile, hopefully, more.
Lime (Calcium Carbonate)
Limestone or calcium carbonate will burn the feet of the groundhog. Therefore, purchasing a large bag of it and sprinkling it around the exits of the burrow will deter them from using that entrance.
You can also place it around the plants and crops that you wish to protect, too.
Scents To Deter And Remove Groundhogs
Groundhogs do not like certain smells, as you have already seen. They certainly stay away from traps that smell of humans. There are also other smells that they shy away from. In this section, we will look at some of the best that you can use.
Get A Pet To Scare The Groundhog
Dogs and cats are threats to groundhogs. They will not live anywhere that they always feel uneasy. If you get a cat or dog, you are sure to see a lot less of the pests around your garden pretty quickly. However, if you are unable to get a pet, or look after one, you do have another choice. That is to get some cat or dog urine and fur and sprinkle it around the entrances to the burrows, making them think that there is a pet living there.
You can extend this method around your garden perimeter, too, if you wish. If you do not like the idea of replacing the groundhog with urine and fur, you can use human hair in the same way.
Talcum powder will keep groundhogs away from specific areas as they do not like the smell. However, it will not deter them in the same way that lime or smoke does. Talcum powder is a lot more expensive than lime, and you will have to use it every day to be effective. So, while it works, it should not be your first option.
Ammonia To Deter Groundhogs
Ammonia is one of the most efficient ways to get rid of the pesky hogs once and for all. Pouring ammonia down the entrances to the burrows will stop them from using the den instantly. It is best to use biodegradable ammonia such as sudsy ammonia. However, it is not always that easy or cheap to get. Therefore, there is a way to make it with pure ammonia such as this.
Rember to wear eye protection and gloves when handling ammonia as it is very irritating. Also, only work with it in well-ventilated areas, and outside if possible. Mix pure ammonia into the solution like this:
- 1 part ammonia
- Three parts of water
- A few drops of dishwashing soap
Mix them and pour or spray into the holes and around them. Again, you can spray this around the perimeter of your garden to stop them from entering in any other way.
Garlic and Pepper
As with all of the other things in the Scents To Deter And Remove Groundhogs section, garlic and pepper will serve as a natural deterrent. To use it, you will need to crush and sprinkle them around the burrow holes, and the plants that you want to protect.
However, you are likely to have to do this daily for it to be effective.
Create A Barrier
Creating a barrier will only work after you have been able to trap the groundhogs in your garden in the first place. However, they are great ways to stop them from entering the garden after that.
A groundhogs burrow system is usually between 2 and 4 feet below the surface of the garden. So, if you plan to build a fence around the yard, be sure to dig at least 2 feet down, and five if possible. Also, put chicken wire the full depth of the fence, and slightly above the ground to stop them burrowing beneath it or climbing over.
How to Repel a Groundhog
There are many commercially available repellents available for you to buy. However, the majority of them are only capable of deterring them from eating the plants that you spray them near.
You could try to stop them using the burrow holes by spraying them. If you do it often enough, they will find somewhere else to go. Some of the best commercially available are:
- Rabbit Out Rabbit & Groundhog Repellent
- Ortho Animal B Gon All Purpose Animal Repellent Ready-to-Use Spray
How to Kill a Groundhog
Although I am not a fan of guns, shooting them is a surefire way of removing them from your garden. Again, you will have to observe their movements to find out where they go.
Whether you have decided to trap and remove a groundhog or kill it in its burrow, you need to remember to stop them from coming back. The best way that we have found is to use ammonia around the holes, fill them in, and then build a fence. Or buy a trap that you can use time and time again.