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Get rid of Groundhogs

How to get rid of groundhogs? (Humanely)

Groundhogs (Marmota monax), also referred to as “woodchucks” are a species of animals closely related to squirrels and can be easily confused for them. They are seasonally active animals that fatten during summer and hibernate in winter.

General Characteristics

  • Groundhogs are social animals that look out for each other and are sometimes referred to as whistling pigs due to their high whistling call to warn others of impending danger. They are herbivores and have been noticed to particularly enjoy dandelions, apples, melons, peas, carrots, clover, and corn.
  • Though nimble tree climbers, woodchucks prefer to burrow underground and are more active on land. They eat food within their reach and live in their burrows.
  • They possess sharp teeth that can cut through hard fibers and wood, nuts, and roots. Their feet are short but strong to aid in burrowing of earth and tree climbing.
  • While squirrels easily transmit disease and ectoparasites such as ticks, fleas, and mites to farm animals, groundhogs stay clear of people and animals. They do not transmit common diseases except in cases when they become rabid.
  • Groundhogs give birth to their young a month after mating and take care of them until they are old enough to fend for themselves. There are strict rules in some states against keeping groundhogs as pets, but they have been used in some published research works.

Negative Effects of Groundhogs
While it is true that groundhogs avoid humans and animals most times, they still cause some damage to plants, property, and buildings. Some of these include:

  • Destruction of plants and crops:
    Groundhogs enjoy feeding off many plants, some of which are ornamental flowers and grasses which are meant to beautify the environment. This defaces the yard and decreases aesthetics. They also enjoy feeding on crops and do a lot of damage to stalks, leaves, and roots, causing great losses to farmers.
  • Burrows:
    Groundhogs live naturally in burrows and can dig burrows as long as 5 meters. While doing this, however, they may interfere with plant roots, house foundations, and underground piping systems, which may put the house and other structures in danger of collapse.
  • Endangering house pets:
    Groundhogs often avoid animals of other species and prefer to be left alone. The playful and curious nature of dogs and cats often puts them at risk because although groundhogs see these animals as predators and are naturally wary of them when they feel threatened, they attack and can inflict severe injury on your pets.
  • Utility damage:
    With their strong teeth, groundhogs often gnaw at electric wires below the ground and damage the wiring system leaving you in danger of power outage. Their burrowing activities can also cause pipe breaks, which translate to water wastage and gas leaks.
  • Safety threat:
    Unknowingly stepping into burrows can cause ankle twists and dislocations. This is a safety threat, especially with the presence of young children in the house.
  • Scaring farm animals:
    It is common knowledge that animals like cattle and horses are easily spooked, so the sudden appearance of groundhogs from their burrows is likely to startle these animals and cause a stampede. This may cause injury and death to both farm animals and their human handlers.
  • Pose public health risks:
    While it is true that groundhogs mostly avoid human contact, in the wild, they are likely to come in contact with other animals, especially within their clan. Some of these animals may be rabid and transmit the virus to groundhogs. Therefore, their presence in yards, playgrounds, and parks is a public health concern as this virus can easily be transmitted to humans through bites, scratches, or even be airborne when there is a high level of infection.

Though these animals are cute and seemingly harmless, the damage they are likely to cause, if not managed and controlled properly, may be very costly, hence the need to keep them in check.

Tips for Eliminating Groundhogs
Although groundhogs can be very destructive, it is necessary to ensure humane handling when dealing with them as they have rights and freedoms. We must ensure that they experience the least possible pain and injury when dealing with them, and any method of elimination we choose should guarantee their safety.

Here are seven interesting guidelines for eviction of groundhogs from your property:

  • Build fences:
    Especially if you live close to forest or bush areas, you can build a fence to separate your yard from the bush. Though these animals are tree climbers and can climb up the fence, they do not seem to think it is worth the stress. Most times, they prefer getting easily accessible food and burrowing instead of climbing.
  • Exploit their sensitivity:
    Groundhogs have a keen sense of smell and get irritated by a lot of things. You can put any foul-smelling items around your property to keep them out. One of the most successful methods is the use of animal feces on the entrances of their burrows.
  • Use repellents:
    These must be used with caution, and the manufacturer’s instructions must be strictly adhered to. Groundhogs also have an aversion to pepper and garlic, so these can be used in their burrows as natural repellents.
  • Play mind games:
    Groundhogs are very intelligent animals and can sense the presence of humans or predators from a distance. This can be used to trick them into fleeing from your farm. The use of house pets like dogs and cats have been suggested, but this can be counterproductive as groundhogs have been known to attack and injure these animals when they feel threatened. The use of your pet’s urine can have the same effect as well as planting human hair around their burrows.
  • Eliminate their favorite foods and clean:
    In keeping them out, you can remove their favorite foods from your garden or harvest them as soon as they are ripe. Make sure to also clean up the garden after harvesting so as not to attract groundhogs to the crop residues.
  • Set traps:
    Box traps can be set lined with foods that groundhogs particularly like, to trap them and afterward release them to forests and bushes a good distance away from your property.
  • Adopt them:
    In reality, all groundhogs need is a little tender loving care. So planting a few of their favorite foods some distance away from your property may look counter intuitive, but it will give the best of results.

It is very possible to get rid of groundhogs in your property and prevent them from being a nuisance to you, and at the same time, benefit the ecosystem by not killing them. This may take extra time and effort, but will definitely prove to be worth it.