Groundhogs, also known as woodchucks, are one of the largest members of the squirrel family. They are distributed all over North America from the deep south to Alaska. They prefer to live in open country and on the edges of woodlands. Groundhogs always have a burrow entrance handy when they are foraging so, if they are surprised by a threat and have to make a hasty retreat, there is always a burrow close by in which to take shelter.
Groundhogs are solitary creatures, and they spend every waking minute stuffing themselves in preparation for the long winter ahead. Groundhogs generally eat about a pound of food at every sitting.
The head and body of a typical groundhog is approximately 24 inches with the tail adding an additional 10 inches. The average weight of an adult groundhog is approximately 13 lbs.
Groundhogs are prolific diggers and use their powerful legs to create their burrows. They build extensive burrows that can range up to 66 ft. long. There are multiple, dedicated rooms in groundhog burrows including nurseries, food storage and even bathrooms. Some groundhogs like to build more than one burrow and most burrows have multiple entrances.
Groundhogs are solitary creatures and don't look for any other groundhog company until it's time to mate. A groundhog typically sticks close to home. They usually don't wander farther than 50 to 150 feet from their den during the daytime.
Groundhogs hibernate during the winter. While hibernating, the groundhog's heartbeat slows from 80 beats per minute to 5 beat per minute; their respiration reduces from 16 breaths per minute to as few as 2 breaths per minute; and their body temperature drops from about 99 degrees to 38 degrees Farenheit.
Male groundhogs hibernate approximately 3 months before they wake up temporarily to prepare for the fast approaching mating season. The breeding season for groundhogs begins in the early days of March and extends to late April.
The mating pair stays together for about a month but as the birth of the young becomes imminet, the male will leave the den. Only one litter per year is born consisting of between two and six individuals. Groundhog babies have no fur when born, have yet to open their eyes and are completely helpless. As soon as their fur has grown in and the babies can see, the groundhog mother will show them the outside world for the first time. A few weeks later, the young will be out on their own looking for desirable areas to start their own families.
Why Are Groundhogs Considered Pests?
Groundhogs are considered pests for a number of reasons. These animals commonly invade cropland and vegetable gardens, eating or destroying vegetables and landscape plants. Farmers are among the loudest voices when discussing the problems groundhogs pose.
Although groundhogs are slow runners, they scurry quickly to their nearby dens when they sense danger. The primary predators of groundhogs are hawks, foxes, coyotes, bobcats, dogs and humans. However, motorized vehicles kill many groundhogs each year.
The burrows they dig are the perfect size for human feet to fall into. Many times, a broken ankle is the price you pay for stumbling into a groundhog hole. Horses and other hoofed animals are susceptible to leg injuries as well as their grazing land.
Groundhogs are fairly aggressive animals and do not do well as a pet. If cornered, their natural instinct is to attack first and ask questions later. Fortunaltely, groundhog attacks are quite rare.
Getting Rid of Groundhogs
The best time to remove groundhogs from around your home is mid-July to late September. The young will have left by then and the only animals left will be the parents. As long as there are no young around, the adults can be more easily convinced to leave. If any young are still in the burrow, it may be very difficult to make the mother vacate the premises.
We are not groundhog "exterminators" but we are experts at getting rid of them . We trap and release all animals we capture. There are some exceptions to this rule: all diseased animals (rabies etc.) must be euthanized. Posionous animals, mostly snakes, cannot be released after capture because of the risk to people.
There are numerous ways people have tried to get rid of groundhogs themselves. Mothballs, human hair, coyote urine, fumigation and other methods have all been tried and mostly failed. There is always the odd exception where a groundhog has left the area because someone used one or more of the above do it yourself ideas. Read below and see if any of these do-it-yourself ideas appeal to you.
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There are a lot of ways the do it yourselfer has attempted to get rid of groundhogs with varying degrees of success. Repellents serve a dual purpose: they get rid of an animal you already have and at the same time, ward off others from coming on your property. At least that's the way it's supposed to work. In our opinion, the last option on the list is the best.
Dog, Coyote and Fox Urine
Coyotes, foxes and dogs pose a threat to groundhogs. Groundhogs will try to avoid any areas that have these predators in them. Coyotes, dogs and fox mark their territorry using their urine which acts a warning sign to groundhogs that they might want to think about living somewhere else.
Using this natural repellent is easy. Just spray, drizzle or pour any of the aforementioned animal urine around or in the groundhog hole. Predator urine can be purchased from many sporting goods' stores in the hunting section. You can also purchase it online. Does it actually work? There are people that swear by this method of getting rid of nuisance pests and other that say it is a waste of time. We only recommend one course of action when it comes to getting rid of groundhogs: Trapping.
Human Hair and Dog Fur
Human hair and dog fur both retain the scent of the organism they came from. Spread hair or fur around the entrance to groundhog burrows as well as the perimeter of your yard. This method of repellency is basically the same as using urine to discourage or even drive away groundhogs. You can get all the human hair you want, for free, from your local beauty salon or barbershop. If you want to try dog fur but don't have a dog, head on over to your local pet grooming establishment. Each of those businesses will be happy to give it to you. Does it work? Again, there are those that are convinced that this type of repellent animal control work great and is ideal because of it's all natural properties. We aren't convinced.
Red Pepper Flakes
Groundhogs do not like spicy foods. Their diet is very bland and that's the way they like it. Try spreading red pepper flakes around groundhog holes or mix up chopped hot peppers and water and put in a spray bottle and spray around tunnels and holes as well as perimeter areas around your yard. The only real down side of this type of repellent is the need to re-apply after each rain. This is a method we do not use.
Groundhogs, like most animals, do not like overly strong smells where they live. Ammonia, talcum powder and garlic are odors that irritate them enough to leave your property. Take a rag and soak it with ammonia. Stuff the rag into the groundhog entrance. Make sure you put a treated rag into each borrow entrance. There is always more than one. This type of repellent is something we do not use.
You can purchase CO2 cartridges at many farm or home suppy stores. These cartridges contain lethal amounts of the gas which when released in a groundhog burrow kills whatever is in hole. The CO2 is heavier than air and will sink to the lowest parts of the burrow effectively eliminating anything in there. We do not use fumigation as a regular method of groundhog control.
Nobody likes a wet place to live and that includes groundhogs. Place a garden hose in the burrow entrance and let the water flow. It may take some time but eventually the groundhog will have to move out. Do this everyday for a week and the animal will think that the burrow will remain wet and he'll leave for good. This is another tactic
Fencing can be a great way to keep groundhogs out of your yard. The only problem is the installation. Fences to keep groundhogs out must be at least 2 feet deep and three to four feet high. The PennState Extension suggests, “As an additional measure, place an electric wire 4 to 5 inches off the ground and the same distance outside the fence,” the extension office advises. “When connected to a fence charger, the electric wire will prevent climbing and burrowing.” We are not big fans of fencing as groundhogs can climb up to 6 feet and that size fence may be a little too much for the groundhog situation.
Scarecrows can help a bit but unless they are constantly moved to new positions, groundhogs get quickly used to them. The same goes for those spinning pinwheels because they aren't reliable enough to be used long term.
Ultrasonic noise makers are worth a try as well. Any type of regular, unnatural disturbance can be useful in getting rid of groundhogs. Anything that can make the ground vibrate will help convince groundhogs and other nuisance pests to abandon your yard and head for greener pastures. We believe that most of these methods are not really useful. The only sure way to rid your yard of groundhogs is trapping.
Trapping is the only really sure way to rid your property of groundhogs. A properly sized live trap will capture the target animal safely and allow it to be released unharmed. This is the only approach professional pest control companies use to assure customers that their problem has indeed been handled. If the cost of the trap isn't prohibitive, this type of groundhog control can be easily used successfully by the homeowner. Once captured, the groundhog can be relocated to a remote area similar to it's ideal habitat.
Call A Professional
If your particular situation requires more time, energy and money than you're comfortable with, the best option is to call a professional. Pest control companies are trained in the habits of nuisance wildlife and will be able to solve any groundhog infestation quickly and easily. Call us for a free estimate : 706-221-8000.
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