Garden Pests: Groundhogs

Groundhogs are cute, but they can be destructive to your lawn and garden. Learn a few tips to send them packing!

Wild animals are part of what makes nature so magical, and watching them can be highly enjoyable. While it’s important to coexist with animals in relative peace, they can cause countless problems when they take up residence in our homes or gardens. In this series, our Wildlife Management Specialist, Shawn Weeks, will educate us about some common household pests, and share some strategies for keeping them under control without dangerous chemicals or poisons.

Habitat and History

Groundhogs — also known as woodchucks, whistle pigs, or marmots — are stocky mammals with strong, short legs and short bushy tails. Their fur ranges from dark to light brown with very light guard hairs, making them sometimes look frosted. Their front feet have long, curved claws used for digging burrows. Groundhogs generally weigh between five and ten pounds, and males are usually slightly larger than females.

Groundhogs range from eastern Alaska through most of Canada and the eastern United States, as far south as Georgia. They are, for the most part, absent west of the Great Plains, though their close relative, the prairie dog, ranges farther to the west. Groundhogs are classified as rodents and are related to animals such as mice, porcupines, squirrels, and beavers.

Groundhogs are also excellent diggers with dens ranging from simple and shallow dwellings, to extensive tunnel systems twenty-five to thirty feet long, and two to five feet deep, with two entrances. Their nesting chamber is usually at the end of the main tunnel, and they also make a toilet chamber somewhere within the tunnel system, helping to keep their living space clean.

Groundhogs seldom venture more than a few hundred yards from their burrows. They have a keen sense of smell and hearing, helping to keep them safe from predators. They are also fierce fighters and can hold their own against their enemies, which include humans, dogs, coyotes, foxes, bears, bobcats, mink, hawks, weasels, and owls. Groundhogs will also emit a loud whistle or shrill when startled or frightened (thus their nickname, “whistle pig”), then continue on with a “chuck chuck” type of chatter until they settle.

During pre-colonial times, groundhogs lived in forested areas. Once the land was cleared for farms and towns, they moved to fields and “edge” — the border between a forest and town. They are found throughout many suburban areas where edge is common. They are very adaptable mammals.

This fascinating mammal is also a true hibernator. They fatten up for the winter, gorging themselves as best as they can each fall. Once winter temperatures begin, they enter their sleeping chamber, shut down their metabolism and begin their long sleep.


Grasses and forbs are the primary diet of groundhogs, making them true herbivores. Forbs are any plants other than grass with growth that dies back after flowering and seeds set. They will also eat things such as fruit, tree leaves, garden vegetables, clover, and alfalfa.


As a general rule, groundhogs breed in their second season, although some have been known to breed as yearlings. They breed in March or April, and a litter of two to six young that are born about a month later. Groundhogs grow, and are weaned, at a very fast pace and will seek out their own den and range by mid-summer. They are born blind, naked, and helpless.

Problems, Solutions and Health Concerns

Groundhogs can cause major damage to farmers and home gardeners. They love to eat vegetables and leave the soil weak in areas where they burrow, resulting in damage to farm equipment and injuries to horses and livestock. In extreme cases, groundhog burrows have even been known to damage the foundations of barns, garages, or homes.

Rabies can also be a concern for people who have groundhogs on their property. They are mammals, making them susceptible to the disease.

There are a few solutions available to folks who are having a problem with groundhogs. Installing a wire mesh fence can deter groundhogs from browsing your gardens and crops. You must, however, make the fence extend down into the ground at least two feet. Because groundhogs are excellent diggers, installing a simple fence from the ground up may not do the trick. You should also extend a one-foot, angled section from the top of the fence. Some groundhogs have been observed climbing short, vertical fences.

Ammonia soaked rags are another good groundhog deterrent. Groundhogs will mistake the ammonia for a predator’s urine, and will steer clear of your property. Place the rags close enough to your garden that the groundhog can smell them, but not so close that the ammonia will leach into the soil around your crops. A few feet from the perimeter of your garden is a good rule of thumb. If you’re worried about the ammonia burning your lawn, you can place them on pieces of wood. If you have a cat, used kitty litter will serve the same purpose.

If all else fails, you can also live trap and remove groundhogs from your property. Always check with your state wildlife agency before relocating any animals from your property. There may be laws in your area prohibiting you from doing so. Relocating groundhogs is illegal in some states, due in part to fears of spreading rabies.

See some of these other natural ways to keep groundhogs out of your garden!

Photo By I, ElC, CC BY-SA 3.0

Mammal - Vertebrate
Shawn Weeks

Shawn is a lifelong New Englander. He lives in Canton, Conn., with his wife Tami, mother, sister, and her three children. He and his wife have two grown children and two grandchildren. Shawn is an avid hunter, fisherman, and gardener. He is also a writer, a nuisance wildlife professional, small scale farmer, and scout leader. You can email him at

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Trudy Perkins

I have a Groundhog that used to live in my Garden we used to have overgrown trees and bushes. Since we cut down trees cleared shrubs. Put up a fence dug up his hole. Now He comes over from the empty house in our back your .He was going after my little trees I put Cheyenne pepper around them and marigolds seems to be leaving them alone . I just put lime down across perimeter of fence will that help


I live in Nebraska and it’s illegal to trap the woodchucks and you will be fined if you do. I have them under my shed, with two holes. The Humane Society told me to put down cans filled with with soapy ammonia or regular ammonia with holes in the lids around the holes. After 3 days lay down a thick layer of hay.If it isn’t disturbed you know the woodchucks have left, if not you have to repeat the process. I’m pretty sure the hay method would let you know if any your natural methods had worked. I don’t yet because I just literally just gone done talking to them and it is supposed to rain tomorrow. I will also try some of the other methods also if this fails. I will let you know if I have luck with this


Did the ammonia work for you?

Scott Gillig

I bought 8 gallons of ammonia. I got a gallon jug,and mixed the ammonia to hot water 50% – 50%. I needed to pour the mixture along the side of my garage because they had burrowed under the cement foundation. I knew, because of the time of the year, that there was a litter of young groundhogs too. So I mixed two gallons of ammonia with hot water, and shook the jug for 30 seconds.I got down on my knees, behind a hummingbird bush, and crawled along the foundation. Boy, is was strong! I emptied two gallons day one, waited a day, repeated on day 3, waited a day, and hit it a fourth time on day five. I haven’t seen one groundhog in a week. I know they’re gone because I always saw them in the early A.M. and early evening. This really works. To make sure they didn’t come back, I found urinal cakes at WalMart for $0.47 each. I bought two dozen. I put them every six inches under the foundation. And for good measure, a few inside the garage near the wall where they had burrowed outside. Other than a slight smell in the garage ( not bad at all ) this REALLY works. I may have all of $10.00 in this, but they aren’t coming back here.


A groundhog climbed, yes I said climb my 5′ garden fence last year to eat my prized cantalopes. These creatures serve no purpose for existing except to destroy all that is good in nature.


Laura, we’ve had the same issue, they are living under our porch, tunneled under a deep fence and chopped my crops, and eat my flowers. We’ve tried Shake Away and Animal-B-Gone with initial success but you have to reapply. If they’re really hungry or if they figured out its not real (I swear) it doesn’t help honestly. We live trapped 3 and it had been 3-4 since we saw the others. The remaining 2 we knew of just reared their oddly cute heads. Live trapping and harassment has honestly been the most effective for us so far.


Please please help ! We have ground hogs completely taking over our property they are under are porch n carriage house. Our home is over 130 yrs we have tried trapping them but they just come back . They are destroying everything ! Our pest control guy has suggested fox urine does it really help ? We are willing to try anything!


At night, burn sulfur sticks into their holes and cover them, everything inside dies, nothing comes back.


I was wondering if rock chucks are dangerous to other small animals? We have rabbits in a pen outside and we have noticed the local rock chucks have been trying to get into their pen. Will they kill our rabbits?


I know it’s not politically correct to advocate this approach, but the only easy and sure fire way to get rid of them, is to pour concrete in their burrows. Go to the hardware store, get some mix and be done with it. Yes – they are living creatures….. so what? So are chickens, cows and pigs. We kill them, don’t we? So are mice and rats. Most people don’t feel guilty about exterminating them.


Why would you torture them?
If you’re gonna kill them, at least shoot it so it doesn’t get cemented, starve, injured etc…

Susan Higgins

Please consider a more humane approach. While other animals are killed, it’s usually quick.

Edward Tolley

I use a 22 mag rifle. Works great. My neighbor eats them.


Lol eeewww


I spotted my first ground hog in my fenced back yard. We we went out to see we’re it went . Sooo I have two gardens chicken wired under and around. I don’t want it around. Any suggestions


We found a groundhog and put a trap for him we caught him and decided to put him away from us. Would y’all think that’ll work? How many miles far do we have to take him?

Susan Higgins

Hi Sandy, we say “Always check with your state wildlife agency before relocating any animals from your property. There may be laws in your area prohibiting you from doing so. Relocating groundhogs is illegal in some states, due in part to fears of spreading rabies.” You might want to check with them about what a safe distance is, depending on where you live.

Barb Taylor

I too have a resident ground hog destroying the foundation under our shed. I read you have to take them 20 miles +. Before I read this we caught her, took it about 2 miles and it beat us home. Barb in Missouri


Here in Central Oregon they are called rock chucks and they have overrun this area of the state. At my Mom’s house (in town) they have eaten all the flowers off all her plants, but the most frustrating thing is, they LOVE to crap up and down the wheel chair ramp to her front door. I clean it up and in a few days it’s as though I did nothing. This morning, after the clean-up, I generously sprayed the ramp (covered with outdoor carpet) with ammonia as suggested in the article above. Here it is, two hours later and there’s six new pieces of poop! I think the ammonia trick doesn’t work. Everyone I talk to would like to shoot them but, of course, that’s not an option in town.


I have 3 Groundhogs under my shed & when I go to my shed they poke there head out & whistle or hist at me,They have literaly destored my shed.They have 4-big holes all the way around it.How can I get rid of them.I cant afford to pay someone living on a fixed income.Plz any suggestions will help.TY


There’s something we bought that has the STRONG smell of garlic we use for the chipmunks it worked this morning I saw 2 groundhogs go under my shed.. Going to try it it’s called repels all we got it at lowes good luck!

Susan Higgins

Some additional ideas: You can try “evicting” them by making their habitat inhospitable. The best time to evict woodchucks from burrows is from mid- to late summer or between early July and late September in most areas. You can scare them with tethered mylar balloons or beach balls, and we’ve heard some people having luck with spreading strong smelling (used) kitty litter near the entrance. Mow tall grasses. They usually pose no threats to pets and livestock.

Diana nadanyi

Family of groundhogs under house. Need to trap. Need best info to trap. Need best deterrent to keep them from coming back if I can’t trap. Fox urine? Where do I buy crown imperial bulbs? What kind of flowers are they? Would the squirrels eat them like other bulbs? Help


For the last few years we have had a groundhog under our shed, today he was out in the yard and seems to have a friend. They both came and went from the same hole, how do I get rid of them before they have a “family”?

Lisa Rose

Hi. I write features for and I am working on a story about the problems that groundhogs can cause for farmers and gardeners. If you would like to share your thoughts with me, I can be reached at

Carol Butts

I have a Ground Hog that I am suspicious of stripping the paint off my shed. I repainted it and attached 3 foot fencing to the building. It must have climbed the fencing because 2 days later more paint was off above the fencing. Is it a Ground Hog doing this? Or what could it be? What do I need to do?


The best bait to use for a groundhog trap is peanut butter spread on a slice of bread. They can’t resist it and will enter a metal trap to eat it. Ammonia will repel them but they may just relocate to another part of your property. Soak a rag with a 50-50 water-ammonia mixture and put the rag in a tin can. Place the can as near to a burrow opening as you can. The fumes will permeate the hole and drive the groundhog out. Keep the rag sopping wet so the odor doesn’t let up which would give them peace.


I`ve heard that Crown Imperial Bulbs repel Voles. Would they also repel the larger burrowing mammals such as Groundhogs?


I have heard that milky spore keeps groundhogs away. Is this true?


Sorry, I forgot to say that my neighbor caught the first 2 groundhogs, before we started to trap the other groundhogs, so that is why I only told you how the 3 that we caught..


We had 5 groundhogs around us also, we trapped them and set them free far away from us. Here is how we did it. After dark we covered all their holes but 1. We placed the trap at the hole we left open. Now here is the trick! You must cover the opening of the trap! I used a tarp! I placed the trap on top of the trap, draping it around the sides. I think the covering covered about a foot or 16 inches, just enough so that the groundhogs can’t tell that it is a trap. I caught 2 that way at their den. We thought we had got them all, but 5 days later my son seen another one. Not knowing where the den was, I placed the cage near a bush, but did not cover it, got nothing that day. The next day I caught another one after placing the tarp on top and draping the tarp around part of the cage. A few hours the groundhog was in there. I know that the tarp worked for me because, when we first put the trap on the one hole we left open at their den, we did not cover any part of the cage (that day they did not come out), but as soon as the tarp was draped on the cage we got results. Oh, buy the way we put a slice of apple in the cage! Good luck! I hope you get the same results as I did.


So far we have seen one woodchuck and he is living between my yard and my neighbors. Very destructive digger. We are gonna try the ammonia and the cayenne. How far does ammonia sporead into the soil? Any help is much appreciated!


I got the groundhog too…will red pepper flakes work?…cayenne pepper, is that the RED pepper powder?…how much do you use? I tried spraying plants with soapy water to no avail. I also spread Bovine animal deterent around but don’t know if it works yet until he comes back for his next feeding. Why don’t they make a poison for this critter? Nobody wants them around and it’s like a giant rat!

Trudy Perkins

I tried Cheyenne pepper around my shrubs he seems to leave them alone I put a lot around every bush Buy one of those big containers


Boy,am I glad to hear about several ways to get rid of those pesky ground hogs ,the ammonia and the bulbs of crowned imperials sound interesting -will be trying one at time to see which works best !!!

Robert Hill

I’ve tried almost everything. The peppers, traps (they go around those), and nothings working! Very frustrated.


I have had groundhogs living under my house for about a year now. I have set out a trap with bait many times, and they don’t go in it. I’ve spent afternoons sitting outside with my rifle, and they seem to know, since they don’t appear. What else can I do to eradicate them? I’m at my wit’s end.





I have ground hug problems as well they ate all our plants ,
Chewed through ours and our neighbors trash cans and chewed up his mate leading to his back door also; got into our pond and rate all of the floating plants as we have the pond netted but, it still managed to get through and eat them. I don’t want to hurt them but , don’t know what to do as they are threatening the neighborhood.


Hello. I live in Alabama and have a beautiful fat groundhog in my yard. This is the first time I have seen him. I really like watching him. We do have a garden but are not farmers. Do you think we will be ok , or should we try to get rid of him?



Roger Caudill

My parents are going to try the ammonia rags. They are in city limits or I would shoot them. They become pests when they start destroying your garden and put the foundations of your buildings at risk. I don’t enjoy killing anything but sometimes it becomes necessary.


Has anyone tried planting Castor Beans? Apparently it works for moles & voles, and is rumored to keep groundhogs away too. Just ordered some seeds, hope they work.


Seem to have an infestation of ground hogs this year.. I have a 10 lb dog that was fighting with them (babies) today.. don’t want either hurt.. How to get them out of yard.. and from under a back porch with grating which I think they are living in.. I’ll try the ammonia that you have suggested to keep them away.. but always have to be aware of my doggie as well.. thanks! Victoria


I don’t really knoy


i have a groundhog living under my shed hes been there since this spring eating the apples from our apple tree that falls to the ground..we are not allowed to capture and relocate here in ohio because of diseases they carry… i dont want my husband killing it…things we have tried…blocking entrances and it dug under the blocks moth balls…fox urine and even bobcat urine…he still is under my shed any advice?if we cant find a solution soon he said hes going to but im against him harming it…


My sister has a woodchuck or woodchucks digging holes many by her house. Are they able to get into her basement? Where would she put ammonia rags to successfully get rid of them? .




We are over run with groundhogs. They have dug tunnels under our deck and under our porch. We have tried coyote urine but it didn’t do a thing. We have also tried moth balls and moth flakes and nothing. We are now going to try ammonia as suggested. Any other suggestions?


Just wanted to put it out there that we have woodchucks, and last season found them actually eating unripe tomatoes! They were planted in containers…we surrounded the containers with fencing, and sure enough, they actually climbed over the fencing, sitting in the middle of the container, helping themselves at a leisurely pace. No amount of scaring them off made any real difference, as they were able to climb up to the containers on the deck, and did so time and again…we couldn’t put them high enough out of reach. So container gardeners beware…even close to the house, it makes no difference, the crop is just too attractive to them. Needless to say, we are not growing any more tomatoes unless they are too high for them to reach! We have noticed over the years they will not eat annual impatiens for some reason, and don’t seem to like any purple flowers, at least not yet. Also don’t seem to bother hydrangeas, azaleas, rhodies, or coreopsis. We planted 2 new peonies, and are crossing our fingers, as they don’t seem to bother the neighbor’s peonies. Wishing you all good luck if you have them!

nicole holcomb

I am havin a problem with little animals as well can someone give me advice.


Sorry Anne. My website is


Hi Anne. Send me a direct email at or my web site. I can run through a question list with you to try and help you figure out what the problem is. It can be moles, chipmunks, snakes, etc. Let’s try to narrow it down.



We are having animal diggings in our yard but we do not know what animal is doing the digging. We have found holes in close to our foundation which is a big concern. What advice can you give to assit us. We need to do something quickly to avoid damage to our house.


Hey Rob. Also: check out my mole/vole article from May 2011. It offers suggestions and the comments at the bottom offer some good ones.


I almost always start my customers out with pulling a heavy roller around the yard while mowing. At least once a week.


i can relate to everyone having trouble with them pesky ground hogs.What i need help with is getting rid of the MOLES in my yard i think my yard is the mole capital of missouri.Ihave tried different things even mole chasers around in different areas if anyone has any excellent ideals i have’nt tried i will give it a shot please help me out thank you in advance


How can I get rid of “fruit flies” Please no chemicals, too many grandbabies around.

Jaime McLeod

Hi Dee,
We had a hint on this in a recent Almanac. A really effective way to combat fruit flies is to pour about a half a cup of apple cider vinegar into a glass and place a drop of dish soap into it. The vinegar will attract the fruit flies and, when they go in to investigate, the soap breaks up the surface tension so they get stuck and drown. I’ve personally caught dozens of fruit flies at a time with this method. Good luck!


dish soap in a small bowl attracts them.
I also purchased clear sticky strips from Amazon. they can go on any flat surface.
works well. I replace the strips every 6 months.

grannys coop

Where can I get the Crown Imperial bulbs? I have a fat kritter (ground hog) that waddles past my chicken pens, eating what ever he/she wants along the way …….. I found a black snake in an empty pen the other day. *shudders* I know, they are the “best kind of snake”


That’s great Pam. Nothing like taking care of a pest with something attractive and natural.


Would the ammonia work for ground squirrels as well?

Jaime McLeod

Hi Carole – Yes, I believe that method would keep away many different kinds of small creatures, and I have seen this method recommended specifically for ground squirrels.


Here in Idaho, we call them rock chucks! As for gophers. I read where planting a beautiful bulb plant called Crown Imperial makes the gophers disappear. Since our yard was “Gopher Central” we gave it a try. For us, it worked wonderfully and I have shared the bulbs with others. One or 2 bulbs is enough to buy, because they multiply like (dare I say it?) jackrabbits and you soon will have lots. Beautiful flowers, but the bulb underground gives off a scent the rodents don’t seem to care for. Been 5 years now and we have no more problems — might be worth a try.

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