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5 Natural Ways To Get Rid of Groundhogs (Without Harming Them)

5 Natural Ways To Get Rid of Groundhogs (Without Harming Them)

Groundhog Day is here (it’s February 2), and now the question people ask us most is not what the groundhog predicts but “how do I get rid of them from my lawn?”

About Groundhogs

Groundhogs, also known as woodchucks, “whistle pigs,” or marmots, are rodents that can do a lot of damage to your lawns and gardens.  Because they are excellent diggers (their dens can be extensive tunnel systems containing chambers, hallways, and multiple exits), they can weaken the soil, resulting in damage to foundations, barns, and farm equipment, as well as cause possible injuries to livestock. And since groundhogs are herbivores, they enjoy making a meal on the plants in your garden, so all that hard work you put into it can be decimated in a single afternoon. They certainly make a nuisance of themselves.

So what can you do? If you don’t own a dog, or you’re not comfortable trapping and releasing* (or don’t have the means to), consult our list of 5 effective, natural remedies to help keep them out, below. These ideas won’t harm the environment, family pets, or the groundhogs themselves.

Two Key Things:

First, it’s important to know that prevention is very important when it comes to any rodent infestations. Try to identify and remove what they’re attracted to in your yard; for example, the fruit from apple trees, compost piles that contain fruit like melons (their favorite!), or woodpiles. Consider a covered compost bin. And try to harvest your garden and pick up any fallen fruit often.

Additionally, knowing the groundhog’s habits is key. The time when they emerge from their post-winter dens will differ depending on where you live (despite what you hear, most groundhogs are hibernating on February 2nd and are not popping up to see their shadows), and they’re active during the day. Spring is when they start mating so they’ll be very active during this time.

5 Natural Ways To Get Rid of Groundhogs

  1. Epsom salts sprinkled near or around the burrow entrances or exits will keep the groundhog away. If your plants are being eaten, try placing a tin pie plate filled with the salts near the plants. Replace after a rain.
  2. Castor oil poured in and around the burrow holes can be an effective way to discourage them (they hate the smell) but apply only when you know they’re not there, otherwise, they’ll just stay burrowed. You’ll have to keep vigil to see when they head out to find food.
  3. Human hair clippings from your local barber or hairdresser can also work well because they dislike the scent of humans. Sprinkle clippings around areas where the groundhog frequents. Or to avoid it blowing away in the wind, place clippings in a fine mesh bag and secure it to a stake near the groundhog’s dwelling.
  4. Soiled kitty litter poured around one of the den holes (but not the other) is also effective as it smells like a predator. Leaving one exit hole scent-free allows them to escape rather than stay burrowed.
  5. Offensive Scents: There are certain smells groundhogs absolutely detest. If you can ensure these smells are present near their burrows and around the garden, you may be able to send them packing:
    • Cayenne pepper – Our Farmers’ Almanac readers swear by this method: Simply pour cayenne pepper close to the groundhog’s holes. Buy a large container (bulk size) so you can create a small pile. When it rains or is windy, you’ll have to reapply. It’s actually the smell and the heat they don’t like. You can also spray tender plants with a mixture of 2 teaspoons cayenne with one quart of water to deter them from nibbling.
    • Garlic – Crush some garlic cloves and spread the paste around areas of the garden you want groundhogs to avoid. Their sensitive noses can’t handle the pungent smell.
    • Lavender – Try planting some lavender around the garden. While it smells lovely to us, groundhogs find it offensive and avoid the areas where it is. They also dislike the smell of these herbs: basil, chives, lemon balm, mint, sage, thyme, rosemary, and oregano.

Fun Fact: Groundhogs are the largest member of the squirrel family.

Wonder why groundhogs are known as “whistle pigs”?  Listen to the sound they make in this video clip (you may have thought you were hearing a bird!):

*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.

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  • Rachel says:

    I had a groundhog (maybe 2) burrowing under my deck. When I was sure he/they weren’t home, I dumped a bottle of ammonia down the holes and filled them in best I could. There has been no activity there since, but they did move into the woods behind my house and still dine on my hostas. I don’t know where their burrow is now. Cayenne pepper seems to stop them from eating my new willow trees. If they are still a problem in the spring, I’ll trap and relocate them. I’ve heard sometimes more human activity in their vicinity will make them leave.

  • John says:

    Cayenne pepper does not work neither does oregano or basil animal repellent is a waste of money I give up ! They can have the damn tomatoes !

  • Dawn says:

    I have a groundhog in my back yard digging holes under my shed how do I get rid of it

  • Merry says:

    I had skunks under my shed. Called the skunk man to trap them than he dug all around the shed. He put chicken wire down all around the shed bringing it forward and down out about 8 inched. He than poured gravel all around and on top of the wire. No problem since. You need to get the out from under your buildings other wise the floor will fall in. Now I am fighting ground hogs in my garden.

  • Amy says:

    I do not believe the lavender would work he dug his hole in my creeping phlox next to the lavender.

  • Mark says:

    We get 15 or so groundhogs every year I get rid of them. They are active through spring and summer around where I live. Them things growl at you when caught for the size they move fast. I heard peppermint will get rid of them because of the smell it has to be in a liquid form.
    The grocery store in the spice aisle you can find it. I started using it hopefully it will work. FACT people eat groundhogs can’t imagine how it would taste maybe with B.B.G sauce they might not taste too bad.

  • Krissy says:

    I have a groundhog named Tofu in my flower garden every day lately. I have 7 outside cats and he has just made friends with them; they all hang around together in the yard. One of them pooed right outside his hole but he didn’t care, so I don’t think the cat litter would work for me. I’m going to go with the garlic, cayenne and epsom salt methods. I’m not trying to get him to leave, just to stay out of the garden. I adore him.

  • David Orange says:

    Someone told me to fill the hole with pea gravel. The can’t stand it and feel like they are sinking when digging through it and soon leave.

  • Carol says:

    Groundhog is chewing holes in my grill cover on my deck. Why? Does anyone know how to discourage. Thanks

  • Ray Soliz says:

    I live in South Texas. I have a bad problem during winter months. But spring and summer I don’t see big problem. Confused and fed up with pesty groundhogs. Every morning battle !!!

  • Lisa Joseph says:

    I have a groundhog in my back yard. I have tried everything to get him out. Do anyone have any ideas

  • Fran says:

    I have some living under my home and can heat them underneath the house in the downstairs bathroom. I can see one of their tunnels outside my bedroom window. I’m not sure when they are all out but what can I use to make them leave!

  • Brenda says:

    We had a groundhog getting in our garden last summer. It was eating tomatoes, cantaloupes, and watermelons. to be more precise, it would take a bite and move on to another. The watermelon and cantaloupes had holes in them from its long teeth. I saw it a few times but didn’t know what to do about it. While I was trying to figure something out, one of my cats spied it. Pixie chased the groundhog back to its hole. After her first sighting, she took to hanging out near the groundhog’s burrow and we didn’t have any more problems with the groundhog being in our garden. I’m not sure having a cat will always work, but it worked for us.

  • homeschoolmom says:

    Thanks so much for the information. We have two families both with young: one is digging in our garden, one is exploring a hole under our front step. Going to try these right away. Question: any idea if these methods also work with Racoon?

  • annmarie says:

    Used two gallons of ammonia where this groundhog was digging under my porch, but did not help at all. Will try the epsom salts this spring.

    • Susan Higgins says:

      Hi annemarie: We spoke to a garden specialist who swears by the castor oil method. He says they really can’t stand the smell of that stuff. So maybe that’s one to try next, pouring it around one of their holes might be the way to go. Let us know how you make out, and good luck!

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