Groundhog Damage Control

 

Scientific Name: Marmota monax

AKA: Woodchucks, Whistlepig, Chucks, Gopher

Groundhogs, also known as woodchucks, have a great reputation among gardeners. Even the hit movie "The Caddy Shack" illustrated their reputation as being impossible to control. Woodchucks can literally mow a garden. Chances are you may have heard about various chemicals to keep woodchucks away from your garden or property. Think long and hard about using repellents around plants that you intend to eat. I would strongly recommend that you NEVER use repellents in areas where you eat the plants that grow there. The repellents may include

We at WDC believe that these techniques are not advisable for the typical property owner. Repellents rarely, if ever, work 100% of the time which is what homeowners want. Repellents are normally used in farming situations where ANY decrease in crop loss is of benefit. But if you just have to use something, try the fox or coyote urine. One warning however, fox and coyote urine is just that, urine. The urine may carry diseases that are infectious to you. We have read about one trapper who contracted a disease when fox urine spilled on his hands. 

Here are some tips to help you respond to Woodchucks that we would recommend.

1. Fence your garden. It should be at least 4 feet high, at least one foot below the ground and bent one foot outward at the top. Yes, woodchucks can climb fences and trees too. So you want the fence to be a little wobbly to make it harder for the chuck to climb it. It is supposed to work because it wobbles and ground hogs do not like to climb on it:

Note the diagram which is a side view of how the fence is to protect your garden.

G X
A X Fence is to be 3 feet above the ground
A X
R X
D X
E X___________________ Ground Level
N X
. X Extend the fence at least 2-3" below the ground and bend the out from the garden at least 1 foot.
XXXXXXXXXXXXXX

You can use 1 inch Chicken wire which is is hexagonal wires twisted together. X is chicken wire(WARNING: If you use chicken below ground level be prepared to replace it in a couple of years. It corrodes very quickly. I would suggest using a heavier gauge wire like 1/2 inch vinyl coated lobster pot wire for the under ground portion). Set stakes around the garden every few feet to hold up the fence. But be sure the fence is not tight. You want the fence to be wobbly. WDC thanks Laura Simon and Tim Julien for their information on this fence. You can have better results with galvanized wire which will result in less rusting.

There is a new product electric fence on the market that is supposed to be great. Ask us how you can obtain one.

2. Control woodchucks early. Waiting till damage is too severe is a bad move. You want to catch woodchucks before they have young, which occurs in April/May and before there is plenty of vegetation. This means control them ASAP. Remember, why would a woodchuck want to enter a trap when there is plenty of food away from that strange object. It is far easier to catch them  in a box trap before there is plenty of alternative food sources. So don't be surprised if you have trouble trapping woodchucks in the middle of the summer. We sell a pamphlet on woodchuck trapping techniques for $7.95ppd. To learn more about it click Woodchuck booklet or visit our Store page. Outright trapping and removal is the most effective. Check your state laws regarding the relocation of animals. Some states forbid relocation of animals as Massachusetts does. In other words, if you trap it you can't let it go somewhere else. You have to either let it go on your property or destroy it. No exceptions. However, if you cannot bring yourself to trapping them or hiring a trapper, then you should consider harassing them. A word of warning about harassment: for harassment to be effective it must be continuous, concentrated and caustic. You must have access to the den to use harassment. See our page on harassment techniques Hints on Harassment.

3. Watch for re-digs. Donít be surprised if other woodchucks redig the hole you just filled. In July, newborn woodchucks will disperse and find their own territories. It is not unusual for them too reopen a previously closed den. It is also not unusual for another animal to reuse their den. Skunks, opossums and even foxes will reuse a woodchuck den. This makes woodchucks to home builders of the mammal kingdom.

4. Plants woodchucks have eaten: This list comes from personal experience and our readers. The idea is to find plants that are woodchuck resistant. Let us know what plants you have found Woodchucks can't resist or otherwise.


Are Woodchucks Dangerous?

WDC does not consider these animals dangerous per se. Sure they may seem bold occasionally but that is true for most animals. They have been known to carry rabies from time to time (For more information on rabies click rabies.php). As always children and adults need to avoid any contact with an animal they are unfamiliar with. There is some concern surround the possibility that woodchucks can undermine pools and foundations by their excavating. While WDC has not personally witnessed this kind of damage, we have heard of it occurring with an in ground pool. We also consider it quite possible that woodchucks can damage home/garage foundations. I have seen holes that extended under a slab foundation home. This undermining the foundation could result in a fracture of the concrete slab.

We have heard that woodchucks can carry a hepatitis virus. We do not know any more about it at this time. As with all animals be careful.

woodchuck control booklet woodchuck trapping bait woodchuck traps Woodchuck Resistant Plants

 

11/9/03

Disclaimer: WDC seeks to provide accurate, effective and responsible information on resolving human/wildlife conflicts. We welcome suggestions, criticisms to help us achieve this goal. The information provided is for informational purposes only and users of the information use it at their own risk. The reader must consult state/federal officials to determine the legality of any technique in the reader's locale. Some techniques are dangerous to the user and to others. WDC encourages readers to obtain appropriate training (see our informational literature at our Store ), and understand that proper animal damage control involves patience, understanding that not every technique/method works for every situation or even 100% of the time. Your use of this information is governed by this understanding. We welcome potential users of the information and photos to simply ask for permission via e-mail. Finally, WDC welcomes e-mail but understand that all e-mails become property of Wildlife Damage Control.