While many people consider groundhogs cute, that doesn’t mean they can’t cause trouble. If they start burrowing under your shed or deck, the only thought on your mind may be about how to get rid of groundhogs.
But even if you want the groundhogs gone, that doesn’t mean you want to harm them. After all, many people have warm feelings towards at least one groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, the legendary groundhog that predicts whether there will be an early spring on Groundhog Day.
As frustrating as they can be, groundhogs are part of the local ecosystem. So, if you want to figure out how to get rid of groundhogs under your deck or shed without hurting them, here’s what you need to know.
- What Are Groundhogs?
- Woodchuck vs. Groundhog: What’s the Difference?
- Are Groundhogs Dangerous?
- What Are Groundhogs Afraid Of?
- 13 Ways on How to Get Rid of Groundhogs Under Shed or Deck
- How to Prevent a Groundhog for Burrowing Under Deck and Shed
What Are Groundhogs?
Groundhogs are large rodents. They are a species of marmot, which some refer to as ground squirrels. When it comes to their size, they can reach up to 24 inches long, weighing as must as 13 pounds. That makes them the largest member of the squirrel family.
Native to North America, groundhogs are burrowing creatures. They favor wooded areas that are near open spaces and create expansive burrows underground.
They are more active during warmer months, spending time filling their bellies, perfecting their homes, and enjoying the occasional nap in the sun. Once winter comes, groundhogs hibernate, so they typically gorge on vegetation during the spring, summer, and fall, ensuring they can survive the winter.
Groundhogs are mainly herbivores. Their diet usually consists predominately of plants, grasses, and tree bark. As a result, they may turn a homeowner’s garden into a tasty meal, pausing some to view groundhogs as pests or nuisance animals.
However, groundhogs will also eat certain pests. Grubs, snails, and other insects may be part of a groundhog’s diet, for example.
Woodchuck vs. Groundhog: What’s the Difference?
Technically, there is no difference between woodchucks and groundhogs. However, groundhog is the official name, while woodchuck is a nickname. It’s derived from “wuchak,” the name given to the groundhog by the Algonquin tribe. English-speaking settlers, when attempting to use the term, likely altered it incidentally, causing it to become “woodchuck.”
But woodchuck isn’t the only nickname given to groundhogs. “Land beavers” is a popular one, and some even call groundhogs “mouse bears.” The mouse bears nickname comes from the fact that they can look a bit like a mini bear when they sit upright.
Another fun name the groundhog has is “whistle-pig.” Likely, that one is due to the high-pitched sounds they can make.
Are Groundhogs Dangerous?
Typically, groundhogs aren’t dangerous. While they can certainly wreak havoc in gardens or destroy crops, they aren’t usually much of a threat to people.
Groundhog attacks, while possible, are incredibly rare. In most cases, a groundhog would much rather avoid a person than get into a fight with one.
However, that doesn’t mean a groundhog can’t be dangerous. While they generally stay away from people, they may become aggressive if they are threatened and don’t have anywhere to hide. Additionally, they can carry rabies, a devastating disease that they can transmit to humans.
When it comes to property, the entry to groundhog burrows can certainly be unsightly. Further, it is possible that a burrow could harm a structure, such as a deck, shed, or home. If the hole or tunnel network compromises ground integrity, it could cause a structure to lean, deteriorate, or even collapse.
Burrows may also pose a physical risk to people. Accidentally stepping into an entry hole could cause a fall, or leg and ankle injuries, for example.
Overall, groundhog related injuries are rare. Similarly, damage to structures is uncommon. However, it is all possible.
What Are Groundhogs Afraid Of?
Generally speaking, groundhogs fear anything that they consider a potential predator. Along with humans, groundhogs will typically run from other predatory animals. This can include house pets, like dogs and cats, as well as wild predators, like wolves, mountain lions, and coyotes.
13 Ways on How to Get Rid of Groundhogs Under Shed or Deck
1. Catch and RelocateIf you were wondering how to get rid of groundhogs, trapping and relocating is the most straightforward option. You’ll be able to physically remove the animal from your property, which may give you peace of mind. However, that doesn’t mean it’s challenge-free.
First, you’ll need to get a humane trap. Set it up according to the directions, placing it about 10 feet from one of the burrow entrances. Next, add some fresh fruits or vegetables to the very back of the trap to encourage the groundhog to come inside. Sweet, juicy fruits are often best, so go with peaches or berries, if you have them. You can also try lettuce or cucumber.
Then, you’ll want to camouflage the trap a bit. Some branches, twigs, or leaves over, around, and inside it may do the trick. You may also want to put something heavy on top, like a couple of bricks, to reduce the odds that the cage rattles and scares the groundhog away.
Check the trap at least two times a day, if not more. Once trapped, the groundhog may panic, increasing the odds that it will thrash and harm itself.
When you see that a groundhog was caught, you have two choices. You can put on thick, bite-proof gloves and attempt a relocation if you know of a safe area to release the animal. Cover the cage with a towel and then pick it up, holding it far from your body and making sure your fingers don’t end up inside. Take it to its new home, and then carefully let it out. Move away from it as quickly as possible, ensuring it doesn’t try to attack.
If you aren’t comfortable handling the relocation, you might be able to call a local animal control or wildlife center for help. At times, they will retrieve an animal to complete the relocation. However, this isn’t a service that’s available everywhere. If you want to go this route, check about relocation assistance in advance, ensuring you know who to contact when the time arrives.
2. Animal RepellentAnimal repellent is another simple option for dealing with groundhogs. Generally, animals don’t like the smell or taste of the repellent, causing them to want to leave the area.
With these products, all you have to do is follow the directions.
Usually, that involves applying the product around your deck, shed, or other area you want the groundhogs to leave.
3. Sonic Groundhog RepellerAnother humane answer to the how to get rid of groundhogs question is sonic groundhog repellers.
These devices transmit sonic waves through the ground, creating a noise and vibrations that irritate the groundhog.
This leads the groundhogs to become uncomfortable without hurting them. After a short period, they usually leave.
Fumigation usually involves lethal substances. However, if the fumigant is detectable, it doesn’t have to be fatal.
If you fumigate with a substance with a strong odor, you can use it to get groundhogs to leave an area. Just make sure that you don’t block off every burrow entrance. That way, as the fumes make their way through the tunnels, the groundhog can quickly find an exit.
Just make sure that, if you go with fumigation, you don’t do it when the groundhog is hibernating. The entrances to the burrow will usually be walled off at that point, for one. For another, the groundhog may not wake up enough to notice the fumes until it is too late.
Similarly, fumigation isn’t ideal during birthing season. While a mother may be able to escape, the babies might not.
5. AmmoniaMany households have ammonia on-hand, which can make this option particularly convenient. Mix together some ammonia and water, using one part ammonia to every three parts water. Next, add a few drops of non-bleach dish detergent.
Then, you simply pour the mixture into the groundhog burrow entrances.
The smell of the ammonia should drive the groundhogs away.
Mothballs are a chemical option for convincing groundhogs to leave. However, they should only be used in areas where you, your family, and your pets don’t go. The fumes can be harmful, particularly after long exposure. Additionally, they aren’t safe to use in gardens.
However, you may be able to pour some into a groundhog burrow. That essentially gets them underground, allowing the fumes to encourage the groundhogs to leave. Still, this isn’t typically an ideal path, particularly if there is a chance a family member or pet will come in contact with the mothballs.
7. Get a Cat or Dog
Introducing a potential groundhog predator to your home can encourage the groundhogs to leave on their own. Groundhogs typically won’t stay in an environment that they believe could be hostile. As a result, simply having a cat or dog could be enough to scare them away.
However, this may not work with a fully indoor cat. While the groundhogs may have a slight inkling that a predator is inside, if it doesn’t detect any signs of it near its burrows or food source, that may not be enough to frighten them off.
8. Blood Meal
The smell of blood meal typically repels groundhogs. As an added bonus, it can actually work as a fertilizer. If you have low nitrogen soil, it can help your plants grow strong and healthy.
You can buy blood meal commercially. Once you have some, spread it around the outside of your shed and under and around your deck.
If you are using it in a garden, follow the manufacturer’s directions. Blood meal is a source of nitrogen and, if you overdo it, it can harm your plants instead of help them.
9. Talcum PowderAnother substance that groundhogs don’t like is talcum powder. The scent is bothersome to them but isn’t actually dangerous. Plus, talcum powder won’t typically harm nearby plants.
Talcum powder is readily available. However, since there have been some questions about its safety when used topically, some products that once contained talcum powder don’t any longer.
For example, many companies removed talc from baby powder and body powder products. As a result, you’ll need to read the labels to determine whether the product you want to use contains talcum powder.
Simply sprinkle talcum powder around your shed or deck. You can also spread it near burrow entrances.
10. Hair and Urine
Since groundhogs are naturally fearful of potential predators, they may stay away from areas that show signs of a predator’s presence. This can work in your favor.
Since groundhogs believe that people are threats, you can use human hair as a deterrent. For example, hair that comes out in your brush can work, as well as hair from a recent haircut.
Urine is a common way for a predatory to mark territory. As a result, you can use urine from a predator to scare groundhogs away. You can collect some of your own in a bottle, allowing you to pour it around burrow entrances.
Alternatively, you can use urine from a local predator or domestic pet. For example, if you live in an area with coyotes, coyote urine may work. Used cat litter may also be a viable choice, depending on the brand of litter and whether it’s safe for the environment.
Whether you use urine or hair, make sure that you leave at least one burrow entrance untouched. All burrows have at least two entry points. By leaving one open, you are giving them a path to escape. Without that, there’s a chance that they’ll burrow deeper, fearing that every entry is being stalked by a predator.
11. Spicy Spray
Certain odors are highly offensive to many animals, including groundhogs. Additionally, the flavor can be too much for them to bear.
If you’re trying to get groundhogs to leave – or want to ensure they don’t chow down on your garden – a spicy spray can do the trick. One easy way to make a spray is to put two teaspoons of cayenne pepper into a spray bottle. Next, add a quart of water and a couple of drops of dish detergent, like Dawn.
Shake well, then let the mixture sit overnight. Shake again, then spray any areas you want the groundhogs to leave. You can use this mix directly on plants, as well as the ground, shed foundations, deck support posts, and more.
12. Pepper and GarlicIf creating a spray is a bit cumbersome, you can also use crushed red pepper and garlic in their natural states. Both are overpowering for animals with sensitive noses but won’t harm the groundhogs.
With cayenne pepper, get a large container and sprinkle it around your yard, focusing on your shed, deck, and (if you have one) your garden, as well as the burrow entry points.
With garlic, mash some to create a paste, then smear it near the burrow entrances and other areas you want the groundhogs to leave alone.
13. Spread Agricultural Lime
Agricultural lime is technically a soil additive that’s used to alter the pH levels of soil. It can help correct soil that’s too acidic, bringing the pH level to more of a neutral point.
The trick is, agricultural lime can cause skin burns. In the simplest terms, it’s caustic.
If you sprinkle agricultural lime in or around burrow entrances, the groundhog’s feet will come in contact with the substance. This will cause mild burns on its feet and may be enough to cause the burrow to be less appealing, leading it to relocate. While this does cause the groundhog pain, the burns will typically heal.
Call a Professional
Sometimes, the best thing you can do if you are dealing with groundhogs is to call in a professional. Pest removal companies can inspect your property, assess any damage, and choose a viable treatment option. They can also recommend prevention methods based on your unique situation.
One of the benefits of going with a professional is that they are also fully aware of any state laws or regulations for the safe removal and humane treatment of groundhogs. Additionally, they typically have experience in trapping, ensuring everyone is safe and that the groundhog is unharmed.
Finally, a professional may be able to spot signs of illness in a groundhog. Since groundhogs can carry rabies and a range of other infections that can be transmitted to humans, expertise in this area is handy. If the professional believes the groundhog is ill, they can adjust their approach to ensure safety.
How to Prevent a Groundhog for Burrowing Under Deck and Shed
One of the most straightforward ways to prevent groundhogs from burrowing in a particular area is mesh steel fencing. You’ll create a physical blockade, stopping them from advancing into the ground near your deck or shed.
In many cases, your best bet is to create a fence that’s partially above and partially below ground. If it extends three feet above and below ground level, that may be sufficient to keep them from digging through or climbing over into the space you want to protect. Just make sure that the top and bottom curve outward (away from your deck or shed) to make it harder to climb over or dig under.
You can also use fencing to close off abandoned burrows. Groundhogs are adept at sniffing out past homes, both their own and those created by other critters. If you block the entrances with wire fencing, they won’t be able to get back in, increasing the odds that they’ll simply move onto another option.
Remove Food Sources
If your yard doesn’t contain any viable food sources, groundhogs may decide to burrow elsewhere. That means, if you have a garden, you need to keep it far away from your shed or deck. You also want to keep any other plants that a groundhog may wish to turn into a snack away from your structures.
Additionally, treating for insect pests can reduce a groundhog’s food sources. As mentioned above, groundhogs will eat grubs, snails, and other bugs. If you keep those pests under control, there’s less for a groundhog to eat, making your yard less appealing.
Ultimately, you should no longer be wondering about how to get rid of grounds under a shed or deck. Many of the options above are viable and fairly simple to execute. Additionally, the majority are incredibly humane, ensuring little or no harm comes to the groundhog.
However, when in doubt, you can always hire a professional to make sure the job is done right. Pros know how to handle the situation, ensuring the safety of everyone and every animal involved.