Whether you know them as groundhogs, woodchucks or whistle pigs, having the rodents on your property can spell trouble for your lawn and garden. Because of their size and powerful claws, groundhogs burrow quickly and leave large holes in their wake as they dig dens. Their voracious hunger can make short work of gardens or decorative plants, with adults each eating an average of 1 to 1 1/2 pounds of vegetation per day. If you don't want to use harsh chemicals, questionable repellents or lethal traps, then try a few natural methods to get rid of the pests.
Even though they are herbivores, groundhogs are wild animals and can be dangerous if threatened. Like other wild animals, they may carry diseases. If you are in doubt about getting rid of them yourself, then contact a professional animal removal service or your location's animal control office.
Installing a Fence
If groundhogs raid your garden, one effective way to get rid of them is to cut off that food supply. Putting up a fence is one way to accomplish that task, but groundhogs can simply burrow under a standard fence. Groundhog-proof your fence by burying at least the bottom 10 to 14 inches of it underground and angling the lowest 2 to 4 inches of the buried fence 90 degrees outward from the garden to prevent groundhogs from burrowing under it when they encounter the fence material. The portion of the fence that remains above ground should be at least 3 feet tall, and the top 1 foot of the fence should angle 45 degrees outward from the garden.
Even though they're known for burrowing, groundhogs are excellent climbers as well. Ensure no overhanging limbs or other objects are available for them to use to bypass the garden fence.
Filling the Burrow
If you know where the groundhogs' burrow is, then another option is to collapse or fill its entrance while the groundhogs are not in the burrow. A burrow may have more than one entrance. Cover each entrance with sticks, fill it with unused cat litter, seal it with wire mesh fencing or otherwise deny the groundhogs access to the burrow. If groundhogs dig another burrow, repeat the process. Eventually, the groundhogs may move to a different area, where they don't have nearly as much trouble maintaining a home.
Wait until late in the year to seal a burrow, or else you may accidentally seal young groundhogs in the den. Usually, groundhogs are born from April through June. By fall, they often have left the burrow and traveled far away to establish their own territories.
Trapping and Removing
When other options to get rid of groundhogs fail, consider trapping the groundhogs on your property and relocating them elsewhere. Place a trap in front of the main burrow entrance, and move the trap back and forth enough to work a small amount of soil upward through its wire-mesh floor to give the groundhog a more natural footing that won't spook it. Leave a trail of food into the trap, spacing the pieces several inches apart to lure the groundhog all the way inside. Once the groundhog is trapped, relocate it at least 5 miles away to prevent it from finding its way back to your land. Trap groundhogs late or early in the year, when they won't have young in their burrow.
Ensure trapping groundhogs is legal in your location. Releasing wild animals on public land or other property where you don't have permission to do so can result in fines or other penalties. Consult your location's fish and wildlife service or animal control office for information about where and how to release a groundhog properly.