The groundhog (Marmota monax) belongs to the squirrel family, though it does not climb trees. Instead, it makes long burrows in your lawn and garden. Alternate names for a groundhog are the woodchuck and the whistle pig -- named so for the high-pitch whistling sound they make. An adult groundhog weighs in at about 5 to 10 pounds and is up to 20 inches long. An adult eats up to 1.5 pounds of young green, tender shoots and vegetation per day, including flower and vegetable sprouts. Repelling groundhogs with household items will remove them from your landscape and prevent destruction of your soil.
Find the Burrow
Typical groundhog burrows have a main entrance with an opening and excavated ground nearby in a large mound. There are an additional one to three secondary entrances in the tunnel system, which are at least 20 feet apart from the main entrance. Groundhogs' burrows are constructed with separate chambers underneath the ground for nesting areas and restrooms. Locate all the entrances to groundhog burrows to treat them and entice these pests to leave your lawn.
Burn Them Out
Groundhogs have sensitive noses, as most animals do. Shake several tablespoons of habanero (Capsicum Chinese "Habanero") pepper in all of the entrances to the burrow. This is one of the hottest peppers in existence, and it causes a bad reaction in groundhogs, as in humans. It is hard to breathe in the burrow, reddens the eyes and makes them water. The groundhog's mouth will burn and feet with little fur that touches the pepper will burn intensely. The groundhogs will take their young and leave the burrow if they are uncomfortable.
Stink Them Out
Cats are natural predators of groundhogs. Wildlife does not like to be around smells of their predators because it poses a threat to their well-being. Pouring used kitty litter that is smelly with urine in the burrow entrances will cause groundhogs to gather up their family and move to protect them. Empty the litter box in equal amounts at each entrance.
Water and Blind Them Out
Set up a water sprinkler that sprays near the entrances to the burrow. Water running into the burrows will frighten groundhogs and drain down to the lower chambers. If a groundhog thinks its burrow will flood, it will pack up the family and move to save them from drowning. The sound of a water sprinkler is also a deterrent. Setting up a light with a motion detector aimed at the main burrow entrance will blast them with light each time they come out of the burrow in the early mornings or late evenings. The light will scare them, and if they are illuminated repeatedly, they will leave town.
- Purdue University Extension: Woodchucks
- Cornell Cooperative Extension: Woodchuck Fact Sheet
- Stephenvedten.com: Organic Pet Care
- Wildlife Education & Directory of Wildlife Experts: Groundhog Repellent Analysis
- Penn State Extension: Woodchucks
- TheHottestPepper.com: Scoville Scale
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Capsicum Chinese "Habanero"
- Photo Credit heckepics/iStock/Getty Images
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