Groundhogs, also known as land beavers, woodchucks, or whistlepigs, are large rodents, of the marmot group. Because they burrow extensively, and because they subsist primarily on vegetation, they are considered a major garden pest. A family of groundhogs can easily destroy a food crop if left alone, so it is important to get rid of groundhogs as soon as it becomes apparent there is an infestation.
There are a handful of different ways to get rid of groundhogs, and nearly every gardener has their preferred method or collection of legends about how best to deal with the creatures. Some people wish to get rid of groundhogs in the most humane way possible, without killing them, while others just want to get rid of them quickly and efficiently. Some ways are more effective than others, as well, and it is important to keep a lookout for a resurgence of the groundhog population after you deal with it the first time.
If you’re not too concerned about using chemicals in your quest to get rid of groundhogs in your garden, using ammonia is a fast-acting, relatively humane way to go about moving the creatures. Although it sounds fairly brutal, if handled correctly it will eliminate the groundhog population without killing them at all. It works simply by making their burrows distasteful to them, so that they migrate on their own to a new patch of land, far from your garden.
To do it, you’ll want to wait until spring or summer, when the days are sunny and temperate, otherwise no matter how bad it gets the animals won’t want to leave their burrows. Then, buy some sudsy or cloudy ammonia from a store, and pour a great deal of it into a burrow. If you can’t find sudsy ammonia, you can make your own by adding eight parts ammonia to one part water to two spoonfuls of detergent and mixing it. Once the ammonia permeates the burrow the groundhogs will leave within a day or so, providing they have no young. If they do have children, they will first find a replacement burrow, then come back for the young, and then leave, which can take a few days.
Using a safe trap of some sort is another humane, less toxic, way to get rid of groundhogs. They are fairly smart animals, so you’ll have to be patient, but within a few days you should begin catching groundhogs, and within a week or so you can relocate an entire population. To begin with, you’ll want to leave the trap open and unset, with small amounts of food in it. This lets the groundhogs get used to the idea of a safe meal, and since the traps can sometimes take a while to be triggered, it means they’ll spend plenty of time in it. After a few days of this, set the trap, and you should catch your groundhog. Cover the cage with a blanket, and relocate the animal far away, just leaving the cage open for it to wander out of. Repeat this tactic until all of the groundhogs are gone.
You can also use fumigation canisters, or use lethal traps or a gun to eliminate a groundhog population. All three of these methods may be illegal in some areas, so it’s important to check with a local conservation association or fish and game office, to make sure you aren’t breaking any laws. Of these, shooting the animals is the preferred method of control, but care must be taken that local hunting laws aren’t being broken.