Prevent infestation with Groundhogs

prevent infestation with groundhogs marmota monax

Groundhogs can be a nuisance to property owners by causing plant damage in gardens, fields and orchards, and by digging holes to create underground burrows. They also dig their burrows near structures, so this can cause foundation damage. As they remove excessive amounts of mud from under buildings, they can cause severe damage to the entire structure. They can also affect they way farmers use their farming equipment, as it can get stuck in their burrows, or even farm animals can get injured if they accidentally step in a hole and twist or even break a limb. Also, besides constantly eating the vegetation from your garden, affecting your yard landscape, or creating chaos in your agricultural fields, groundhogs can also damage underground cables, or pipes, making they a real cause for concern.

prevent infestation with groundhogs marmota monax

Preventive methods for your garden, yard or crop fields

The first step your need to take when considering prevention against these pests is eliminating all attractants that can cause them to chose your property as their new home. Groundhogs usually enter a yard in search for food and shelter, a safe place where to build their burrow. In order to minimize the damage they can make, and to transform your inviting property into a repelling one, you can follow the below steps:

  • Harvest crops like beans, peas and melons as early as possible;
  • Groundhogs prefer burrowing in areas that provide ample cover; remove piles of debris, rocks and/or wood where groundhogs may take shelter;
  • Trim back plants groundhogs may eat or use for cover;
  • Remove any tree trunks or other sources of wood that groundhogs can gnaw or grind their teeth on;
  • Use gravel to fill in any abandoned animal burrows.

You can keep groundhogs away from your garden by planting their favorite food in a separate area. This will enable them to remain in the area where they have a stable food source, and leave your garden alone. If you are unable or unwilling to do this, you can spray your plans and flowers with repellents that give them a bitter taste, as groundhogs will then avoid eating them and relocate to an area where the food sources are tastier.
Because woodchucks hibernate, they are unlikely to cause any damage between early November and late February. However, when spring comes and they exit their burrows, mate and reproduce, it will be more difficult to get rid of them. So prevention of their development on your property must be done in time, so that you will not have to deal with an aggressive mother with youngling in the months of spring. The best time to evict any existing groundhogs from your property is from mid- to late summer or between early July and late September in most areas.

You can also affect the groundhogs by modifying the habitat they can find in your garden or yard. As they prefer to navigate through fairly high vegetation, but trimming it down and keeping a neat landscape, you can avoid them being attracted to your yard. By not having vegetation near they burrows, as they usually use it to hide the entrances, this will cause insecurity and will encourage them to move to a different location, one more suitable for building a burrow.
Make sure you also keep a clear yard, as plantings, woodpiles and debris surrounding your home provide shelter for groundhogs, making them more likely to live on your property or burrow underneath the grass or foundation. Minimizing ground cover will prevent this type of destructive behaviour.

Should you find abandoned burrows, you can prevent having a different family of groundhog establish themselves there, by burying a three-foot-square panel of welded wire, centered over the entrance hole. You can also cover the entrances with wire fencing, and burry the margins securely. As they have a strong sense of smell, groundhogs can locate places where others have lived months ago, and they can easily reopen the tunnel system, so preventing them from reaching the burrow entrance will discourage them, and make them relocate by their own.
In order to scare them away, you can also use repellents such as electronic devices that can be placed in different areas around your yard. By using water sprinkles that are motion activated, you can deter groundhogs, as they are easily scared and quickly to respond to scare tactics. They get easily frightened by new objects in their environment so you can also sprinkle human hair or place old clothes and shoes around the garden as repellents, as their smell will disturb the groundhogs. Other deterring substances that can be sprinkled is ground red pepper. Place it on plants you would prefer woodchucks not eat. They might take a bite, but they are unlikely to keep eating, as they will not like the spicy taste. You can also scare them away by stringing aluminum pie plates to a fence, post or tree. As the wind blows, they will rattle and scare the groundhogs away.

A more complex way of keeping these pests out of your yard or garden is fencing, which requires little maintenance. Even though it needs a bit more work, fencing is quite effective and can be used on a long term, and also against other pests, such as deer and raccoons. Although groundhogs are skilled climbers, by setting up a taller fence, that also penetrates the ground at least one foot down, you will be able to keep them out and rid you of having to deal with such an infestation.

  • Fencing should stand at least 3-4 feet above ground level;
  • Use a strong wire fence with openings no larger than 3″ x 3″;
  • The fence should penetrate the ground in order to prevent groundhogs from digging underneath it. Creating an “L” shape underground is most effective;
  • Make the fence more difficult to climb over by adding an outward angle at the top.

Clearing out any possible food sources would leave the groundhogs starving and they would be forced to move to a new location. However, this might not be an easy task and can take some time as they eat almost everything around. Removing the fruits that have fallen off from trees is a good idea., if you are willing to do this everyday. Make sure your trash cans are tightly sealed, or better yet, stored in a secured area where the groundhogs cannot get access to, as that is a potential food source as well. Remove old stumps, wood and brush piles, as groundhogs’ teeth are constantly growing, and they need to gnaw on wood to keep their teeth filed down, the same as beavers do.

You can also use a solution mix of water, detergent and ammonia and pour it down the burrows already existing in your yard. Make sure to pour enough so that it can flow through the long tunnels. Keep checking regularly and repeat the process daily, until you see no other activity. You can also use mothballs to deter them from their burrows, as those also have a strong smell that will affect the sensitive nose of the groundhog. Predator urine, such as that of foxes or bobcats, is somewhat effective in repelling groundhogs, as the scent of a predator will keep them away from your property. However, this method needs to be regularly attended to, as rain or garden irrigation can easily dilute or even wash it away, rendering it useless. If you have a cat, you can also sprinkle small piles of used cat litter strategically around your garden, or you can use ammonia-soaked rags for the same deterring effect.

Burrowing moves large amounts of dirt which can cause problems with building foundations, it can affect crops and it has also been know to cause injuries to people or farm animals which have stepped into holes made by groundhogs. Eliminate their hiding places by keeping a clean and clear yard and you will discourage them from taking up residence on your property. Maintain your yard and garden by cutting down tall weeds and grasses and removing brush piles where groundhogs and other common garden pests like to hide.

Even though they are not considered to be a significant source of any infectious disease that can be transmitted to humans, groundhogs can get rabies and may be aggressive when the disease has taken its final hold on them. For this reason, unprovoked attacks must be treated very seriously as potential rabies exposures.
As with many other pests, keeping the groundhogs out of your garden is the best way to avoid the problem from occurring again, and an exclusion fence embedded into the ground, or an electric fence can be the most effective way to keep the groundhogs out.
If prevention measures are not enough to keep your property clear of these pests, or if you were not prepared in time for them, and are now facing an infestation, several steps can be taken in order to get rid of the groundhogs that are causing you damage and headaches.
Follow the steps in our article about “How to get rid of a groundhog infestation” and make sure you apply the preventive measures presented here after getting rid of the pests, as other families can easily get attracted to your yard and garden, if they are not properly protected.

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