Are Groundhogs Pests? How Do I Repel Them (Humanely) From My Yard and Property?

Native to eastern and central portions of the United States, groundhogs are known for their cute, huggable faces that you can catch on just about any TikTok or YouTube video. The reality is, that they are highly irritating and damaging creatures, not because they mean to be, but because it’s the inevitable crossing between humanity and nature. 

Groundhogs are considered to be pests because they love to dig their tunnels and dens in places that inconvenience us, such as underneath fencing, fields, and gardens. Not to mention the fact that they will wreak havoc on your garden, eating anything you produce on sight. 

While they may be cute and highly resemble something that you can cuddle, groundhogs are anything but.

What Kind of Damage Can Groundhogs Do to Buildings?

A groundhog is more than capable of consuming more than two pounds worth of vegetables per day. That means that if you have a garden, it’s a primary target for groundhogs. Due to their insane digging habits, you may not ever see them coming. 

A digging groundhog is nothing to underestimate either, as they are more than capable of shifting nearly half a ton of earth. That digging may very well happen underneath the foundations of your house, which is more than a little destructive. 

If you are dealing with an infestation of groundhogs in your area, nothing is safe, including the foundation of your home, garages, patios, swimming pools, shed, driveways, or anything else that stands above the ground. 

When homes are built, construction crews compact the earth before the foundations are laid. This minimizes the potential for the earth to settle underneath your home in later years. Groundhogs can lay all of that careful compaction to waste in the space of a few days. 

Do Groundhogs Carry Diseases?

It’s a common misconception that groundhogs are a walking factory of diseases, a plague on four legs, ready to happily spread their horrifying pestilence throughout your entire neighborhood.

The reality is, that groundhogs don’t carry much in the way of disease. There are a few things that they will happily spread around, however. 

  • Flea infestations are common in the wake of groundhogs
  • Hepatitis might sometimes be spread by the parasites that groundhogs carry
  • Ticks are also common amongst groundhogs
  • Rabies is the most common disease that groundhogs carry

That’s about the extent of what groundhogs carry. Of course, when it comes to rabies, it’s usually easy to tell if rabies is a strong possibility, as groundhogs will act erratic and suddenly lose all of their caution around people. 

Flea infestations are pretty common where groundhogs are concerned as well. Fleas typically hang out underneath dead leaves and carpets of overgrown grass. When groundhogs are about, they are able to feed and breed at alarming rates. 

If you have dogs or other outside pets, a flea infestation in your backyard, exacerbated by the presence of groundhogs, can easily make its way into your home by hitching rides on your pets. That brings us to our next question. 

Can Groundhogs be Dangerous to Pets?

Groundhogs are not carnivorous in the least. They are herbivores with very little in the way of protective capabilities. As prey, they are constantly on the lookout for would-be predators and will run and hide in one of their holes if they sense danger. 

Dogs, on the other hand, are more on the carnivorous side of omnivores. Dogs are also natural predators, even the ones that are bred to be small and limited in their hunting capabilities. 

Groundhogs would typically run and hide from dogs and possibly cats as well, however, there may be a degree of danger to smaller dogs, especially if they manage to corner the groundhog or chase it into one of its burrows.

A rabid groundhog would also be a danger since it may not run from a dog, even a dog that is much larger than it is. All it would take is a single bite and you have an immediate, veterinarian concern on your hands.

Trapped groundhogs are the worst and they can get quite violent and out of control when they have no avenue of escape. Even though a groundhog certainly couldn’t kill or seriously hurt a large dog, it can seriously injure a small one that has it cornered or damage the face of a larger dog.

Should I Get Rid of a Groundhog?

Deciding whether or not to get rid of groundhogs depends on a number of factors. If you happen to see groundhogs and you own a large plot of land, you can leave them alone so long as they are not digging close to or around your home. 

However, if they start working their way to your home and damaging your property or if you are wanting to start a garden, then it’s probably in your best interest to get rid of them. Groundhogs do play a vital role in the ecological system, so you should only get rid of them if you must. 

All of the above-listed problems that groundhogs can cause are legitimate problems and if they start digging near your home, they can quickly cause thousands of dollars in damage. They can also cause damage that’s not readily apparent, such as undermining the foundation of your home. 

It may take years for a section of your driveway slab to collapse but when it does, hopefully, a portion of your car isn’t resting on it. If you step outside of your front door in the morning and the groundhogs are close enough to your home that you can see them or spot their leavings and damage, it’s time to get serious about getting rid of them. 

There’s a right way and a wrong way about doing it, however, and where some people may step outside and put a scope on them before pulling the trigger remember, they do have a role to play in the cycle of nature and there are several ways to rid yourself of them without causing them any harm. 

How Can I Get Rid of a Groundhog on My Property?

There are many ways to go about getting rid of groundhogs on your property, depending on how complex or involved you want to get. What the groundhogs are doing also matters, in terms of how you approach getting rid of them.

  • Trap the groundhogs using bait
  • Ammonia deterrents
  • Human hair deterrents
  • Garlic and Pepper deterrents
  • Use animal repellents
  • Fencing and chicken wire
  • Smoke them out
  • Talcum powder

Setting Traps

Trapping and releasing groundhogs is one of the more humane ways of dealing with them. However, if you trap one, it’s important that you transport it a minimum of 5 miles away from your home so that it doesn’t happen to find its way back. One of the best traps to use is a standard cat trap. (Link to Amazon).

Also, when you set groundhog traps, you don’t want to handle them with your bare hands. Wear gloves because your smell will ward off the groundhog and make it very wary of the trap and whatever bait you have to offer. 

You will also need to camouflage the trap in the best way that you can, so it resembles the surroundings and the groundhog. There are a lot of things that you can use to bait the trap as well. 

  • Fruits and berries
  • Cantaloupe
  • Peaches
  • Apples
  • Corn on the cob
  • Cucumbers
  • Green beans
  • Lettuce

The kind of cat trap that you will use—linked to above—is a simple lever trap, where the groundhog will step on an elevated plate while inside of the crate. When the plate is depressed, it pulls the lever out of its position holding the door open. The door swings shut and cannot be opened from the inside. 

How Far Should You Go To Relocate A Groundhog?

Five miles out from your home is the minimum distance that you should travel to release a groundhog. Any closer and you run the risk of it finding its way back to its original dwelling place. 

Your best bet is to haul it outwards of ten miles away from your home. You should do your best not to release it around other people’s dwellings, however, as that would be not only cruel to them but it might make for some bad karma on yourself as well. 

Can You Repel Groundhogs with Smells?

Ammonia, talcum powder, and human hair are excellent deterrents when it comes to getting rid of groundhogs. Unfortunately, it will only make them leave the immediate vicinity. Unless you have enough ammonia and human hair to cover every square inch of your property, it will be difficult to make the groundhogs leave. 

You can go a long way by combining a large number of substances and placing them all around the groundhog burrows and around all of the areas that they might be attracted to, especially gardening areas, including your own hair, dog, and cat urine, and crushed garlic and pepper.

Can You Repel Groundhogs with Noises?

While groundhogs are the most adverse to smells, noises will do the trick too. A combination of smells from those listed above and noises will increase their fear level more than just one.

Loud noises are the most startling to groundhogs, so the sound of clanging cans and bottles are effective if you can set up the right contraption.

Can You Scare Off A Groundhogs With Vibrations and Movement?

Groundhogs are startled by things that are sudden and unnatural. A vibrating sonic device, pinwheels, or small windchimes are effective. While the vibrations that they create are minimal, groundhogs are very sensitive to it, especially the device. 

Can You Repel Groundhogs With Lights or A Scarecrow?

Lights and scarecrows are mostly ineffective at scaring away groundhogs. They just don’t bother them like smells and some noises. However, even the noises will be a temporary deterrent unless you constantly move them around and change things up.

Moving a scarecrow or bright lights around may initially scare off a groundhog, but it will become less and less of a deterrent as time goes on. 

Can You Keep Groundhogs Away With Pets?

Dogs are very frightening to groundhogs, especially the larger ones that will take off after a groundhog in a heartbeat if the dog spots it moving around. However, the groundhog will just run into its nearest burrow and wait for the danger to pass. 

The best way to handle a groundhog with your dog is to give your dog a haircut. That’s right. Cut your dog’s hair and spread it everywhere, while taking special care to spread it around any holes the groundhog(s) have dug into.

Groundhogs are especially frightened of dogs and just the smell of their fur will frighten them off. 

Can You Flood Out Groundhogs With Water?

You can try but it would largely be a waste of water. Groundhogs dig elaborate and large tunnels; no matter how the water fills it, there will be air pockets where the groundhog can safely reside and wait it out. 

Once the water is absorbed into the ground, out comes the groundhog. The worst thing that you will end up doing is making sure that the groundhog isn’t dehydrated. Since their tunnels are not even, with multiple levels, they may even catch a drink or two as the water flows by. 

How Much Does It Cost To Have A Professional Remove A Groundhog?

Having a groundhog professionally removed will cost you roughly $150 to $200. That includes humanely trapping the groundhog, cleaning up any damage that the groundhog has done, and removing it to a safe location. 

For the most part, a professional will use some of the methods prescribed above, more specifically trapping them and carrying the well out and away from your property.

All Things Considered

Groundhogs can certainly be a nuisance, especially if they make their way close to your home and more so if you have a garden with plenty of vegetables and fruits. They will have a field day with those. 

The best way to deal with them is to use one of the methods listed above and, if you happen to catch one in a trap, be sure to remove it well away from other residences and at least five miles away.