Are Groundhogs Smelly? (The Stinky Critter)

Many of us are familiar with the smell of a skunk around our home, but did you know that that smell might be a groundhog instead?

Groundhogs have anal glands that emit a musky smell, usually when they feel threatened. Groundhogs also have sweat glands on the corners of their mouth that emit an odor.

Let’s discover what smells groundhogs emit, why they use these smells, and how clean they keep themselves and their habitat that might contribute to their distinct odor. 

Are Groundhogs Smelly? 

For the most part, groundhogs aren’t a particularly smelly animal to have around. However, when they feel threatened, they have a very musky and distinct smell that they omit from their anal glands to use as a defense mechanism. Since they are herbivores, they have many predators that hunt them for food, resulting in them needing to use this defense mechanism frequently. 

Groundhogs prefer not to smell, especially the smell they end up admitting from their anal glands. This particular odor is so unpleasant because they’re trying to ward off predators, even if they aren’t fans of the smell. This means they will do whatever it takes to avoid smelling like this musky odor.

Groundhogs prefer the smell of freshly cut grass clippings and other plant life that they use as bedding in their burrows. Since they’re also herbivores, there isn’t anything particular in their diet that also causes them to smell in a certain way or would cause them to bring something that smells into their burrows. They use smell as a way of protecting themselves. 

Do Groundhogs Emit An Odor?

Groundhogs have a very distinct musky smell that they admit, which comes from the anal glands that they have, which they use as a defense mechanism when they think there’s a predator nearby. However, the smell has nothing to do with hygiene or how clean they are. 

When you think of a skunk, you probably think of the smell they use to spray any predator that comes into contact with them. The anal glands on a groundhog have a similar function where they admit the scent to ward off any predator who probably doesn’t want to be near the foul odor. 

While it may seem like nervous gas from being in a stressful situation, it’s a very intentional defense mechanism on the part of the groundhog. So next time you almost step into one of their burrow holes and smell something musky, it’s because you’ve got a little bit too close to the groundhog for their comfort.

What Do Groundhogs Smell Like?

Groundhogs smell very similar to a skunk, not only because they’re using a foul smell as a defense mechanism but also because they tend to come into contact with skunks regularly. Skunks tend to raid the dens of groundhogs, which means that occasionally groundhogs get sprayed. Young groundhogs also use abandoned holes which could be an old den of a skunk contributing to the similar smells.

Musky smells are usually powerful odors that also have a sweet undertone to them. It’s common sense for animals to emit from skunks to deer to even humans and, of course, groundhogs. It can both beat something to repel other creatures, such as in the case of groundhogs, or it can be to attract a mate in the case of deer.

However, the sweat glands they use around their mouths have more of a pungent smell which is the kind of smell that almost hurts if you smell it. Pungent smells tend to be very strong and pointed smells that don’t have a lot of nuance to them because, quite frankly, they’re overpowering. 

Where Does The Groundhog’s Smell Come From?

Groundhogs have two sets of glands that contribute to their particular scent. The most prevalent are the anal glands that emit the odor they use as a defense mechanism. The other set of glands is in the corners of their mouths which are sweat glands that can also make a specific smell if they’re trying to regulate their body heat.

Can Groundhogs Spray Like Skunks?

While the groundhog’s anal glands produce a smell similar to a skunk, they don’t spray any smelly liquid. The anal glands admit an odor that most predators find unpleasant and avoid going near the groundhog, whereas a skunk sprays an actual liquid that stays on the predator. 

Do Groundhogs Mark Their Territories With Smell?

Groundhogs like to mark trees in their territory by either biting or rubbing against trees. The sweat glands that they have in the corners of their mouths help to make a stronger smell when they are chewing or rubbing their face on where they want to mark their territory. They can also use urine to mark their territory, much like many other animals.

There’s a fundamental difference here between how the groundhog uses the different glands that emit smells when marking their territory. The anal glands are specifically for emitting a scent that repels predators. In contrast, the sweat glands around their mouths are both for obviously sweating and regulating heat but also for marking their territory. 

Having the sweat glands around their mouth means they can chew and rub their faces against the objects around their territory, leaving a specific smell. More importantly, the smell that comes from their sweat glands around their mouth isn’t a smell that they find repulsive, so while it marks another groundhog’s territory, it isn’t causing discomfort. 

Are Groundhogs Dirty or Unhygienic?

You may be under the impression now that groundhogs don’t mind a funky smell, but that’s not the case at all. Actually, groundhogs are very particular about hygiene and odors. It’s very common for groundhogs to line their bedding with grass clippings. What you may not have know is that they are incredibly picky about the grass lining their sleeping area.

As soon as the grass starts to get old, they replace it right away. Groundhogs can’t sleep peacefully if there’s stale and smelly grass in their burrow. They only want the best-smelling clippings in their bed.

Using foul smells is an excellent way of keeping groundhogs away from your property if that’s what you want. Using the urine of other animals or even strong scents such as onions and garlic will repel them from the area. Groundhogs have a very keen sense of smell, meaning that even subtle odors can bother them.