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Living In Harmony with Wildlife: Groundhogs a.k.a. Woodchucks

This is a topic that I am currently trying to find a solution to. My boyfriend is currently dealing with a family of groundhogs that have taken up residence under his home. Being the wildlife enthusiast that I am, I was very excited and taken in by the overwhelming cuteness of the babies, even talking to them from the window. My boyfriend, having had a long history of dealing with them on his property, was anything but thrilled by them. I have found myself at odds with the logical, educated side of me that knows the destruction they can cause and the animal lover who just wants to leave them be and let them live their happy little lives in the yard. As you can see in the photos above these cute little furballs have caused quite a bit of damage to the porch, chewed through a data cable, have created a series of tunnels under the porches and house which could affect the integrity of the structures, and have eaten most of my newly purchased native plants.

On a stormwater note, groundhogs also like to make their dens in the embankments of bioretention cells and detention basins. The dens with their network of tunnels that range 8-12 inches in diameter can affect the integrity of these stormwater features. Once the embankments fail this could cause issues with flooding, lack of water quality treatment, and very expensive repairs.

In addition, the large holes they dig in your yard can be a tripping hazard for adults and children. They will also defend their territory and young furiously.

So how do we live in harmony with groundhogs? I am still struggling on how exactly to accomplish this, but there are techniques out there to rid them from your property or to at least deter them.

Methods to remove groundhogs:

  • Trap & Release: It is legal to trap them on your property, but you must have the permission of the landowner of the property you intend to release them on according to the ODNR Division of Wildlife. In addition, each municipality may have their own regulations which may differ from the State regulations. Professional trappers will typically trap and euthanize them. Groundhogs should be released at least 10 miles from their den site so that they cannot find their way back. A nationwide list of trappers can be found the Wildlife Animal Control website.
  • Hunting: It is legal to hunt groundhogs, but there are regulations in the State of Ohio regarding the hunting of groundhogs. Each municipality may have their own regulations which may differ from the State regulations.

Methods to deter groundhogs:

  • Peppermint Oil or Tea: Pour down the hole and spray around the yard.
  • Pepper Spray or Pepper: Pour down the hole and spray around the yard.
  • Used Kitty Litter: Cats are a natural predator of groundhogs and the scent of the used litter in and around their den will deter them.
  • Commercial Repellants: Repellents specifically made for groundhogs are the most effective.
  • Motion Activated Lights or Sprinklers: These may startle groundhogs after enough times to deter them.
  • Ultrasonic Repellents: Emit soundwaves that are beyond of the range of human hearing to drive animals away from an area. According to Wildlife Removal USA this method is not very effective if groundhogs have already taken up residence.
  • Fencing: Should be 3-feet tall and made of heavy, thick wire (these guys are climbers too!). In addition, the fence should be buried at least 1-foot deep.
  • Cats & Dogs: Natural predators of groundhogs.

Deterents/Repellents have mixed results and often are not highly effective as groundhogs are fighters rather than flighters. However, if you already have these items on hand, why not give it a try? I will keep you posted if I find a method that works well for my situation.

As always, remember everything is connected and everything we do affects something else be it near or far, small or large.

Resources:

Blog Author: Kelly Parker, Urban Conservationist

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