How do I get rid of groundhogs?
We just noticed one ground hog behind our suburban home yesterday for the first time. We have lived in this house for 10 years and our property is on an interior street in the Meadowood neighborhood. Could we have more than 1 groundhog? How do we remove him? We are concerned about damage to our deck from tunneling and our veg garden.
It is very possible you have more than one groundhog - now is the time when young are venturing outside the den, exploring their surroundings and looking for food ... but, they do not travel very far from the den. From the photo, this one appears to be a youth.
Ground hogs/Woodchucks are in the squirrel family and are 'earth moving diggers'. This time-of-year groundhogs are actively assisting their young into the environment from the active nesting chamber. The main entrance (there are usually between 1-4 escape holes to the entire burrow) is 10-12 inches in diameter and has an excavated mound surrounding it. They use the den for several seasons and hibernate in it during cold winter months. Check under your deck to see if there is a burrow opening. They will definitely eat items in your vegetable garden - a small fence around the perimeter will deter them. Even though they are not known to climb well, I have seen a young groundhog climb up a tree five feet when threatened.
Catch-n-release is a 'humane' method to relocate a groundhog, using a wedge of cantaloupe in a Hav-A-Heart trap, will work, but check the trap often and if you do catch one, release immediately to a safe location. Groundhogs will go into hibernation in late fall, so if you do catch-n-release, make sure to do this by September so they can acclimate to the new location before winter. Breeding occurs in March & April. By late July, the babies are weaned and venturing outside the nesting chamber.
They have several enemies - including hawks, owls, foxes, bobcats, weasels, dogs and man. Since they do not run very fast, they don't venture too far from a burrow entrance hole. If cornered, they will defend themselves.
To deter them, you can use a frightening technique - they are easily scared by noise or a barking dog. You may have to keep agitating them from a safe distance for awhile before they decide to move elsewhere. You can drop unpleasant things into a tunnel opening (such as dog manure or cotton cloths soaked in peanut or olive oil ... oils become rancid and the smell is known to drive a groundhog away). You can purchase a spray to use at the entrance hole which contains animal urine. These are usually found at a farm supply store or even a garden center. Apply any chemical according to the label directions. If you decide to use the 'smell' deterrent method around your deck, it may also keep you from enjoying the outside environment.
Harsher solutions involve using a commercial gas cartridge - apply only according to label directions. These contain a slow burning gas of carbon monoxide and are very lethal to many animals and humans. Check with the Delaware Department of Natural Resources & Environmental Control-Fish and Wildlife Section in your area regarding state regulations for killing them with firearms.